Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 23 April 2017

Land sales take a hit on all sides

A local dairy farmer paid €270,000 for this 29ac farm at Clonkeefy, Oldcastle in Co Meath
A local dairy farmer paid €270,000 for this 29ac farm at Clonkeefy, Oldcastle in Co Meath
Newhall House on 310ac near Ennis in Co Clare sold at auction for €1.7m
The biggest fram to come on the market in 2016 is located in Connacht Ulster region. An Ghrianán consisting of 2,400ac at Speenogue, Burt in Co Donegal is for sale by private treaty with a guide price of €17m

One notable trend in the land sales market is that inheritors of land are now opting to lease farms to avail of the tax breaks associated with leasing rather than going down the sales route.

"I had at least three farms withdrawn from the market earlier this year after potential vendors took advice from accountants," said Kilkenny auctioneer Joseph Coogan. "Many are using the leasing opportunities to 'park' farms until farming improves and land prices increase."

Tom Crosse of GVM said the difficulty in getting money from the banks was making farmer customers shy away from the auction room, opting for the private treaty market instead.

"Purchasing solicitors are advising farmers against borrowing for auction as the conditions attached to many letters of offer are regarded as too burdensome," he said.

Newhall House on 310ac near Ennis in Co Clare sold at auction for €1.7m
Newhall House on 310ac near Ennis in Co Clare sold at auction for €1.7m

"Banks can demand a lean on other properties, on life insurances and other assets before they agree to loan sanction. Purchasing solicitors are also advising clients not to finalise any sale based on loan sanction but to do so only on cheques draw down," he explained.

Mr Crosse said the continuing uncertainty in the dairy sector was also having a huge impact on land sales in Munster.

Falling farm incomes have also been a factor in the sharp fall-off in sales in the southeast, according to Wexford auctioneer David Quinn. He also noted the impact of the increased popularity of long-term lease arrangements.

Newbridge auctioneer Paddy Jordan maintained that access to money was the main factor hitting the land market.


"The motorway money and the development money from the boom years has dried up and the banks are very cagey when dealing with farmers," Mr Jordan said.

"Clearly farm prices are on the floor, with milk and grain particularly hit, but I believe an added problem this year has been the weather. We had a late and wet spring that left land in bad shape. It was nearly June before the land recovered and as a consequence the auction year was late starting."

The biggest fram to come on the market in 2016 is located in Connacht Ulster region. An Ghrianán consisting of 2,400ac at Speenogue, Burt in Co Donegal is for sale by private treaty with a guide price of €17m
The biggest fram to come on the market in 2016 is located in Connacht Ulster region. An Ghrianán consisting of 2,400ac at Speenogue, Burt in Co Donegal is for sale by private treaty with a guide price of €17m

According to Trim auctioneer Thomas Potterton, the looming possibility of Brexit had a significant impact on the market in the northeast.

He pointed out that the uncertainty before the UK referendum caused expected sterling buyers to hold off.

South Leinster: Auctioneers pin hopes on an autumn sales rebound

Over the past number of years the cockpit of the farm property market has been South Leinster, made up of counties Laois, Kildare, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford.

In the last six months this region has endured the biggest drop across the board, with the amount of land sold at auction down 54pc, from the 2,033ac sold in early 2015 to 943ac in the same period this year.

The amount of money generated from land auctions in the region fell 60pc, from €24.116m in the first six months of last year to €9.781m this year, while the average price per acre fell from €11,861 in 2015 to €10,364 in the current year, representing a drop of 13pc. The number of successful auctions reported declined from 39 in 2015 to 20 this year.

Despite all the negative figures, South Leinster still remains the dearest place in the country to buy farmland.

The largest farm sold in the region was a 282ac farm, Haggard House near Carbury in Co Kildare. The holding is a mixture of grass, tillage and forestry and made €2.15m under the hammer of Paddy Jordan of Jordan Auctioneers.

The best price paid for land in the region was €19,140/ac paid for 18.8ac of grazing ground at Kilmurray near Gorey in Co Wexford. In one of the earlier auctions of the year the place sold under the direction of Denis Howell of Warren Estates.

The best price paid at auction for a large farm in the region was given for a 112ac holding at Athgarvan, Co Kildare that sold under the hammer of Willie Coonan for €1.56m, or €14,000/ac

The average size of farm sold in the region under auction between January and June 2016 was 47ac.

Wexford auctioneer David Quinn says the figures nationally and for South Leinster reflect his experience on the ground. "The volume of land coming on to the market in Wicklow and Wexford is certainly down 50pc," he said.

Like Joseph Coogan in Kilkenny, he believes the option of tax-free income from long-term leasing has tied up a lot of land that would otherwise find its way onto the auction floor.

He also believes that a lot of land sold in recent times was offloaded to 'tidy up' debts hanging over from the financial collapse. Even so, he expects a strong market to emerge this autumn.

North Leinster: Sterling buyers put their plans on hold

North Leinster - made up of the counties of Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Louth, Dublin and Offaly - showed the least dramatic movement, but all the key figures are down on last year.

A total of 1,152ac sold at auction to the end of June this year, compared to 1,413ac in 2015. This represents a drop of 261ac, or 18.5pc.

