Munster: Intense competition driving Munster prices to record highs

Farmers, developers and equestrian buyers are scrambling for prime southern holdings

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Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

For the first time since these auction surveys began, the per-acre price for land is highest in the southern province at €14,292/ac, beating south Leinster land by over €700/ac and marking an increase of 25pc on the price per acre achieved in the province last year.

A total of 29 successful land auctions in the province recorded in the national press saw the amount of land sold under the hammer in 2018 decline by 25pc compared to land sales the previous year. However, the revenue generated declined by a mere 6.9pc.

The most spectacular auction of the year happened on the outskirts of Cork City within the new city boundaries. A 101ac residential grass and tillage farm at Monees, Douglas sold for €5.8m or €58,000/ac in an auction conducted by Mick Barry. However, for the sake of this survey this sale is put to one side as there is general agreement that the sale price represented development land values rather than agricultural values.

After the Douglas farm, the biggest land sale in terms of money generated and per-acre price paid happened when Kilkenny auctioneer Pat Gannon sold a 110ac residential farm at Bengurrah, Cahir in Co Tipperary scooping a sale price of €2.86m under the hammer and a per-acre price of €26,000.

Read also: Pictures: Top-class dairy farm in West Cork comes with facilities for 120 cattle

Staying in South Tipp, a 91.6ac non-residential tillage holding on the outskirts of Cahir made a whopping €2.125m or €23,000/ac in a sale handled jointly by Cashel Marts and John FitzGerald of Dougan FitzGerald.

Kilsheelin, Co Tipperary sold at auction for €1.83m
Kilsheelin, Co Tipperary sold at auction for €1.83m

According to the auctioneers, the farm has a number of potential income streams.

Being close to an electricity sub station, it has potential for solar, it is clearly prime tillage land and with 1km of road frontage close to Cahir the place has considerable 'hope value' in relation to development at a future date.

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Of the three remaining Munster farms that broke the €1m mark, two were in South Tipp. Landscape Stud, home to Phonsie O'Brien with its elegant Georgian pile on the banks of the Suir at Kilsheelan made €1.83m under the hammer of Paddy Jordan while Alison De Vere Hunt of Cashel Marts was in action again with the sale of a 75ac residential grass and tillage farm at Thurlesbeg, Cashel which made €1.56m under the hammer.

Read also: Strong bidding pushes Tipp farm to €2.8m

Equestrian

While much of the land bought in South Tipp finds its way into the ownership of the big equestrian establishments in the area, the biggest land sale in Limerick also involved the equestrian sector.

A 116ac non-residential farm at Grange Hill, Manister near Croom was bought at auction for €1.06m by Qatar Racing, owners of the neighbouring 103ac Springfield farm which it bought a number of years ago. The sale was handled by Billy Gabbett of John Shaw Auctioneers.

In pure agricultural terms, a 17ac non-residential patch of maize ground at Conna near Fermoy made €19,400/ac under the hammer of Eamonn O'Brien of CCM marts while the end of the year saw Mark Donovan sell a 49ac residential farm at Ballinahow outside Tipp town for €825,000 or €16,836/ac.

Read also: Qatar Racing buys second million euro farm in County Limerick

Michael Barry of Dick Barry and Sons Fermoy describes 2018 as an extraordinary year. Michael would say that, having handled the headline sale of the year when he saw a 101ac farm at Monees, Douglas on the outskirts of Cork City make €5.8m or €58,000/ac in June.

"Aside from that, in a year when farmers were starved of cashflow following the fodder shortages brought on by snow, flooding and drought, they still managed to buy land and defied the odds," he said.

As usual South Tipperary land made headline prices and at the forefront of the market was Alison De Vere Hunt of Cashel Marts.

Underbidders

"Yes, it was a good year and while some of the more lucrative sales are associated with big players in the equestrian sector, it must be remembered that there are strong underbidders which indicates that there is money around for good land."

Alison strikes a note of caution in advance of 2019 and says that expectations must be reasonable. "Every auction is different and every piece of land is different and just because a property in one area made a huge price there is no guarantee a similar property in the same area will make the same price."

Tom Crosse of GVM agrees that prices in Munster are strong. "While we did most of our business on the private treaty side, nevertheless, right across the board, we got an average of €10,650/ac for land this year.

He agrees with Karl Fox of Mayo that the business sector is back in the land market. "Farmers still remain strong contenders and the poor year weather wise hasn't impeded farmers from buying ground," he said.

On a more cautionary note, he says the dairy expansion will be slowed down by the labour shortage on dairy farms.

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