Friday 30 September 2016

Cash buyers rule in chase for prime properties

South Leinster

Jim O'Brien

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Ravensdale House near Maynooth in Co Kildare. On 223ac the property was the most expensive sold at auction in 2015 making €4.75m or €21,300/ac. It was bought by John Magnier of Coolmore Stud.
Ravensdale House near Maynooth in Co Kildare. On 223ac the property was the most expensive sold at auction in 2015 making €4.75m or €21,300/ac. It was bought by John Magnier of Coolmore Stud.

South Leinster is home to the most valuable land in the country according to our survey. The region includes the counties of Kildare, Laois, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Wexford. In 2015 the 79 successful auctions held there disposed of 3,905ac of land to bring in €47.186m.

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The amount of land sold represents a 44.4pc increase on the amount sold at auction in 2014, while the amount of money generated represents an increase of 56.55pc on the amount generated in 2014. The region had the highest average per acre price for land at €12,083/ac, marking a 8.4pc rise in the price from last year.

The most expensive farm sold at auction in the country was handled by Willie Coonan of REA Coonans. Ravensdale, a 223ac property near Maynooth in Co Kildare is centred around a two-storey over-basement mansion built in 1765 by the Duke of Leinster as a Dower house to the nearby Carton Estate.

It sold at auction for €4.75m or €21,300/ac making it the most expensive farm sold at auction in Ireland in 2015. The property was bought by Coolmore Stud, reflecting the trend of major equestrian players buying up many larger rural properties.

Among the other headline farms was a 316.6ac residential tillage farm at Skeagh, Aghaboe and at Ballygeehin, Ballacolla in Co Laois.

The place sold in two lots under the gavel of Robert Ganly for a combined price of €3.145m. The 227.3ac with the house and yards at Ballygeehin was bought by Kilkenny dairy farmers while the 91.3ac near Aghaboe was bought by a local farmer. Another €3m property sold under the hammer was disposed of by John Dawson of Tullow. Located at Gowran in Kilkenny the 177.7ac tillage farm was bought by its current tenant for €3.025m or €17,023/ac, a remarkable per acre price for a holding of that size.

Another outstanding property to be sold in the region was a 382ac drystock residential farm at Clonkeen near Carbury in Co Kildare. It made €2.65m under the direction of Raymond Potterton. Serviced by top class cattle accommodation and handling facilities the place was bought by the Comer brothers who made their early money running a plastering business and who are now major property tycoons and intend to use Clonkeen for equestrian purposes.In a clear indication that other interests are making their way back into the land market, Wexford developers and hoteliers Thomas and Patrick Redmond along with a local businessman bought a 46.25ac fragmented farm located at Millands and Ramstown, Gorey.

When the gavel fell at the end of the auction the various lots netted a total of €1.905m or €41,189/ac. Indeed in the course of the auction one lot extending to 13.6ac was bought by the Redmond brothers for €1.05m or €77,205/ac, arguably one of the highest prices paid per acre last year.

Other properties in the region to break the €1m mark included a 92ac tillage farm at Bert Demense, Athy sold by Paddy Jordan for €1.74m or €18,913/ac. A builder stole the show at the Sherry FitzGerald Haythornthwaite sale of a 38ac parcel of ground at Newtown Road, Wexford Town, paying €1.625m or €42,763/ac for the holding.

A 148ac tillage and grass farm at Eyne on the outskirts of Portlaoise sold under the gavel of John Hennessy for €1.54m, while Denis Howell of Warren Estates saw a dairy and beef farmer pay €1.27m for a 90ac grass and tillage farm at Camolin Wexford.

While the southeast is seen as the home of the tillage farmer, dairy farmers were active buyers of holdings big and small in the region. Indeed out of nine auctions recorded in the region in November and December four buyers were dairy farmers who bought 342ac of the total of 557ac sold.

Newbridge auctioneer Paddy Jordan described 2015 as a good year for farm property in south Leinster but he says the basics of selling land don't change, "Location and access to money are the keys," he said. "If the land is good and you have a local farmer outside the ditch with money you're in business."

He believes the process of getting finance is more cumbersome and cash continues to be king in land sales.

Auctioneer Willie Coonan agrees that cash is the key and that borrowing "is not a big factor" in the current land market. "People have it from roads, development land or it's coming from abroad," he said. However, he believes the banks are not a lost cause when it comes to lending for farmland.

"Farming is still a good business and there are enough people around with confidence in it," he said.

Castlecomer auctioneer Joseph Coogan said that dairy farmers continue to be the backbone of the 10ac to 50ac market. "Once a place is within tractor distance of the home farm they'll buy it," he said. He believes that while the banks are reluctant to lend there is a new breed of young farmer willing to eyeball bank officials with facts and figures. They "are well able to make their case," he said.

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