Land prices nationally fell slightly in 2018 but raced ahead by 25pc in southern counties
Munster bucks the national trend
Land prices remained steady in 2018 despite a year of severe weather events, fodder shortages and cashflow problems, not to mention the spectre of a no-deal Brexit.
The national survey of the 153 published auction results shows 8,025ac changed hands realising €91.04m for an average price per acre of €11,345.
These figures represent a marginal increase (1.5pc) in the amount of land sold, a marginal decrease (1.95pc) in the amount of money generated and a decrease of 3.4pc in the price per acre.
There were some exceptional features including a 70pc increase in the amount of land sold at auction in Connacht/Ulster. This resulted in an increase of 47pc in the amount of money generated at auctions in the region.
And the price of land in Munster has raced ahead of the rest of the country after a spate of strong sales in 2018.
The average price per acre in Munster reached €14,292/ac across 29 auctions - a 25pc rise on last year's price and well ahead of the national average. Munster also hosted the most spectacular sale of the year where a 101ac residential farm on the outskirts of Cork City at Douglas sold under the hammer of Michael Barry for €5.8m or €58,000/ac.
This sale has been excluded from the calculations given that the land, while currently farmed, is viewed as development ground.
Elsewhere in Munster, Tipperary was the hotbed of high prices with up to €26,000/ac being paid under the hammer. The overall amount of land sold at auction in the province declined by 18pc from 1,630ac in 2017 to 1,334ac in 2018. Nevertheless the amount generated by these sales increased by 2.45pc from €18.6m to €19.065m.
In South Leinster sales remained strong with an average of €13,558/ac, up 6.5pc on last year. Over the 55 auctions quoted in this survey, land volumes sold at auction in the region were up by 13.6pc going from 2,519 in 2018 to 2,870 in 2018. The amount of money generated came to €33.9m, representing an increase of 21pc on the previous year.
Neighbouring North Leinster was not as fortunate where the amount of land sold under the hammer in a total of 42 auctions dropped by 17.5pc on 2017. The amount of money generated by auctions in the region went down by a significant 33.5pc with the per-acre price dropping by 21pc from €12,229/ac in 2017 to €9,860/ac last year.
A total of 27 auctions in Connacht/Ulster saw an increase of 70pc in the amount of land sold in public in the region. This resulted in an increase of 47pc in the amount of money generated compared to 2017, however the per-acre price dropped from €7,621 to €6,566 in 2018, a drop of 14pc.
Aside from the sale of the Douglas farm in Cork, the most significant sale in the province of Munster was the auction of Bengurrah House near Cahir which sold under the gavel of Pat Gannon making €2.86m or €26,000/ac. Out of a total of 29 auctions held in the province, seven saw land make more than €20,000/ac while at 22 auctions land made more than €10,000/ac. Tipperary was home to the busiest and most lucrative auction rooms in the region with 16 of the 29 auctions happening in the Premier county.
Kilkenny auctioneer Pat Gannon sold land in both South Leinster and in Tipperary and describes 2018 as 'a right good year' and he remains very positive about the year ahead.
"Brexit or no Brexit, land will hold its value. The people buying it are serious customers with serious businesses, especially in dairy."
However, he cautioned against high expectations in relation to price. "The bread and butter of land sales are the plots that make between €8,500 and €10,000/ac. These sales happen every day and I wouldn't like people to get the impression that all land will make the €13,000 and €14,000/ac we see at these headline auctions where fancy land is making a fancy price. These are great sales but they are exceptions," he said.
Connacht Ulster also had a good year with 1,400ac sold at auction netting €9.2m in sales marking a 70pc increase in the amount of land sold and a 47pc increase in the amount of money spent at auctions. Many of the headline sales were confined to the stronger farming areas of Co Roscommon where John Earley saw a real boom in land sales this year saying farm transactions made up a major part of his business.
Maynooth auctioneer Willie Coonan describes the land market in 2018 as 'steady', despite all the year's challenges.
He is not surprised that prices in Leinster are within a few percentage points of where they were last year. "We sold everything we had on our books, including a farm we sold on Christmas Eve. I am confident land prices will hold, even in the face of Brexit," he said. Mr Coonan believes that Brexit could be good for land prices as farmers will have to respond to increased demand for food from the UK.
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