The total generated by auction sales decreased from €13,121,500 to €9,410,000, representing a decline of 28pc, while the price per acre declined 12pc, falling from €9,286 to €8,169.

The number of successful auctions reported was just marginally down, dropping from 29 to 22.

The largest farm sold was a 227ac farm at Derrynagarragh in Co Westmeath. The holding is in need of some investment and sold as one block under the hammer of Paul Murtagh. It made €1.3m or €5,276/ac.

The biggest price in the region in the six months was paid for a 94ac residential holding at Fordstown, Co Meath that made €1.45m in a sale handled by Raymond Potterton. The highest price paid per acre was for a 54ac non-residential tillage and grass farm at Newcastle, Co Dublin. It sold under the hammer of Robert Ganly for €850,000 or €15,400/ac.

The average size of holding sold in the region during the first six months of 2016 was 52ac.

Trim auctioneer Thomas Potterton identified Brexit as a contributing factor to the decline in the volume and price of land sold in the early part of 2016.

"In our area we have a steady business from sterling buyers, especially for country houses and estates and the uncertainty before the Brexit vote caused these buyers to pause and wait. The same thing happens before the annual budget, if changes are expected in capital gains tax. When there is uncertainty buyers hold off until they see what is going to happen."

Mr Potterton also pointed to the difficult times for farm incomes, the tight credit regime operated by the banks, and the poor spring weather as contributing to the sluggish state of farm sales.

However, he is optimistic that the market could recover quickly: " I have a lot of farms on my books for the autumn season," he said.

Connacht/Ulster: Demand switches to land with forestry potential

The Connacht counties, along with Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, showed a substantial decline in the number of successful land auctions this year - falling from 17 to nine.

There was a 66pc drop in the area of land sold under the hammer for the first six months of the year, falling from 1,067 in 2015 to 356ac for the January to June period this year.

A similar percentage applies to the drop in the level of income generated from land sales, which fell from €6,260,000 for the first six months of 2015 to €2,166,750 this year.

Unlike other regions there was a slight increase in the per acre price, which rose 3pc, increasing from €5,866/ac last year to €6,086/ac this year.

This figure is probably somewhat skewed by a bumper price of €17,000/ac paid for 17ac of land at Ballybay in Co Monaghan.

The largest farm sold under the hammer in the early part of 2016 was a 180ac parcel of forestry and grazing ground at Craggagh, Balla, Co Mayo that sold for €750,000 under the direction of Morans of Castlebar.

The dearest land sold in the region was the aforementioned 17ac grass farm at Legacurry, Ballybay in Co Monaghan.

The reseeded, 'top class' grazing ground was bought by an auctioneer believed to be acting for a dairy farmer when it sold under the hammer of local agent Phillip Ward.

The average size of holding sold in Connacht/Ulster in the first six months of 2016 was 39ac.

Caution

Roscommon auctioneer John Earley has noticed a distinct change in the market and a softening of prices.

"I am certainly finding the bigger farms harder to get away and prices are certainly softening," he maintained.

"I would say land is back €1,000/ac. And while last year I was quoting €7,000 to €8,000/ac for top quality land in this region, this year I'd be quoting €6,000 to €7,000," he said.

Mr Earley said the banks were certainly more cautious and buyers were not as bullish.

"However, I find the demand for investment land for planting is increasing and people are looking for average land rather than poor ground for it," he said.

Munster: 'The scepticism about prospects in farming is keeping vendors and purchasers out of the auction rooms'

Last year was not a great one for land sales in Munster and there is no improvement to date in the market for 2016.

If anything things have continued to get worse. In the south western province the amount of land selling under the hammer in early 2016 is down 45pc.

A total of 1,494ac was sold in the first six months of 2015 compared to 852ac sold to the end of June 2016.

In terms of the money generated by land sales at public auction the total is down by more than 54% with sales dropping form €14,288,000 in the first six months of 2015 to €6,535,000 in the same period of this year.

The per acre price of land also fell by a substantial 11pc from 9,562 in 2016 to 8484. It is interesting to note that the number of reported auctions is only slightly down on last year from 20 to 16.

The largest farm to sell under the hammer in Munster was the 310ac estate with Newhall House near Ennis in Co Clare.

In an auction conducted by Sothebys and Owen Reilly property consultants the estate sold for €1.7m.

The highest per acre price paid was for land was €13,300 paid for 35ac of tillage ground at Barnora, Cahir, Co Tipperary when John Stokes of Stokes and Quirke sold the farm to a solicitor acting in trust for €465,000.

The average size of holding sold under the hammer in Munster during the period was 53ac.

Macroom auctioneer Killian Lynch attributes the state of the market to caution on the part of vendors and purchasers.

Ceiling

"There is much scepticism around concerning farming and this keeps vendors and purchasers out of the auction room, so I have no doubt there is less selling by auction."

Mr Lynch also believes that many of the farmers with plans for substantial expansion put a ceiling on their plans.

"I think many of the farmers who decided to expand from 100 to 300 cows have stopped at 150 and are happy at that," he said.

He is not convinced the banks are 'spooked' by the current state of farm incomes.

"My sources in the banks tell me they take a five year perspective on farm incomes and this leaves scope for good years and bad years," he said.

Indo Farming