Tight land supplies forecast to continue into 2021.
2020 was an extraordinary year and it looks as if this year could be much the same.
Even without COVID-19, 2020 was always going to be a pretty momentous year for the farming industry, given the sector faced a new Agriculture Act and uncertainty over whether there would be a Brexit deal, as well as dealing with the pressures of one of the worst harvests in decades.
Analysis of our Farmland Database suggests that a combination of these factors caused the volume of land coming to the open market to shrink significantly. The first COVID-19 lockdown in March and April resulted in a sharp fall in the number of new launches with many sellers choosing to hold back. A number did choose to sell privately instead, which has been a growing trend in some regions, increased by COVID-19. However, although market activity bounced back relatively quickly in the summer, it was not enough to make up the shortfall in volumes available and the year ended with total supply down by a third on the five-year average.
In contrast, demand has been relatively robust with farms and estates that were put to the market continuing to sell. Rollover buyers, along with private investors, continue to be active in many regions, viewing farmland as a safe, long-term investment. We have also had an increased number of enquiries from overseas. While those farmers needing to borrow against future farm profits to fund a purchase are bidding cautiously, they know a block of land next to them is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy.
The second half of the year also saw an extremely busy housing market, which translated to greater activity in the market for country houses and residential estates than we have seen for a number of years, particularly in the south and west of the country.
The combination of low supply and sustained demand means that average prices have remained firm. Indeed, the consistency of average prices in recent years is a remarkable story – the 2020 average arable price of £9,300/acre is exactly the same as the five-year average. However, the range in prices achieved continues to be wide, with location the critical factor. We are now seeing instances where some of the best quality land is selling for the least amount of money, because it is located in areas which are less appealing to lifestyle buyers or other non-farmers.
Read our full market update for:
- Market outlook
- Supply of farmland
- Demand for farmland
- Pricing and region specific breakdowns between arable and pasture land