Top tips for buying or selling farmland

A combine harvester and tracyor

The rural team at Savills have offered their top tips on buying and selling agricultural land. - Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF

William Hargreaves from the rural team at Savills Ipswich shares top tips for those looking to buy or sell.

There surely hasn’t been a much more extraordinary period than the last 12 months.

Farming was already confronting a whole host of issues in the form of Brexit and upcoming changes in legislation – along with one of the wettest autumns and driest springs on record – before the challenge of Covid-19.

William Hargreaves, who leads the rural team at Savills Ipswich

William Hargreaves, who leads the rural team at Savills Ipswich - Credit: Savills/RMG Photography

Although the supply of land to the market has been much reduced when compared with previous years, prices have remained firm.

Off-market sales have formed the backbone of activity and we are in touch with a large pool of highly motivated buyers, all encouraged by the continued appeal of land as a safe, long term investment.


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But whether you’ve decided 2021 is the year to buy or sell there are a few key recommendations that can help smooth the process:

If selling…

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1. Many farm sales are won or lost by first impressions. Continue farming as though you were staying: establish crops as normal - you can be compensated later or add a holdover clause to the farm sale agreement - and allow grass to flourish, adding nitrogen and reducing livestock numbers.

2. If your property has issues with rights of way, private water supplies or local developments, be open and upfront as early as possible. Buyers are less likely to lose confidence if you’ve made them aware of everything they need to know from the beginning.

3. Complete any essential maintenance. Fill in potholes, repair any damaged fencing, check gates are properly hung, clear gutters, kill off any weeds, muck out livestock sheds and top grass fields regularly.

4. Up to date paperwork is crucial. Potential buyers will want five years of cropping records, three years of yields, any documentation around soil fertility, lambing percentages, calving rates, average milk yields per cow and drainage plans along with details of any recent improvements.

5. If you’ve received an award for performance, conservation or other noteworthy achievements, dig out the certificates and show them to would-be buyers.

If buying…

1. The most popular properties sell quickly so it’s important to be prepared. Choose a solicitor experienced in rural matters (the legal nuances are very different from a standard house transaction) and involve your accountant or bank at an early stage to advise on the best purchase and ownership structure.

2. Be clear on what you’re looking for. Imagine what perfect looks like (location, size, type and budget) but then (if it isn’t too much of a contradiction) be prepared to have some flexibility and ready to compromise.

3. Make personal contact with relevant agents. Look in printed media and online to see who handles the sales most suited to your target property. But also keep an ear to the ground. Rumours of properties coming to the market often circulate around communities.

4. Because every farm or block of land is different it’s very rare to find directly comparable sales. Knowing and understanding local hot and cold spots can significantly affect pricing. As a result local expertise can really count.

5. Along with price there may be other factors to consider such as livestock welfare, farming operations and bill payments. Some have legal obligations, others financial implications - it is critical you and your advisers have considered and addressed all of these.

For advice on the rural sector in Suffolk contact William Hargreaves at Savills Ipswich on 01473 234 822 or WHargreaves@savills.com

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