39pc of large rural land buyers come from abroad
In its review of activities in the rural property market for 2021, Savills recorded a buoyant market with strong sales and plenty of cash around.
According to an analysis of their 2021 figures, rural properties made, on average, 15.3pc more than their guide price.
Customers at the upper end of the market were not dependent on lending institutions to purchase properties. A total of 87pc of buyers for rural properties sold by Savills were cash buyers with access to substantial funds.
International customers made up a significant percentage of those buying larger tracts of land, country houses and estates in the Irish market.
Figures recorded by Savills show 39pc came from the UK or beyond. According to James Butler, Head of Savills Country Agency, this would not be entirely unusual.
In an indication that there were plenty of customers for larger and more salubrious properties, 68pc of the successful transactions conducted by Savills were concluded after a process of competitive bidding.
Mr Butler saw huge confidence in the Irish land market last year, with a lot of active buyers seeking larger farms of viable size.
“We had more buyers than we had in previous years, with many farms being bought by non-farming money,” he said.
“But those buying had a connection to farming — they were born on a farm or had a family connection to the land. Others might have sold a business and wanted to invest in land, but most had a connection.”
While he acknowledged that Covid-19 and the move to home working was a driver in the rural property market, he is of the opinion that the return to rural areas was also reflective of growing wealth.
“The Irish economy is performing well and there is more money around to be spent,” he said.
“Also the improved returns from farming attracted people to the business and the reality that, as an investment, land is a secure haven for money.”
He also identified what he called prospective landowners looking to invest in natural capital or environmental capital.
“We are seeing a much more diverse range of buyers, especially among those who value land over and above its food production potential,” he said.
"These people are in the market to invest in the environmental capital or the natural capital of the land. While this is a really important aspect of the land market in the UK, it is in its infancy here, but it’s growing.”
Mr Butler believes this might explain the strengthening of interest in the purchase of marginal land.
In establishing land values, he says farms over 100ac and over 200ac are rare on Ireland’s land market and this increases their value.
“Rarity increases value of farmland, along with good infrastructure such as good farm buildings, internal roadways and the like. With the cost of building increasing, good infrastructure on farms will add real value,” he said.
Looking ahead, Mr Butler sees no huge surge of land coming to the market this year.
“Farmers are content to continue living where they were born and the opportunity to let their land allows them to do this.
“They favour this arrangement as against rushing to the market. The farms to sell best this year are farms with good infrastructure that will not incur high building costs,” he said.
He believes progressive farmers will want to own more land to spread their fixed costs, mitigate their nitrate obligations and derive benefit from scale.