Even in the teeth of the pandemic, South Leinster turned in a solid performance on land sales and prices last year.
Out of 23 auctions only four saw less than €11,000/ac paid, one sale passed the €2m mark and nine auctions saw over €1m paid for farmland. However, the number of auctions was down by 11 on 2019 and down 32 on the 2018 figure.
A total of 1,476ac was sold in the south-east in 2020, generating a total of €22.204m with an average per-acre price of €15,043/ac.
This was the highest per-acre price in the country, beating North Leinster by almost €5,000/ac.
However, like other regions, the acreage sold was well down on 2019, with 29pc less land changing hands at auction and the amount of money generated down 33pc.
The most expensive piece of land sold in the region was a 31ac residential farm at Laragh, Maynooth, Co Kildare that made €21,000/ac under the hammer of local auctioneers, Coonans.
This was closely followed by an 88ac residential tillage farm at Coolnahorna near Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, it made €20,080/ac when sold by David Quinn of Quinn Property.
The most expensive non-residential farm closed under the hammer in the region was a 76ac tillage farm at Dunbrin, Athy. It sold for €1,51m or €20,000/ac at an outdoor auction on the land conducted by Jordan auctioneers.
The only farm in the region to make more than €2m was a 188ac dispersed tillage farm at Maplestown, Ballyoliver and Coolmanagh in Co Carlow. It was sold by John Dawson of Tullow, making €2.46m in an executor sale.
Another executor sale involving a dispersed farm also did the business for Dawsons when a 138ac holding at Ballykillane, Hacketsown and Constable Hill, Carlow made €1.79m or €12,943/ac.
Also breaking the €1m mark was an 86ac non-residential farm, adjacent to Punchestown racecourse, which sold for €1.71m or €19,884/ac in an auction conducted by Brian Farrell of REA Farrell Brophy Farrell.
€1m plus sales
Five other farms in the south-east made over €1m at auction. These included an 86ac holding at Johnswell, Kilkenny that made €1.36m for Pat Gannon. Across the border in Laois, a 67ac residential holding at Clonboyne Portlaoise was sold by Joseph Coogan for €1.315m.
In Kildare, a 90ac non-residential tillage farm at Swordlestown, Naas was sold by Paddy Jordan for €1.22m, while David Quinn sold a 77ac farm at Ballyorley, Ferns, Co Wexford for €1.12m.
Pat O’Neill of O’Neill Flanagan handled the €1.01m sale of a 113ac non-residential holding at Ballintombay, Rathdrum in Wicklow.
Clive Kavanagh of Jordans describes 2020 as a “goodish” year, given the circumstances. “There was strong farmer interest, but there was also the return to the market of the investor,” he said. “These investors were particularly interested in buying land for letting, attracted by the tax-free income and the long-term lease.”
“As an investment it is like gold, it won’t disappear,” he said of the rationale of paying up to €20,000/ac for land. He expects strong demand to continue in 2021.
David Quinn described 2020 as a very good year for land sales even though it was stop-start due to Covid restrictions, “Prices were good, land was scarce and we had a long list of buyers. Whatever land came on the market was met by strong demand.” He adds that long-term leasing is having a noticeable impact on land supply.
Joseph Coogan also describes 2020 as a good year with a strong demand for land, particularly grazing ground. He said the bulk of customers were dairy farmers and investors looking for letting land, “Land for lease is a good investment, the property will be well looked after as it is in the tenants interest to keep it like that. It is hassle-free compared to the letting of houses and buildings,” he said.
Philip Byrne of Coonans describes 2020 as an unusual year. “The first half was characterised by the lockdown and second half was really busy with strong demand and great prices paid,” he said.
“There is not enough land for sale, we have customers all over the greater Dublin area looking for farms of 30ac to 200ac. Much of this demand is investor-based, people who are being charged by the banks to hold their money and who are choosing to put it into land.”
He expects a lively market in 2021 with strong demand and increased values.