They made a killing with land but investment has taken a toll
how the farmers spent their money
For every developer who paid €20,000 and €25,000 an acre for land during the boom, there was a farmer who benefited from the sale -- so where has the money gone?
"Some of them sat on their money, others went straight out and bought another farm but, by and large, most of them ploughed the money into bank shares and we know how that ended," one banking source told the Irish Independent.
Like many investors in the country, the farmers who made money selling sites during the boom bought property in Eastern Europe or invested in banking stocks.
"A lot of farmers have seen their investments go south. They were often urged by the bank to buy shares and felt they were missing out in the whole boom if they didn't.
"Banks and property investors were on their doorstep the minute the land was sold. They would be scouring the papers to see what the land had made and would then call to the farmer to set him up with an investment," the banking source said.
But others were more prudent and, helped by general buoyancy in agriculture, farmers are the only people in the hunt for land at the moment.
Farming has bucked the trend economically over the last two years, with exceptional prices paid for milk, beef and grain.
Auctioneers will tell of farmers who are going back in and buying the land they sold for a fortune at the height of the boom.
"I know at least one or two farmers who are trying to buy back the land they sold. So are the developers whose land is up for sale. NAMA says they will make sure there is no connection between those they are taking the land from and those purchasing it but how can you categorically prove a third-party connection?", one banker said.
As previously reported in this paper, a farmer in the Midlands recently paid €330,000 for his 61-acre residential farm, which he sold for €740,000 back in 2005. Farmland is also back at realistic prices, making between €7,000 and €12,000 an acre.
"The builders, developers and professionals are gone out of the market," said Kildare auctioneer Paddy Jordan.
"The only people buying land at the moment are farmers."
On top of this, farming is one of the few areas that banks are lending to.
"We receive at least two or three letters every week from farmers saying I'm approved for 'x' amount of money and I'm looking for land in 'x' area. If anything comes on the books let me know," a leading agri- adviser with one of the main banks told the Irish Independent.
At the height of the boom, they were the poor relations when it came to buying all but the remotest of holdings; now farmers are the only people out there.