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Thursday 16 August 2018

Forestry sales down in Connacht and Ulster with poorer land proving a hard sell

Cloonrane House with 48ac of organic land, a holiday cottage and a farmyard on the shores of Finlough Lake near Strokestown in Co Roscommon sold for over €350,000
Cloonrane House with 48ac of organic land, a holiday cottage and a farmyard on the shores of Finlough Lake near Strokestown in Co Roscommon sold for over €350,000
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Most land sales take place by private treaty and this is especially true of land sales in Connacht/Ulster so it is perhaps unfair to compare its land market with other regions in a survey using the public auction as a yardstick.

The survey of public auction land sales for the first part of 2018 does not make for pretty reading for those in the business of selling land in the West and border counties.

A total of eight auctions recorded in the national press for Connacht/Ulster saw 184ac sold, representing a decline of 64pc on the volume disposed of at auction by this time last year.

The average per acre price at €6,900/ac is down 16pc on last year's price while the mount of money generated by public auction land sales in early 2018 is down 70pc from the €4.22m spent last year.

A mere €1.2m was generated at auction in the six months just gone.

It must be noted that in early 2017 the region had two significant land sales; a 120ac farm at Moylough in Co Galway, which made over €10,000/ac and a 125ac farm with extensive sheds at Tulsk in Co Roscommon that made over €8,000/ac.

There were no such headline properties for sale in the region for the first six months of 2018.

The highest price paid for land was a figure of €10,000/ac paid for 8.5ac of grazing located at Carrowmore between Shrule and Headford in Co Galway. A sum of €85,000 was paid in the sale handled by Headford Marts.

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Heading north to Co Cavan a figure of €9,550/ac was paid for a 20ac non-residential holding at Carrickcreeny near Shercock in an auction conducted by Patrick Crosbie for €191,000.

Auctioneer Martin Shortt got €8,600/ac for a 27.2ac farm at Carricksimon, Virginia in Co Cavan while in Co Sligo, John Murphy of Tubbercurry got €7,500/ac for a 10ac parcel of grazing at Bunninadden in Co Sligo that made €75,000 on the day.

Commenting on the survey John Earley of Roscommon said that arising from the poor winter everything is six weeks late west of the Shannon

"It rained from last August until May and land was exceptionally wet, especially in this part of the country. Sales have taken off lately and I have achieved up to €8,000/ac for land," he said. He described the middle of the year as 'a hollow' where nothing happened. "The banks are also slow to lend money for land purchase, and this is not helping," he said.

Dundalk auctioneer, Raymond Fee is having a very busy year but says people are reluctant to go to auction. "I regard public auction as the best way to sell land, it is transparent and efficient and once you have a signed contract you are locked in," he said.

Bureaucracy

He blames legal bureaucracy and high expectations on the part of some vendors for much of the slowdown in sales. "It is sometimes hard to get vendors to accept good prices but the hardest part is waiting for solicitors to move on contracts, they are incredibly pernickety," he said.

Karl Fox of Ballina in Co Mayo believes that quality of land is key in land sales.

"If you have a good parcel of ground it will sell but poor ground is increasingly difficult to move. What is more, and what is significant at this side of the country is the huge decline in interest in forestry. I'm not talking about planting land, I'm talking about ground that is already planted with forestry. It is a very difficult sell at the moment," he said.

Mr Fox added that the land market is not being helped by the banks. "They are very slow to give finance for land expecting the purchaser to have the major portion of the price in cash," he said.

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