I think I speak for many people when I say I’m pretty fed up with the ongoing political uncertainty which is affecting broader confidence in the economy and our rural sector, potentially undermining what many have worked for, over generations. Hopefully the general election on 12 December will finally bring greater stability to allow us all to plan more confidently for the future, writes Richard Thomas, director, BTF Partnership.
To my mind there is no industry in the UK more important than the farming families and their staff who feed our nation. Here in the South East, there are many fantastic examples of farm businesses that are innovating and investing for the future and long may this continue.
Earlier this year we reported a number of positives in the land and property market here in Kent and Sussex. This was despite the first six months to June 2019 seeing the lowest acreage of publicly marketed land in the UK since 1995, (excluding 2001 and the Foot and Mouth crisis) with 74,000 acres. RICS has not issued its own land report this autumn given the lack of reliable data however, our local picture confirms this trend.
Over the last few months we have been fortunate to have had a diverse pipeline of land and property coming onto the market, some of which has sold very quickly. The following examples completed this summer, over guide price: Long Meadow Farm situated on the attractive south-facing slope of the Greensand Ridge, south of Sevenoaks and in the Kent Downs AONB. The farm is a ring-fenced pasture and arable unit with a detached bungalow and extensive range of livestock buildings with approximately 118.33 acres.
Leaveland Court Farm, a Grade II* Listed, eight bedroom farmhouse with attached granary, stables and oast roundel had potential for further residential conversion (subject to the necessary consents). The farm, extending to 6.87 acres, south of Faversham also included a detached, Grade II Listed Kent barn with a significant range of farm buildings and paddock land.
We have a list of ready buyers who are actively looking and eager to proceed with sensibly priced land opportunities, and we anticipate their enthusiasm will continue into 2020. Properties which have income generating potential are still being sought by buyers, looking to take a longer-term view, whilst benefiting from historically low interest rates.
A couple of examples of this type of property which sold by Contractual Tender this summer, attracting multiple offers well in excess of the guide prices included Martins and Trench Farm Buildings, north of Hildenborough and divided into two lots. Lot 1 Martins, a spacious and well-maintained three bedroom bungalow, with a tenant in occupation under a Rent Agriculture Act Tenancy providing a rental income of £950 per month. Lot 2 Trench Farm Buildings consisted of a variety of different Victorian and more modern farm buildings all situated around a concrete yard area with water and mains electricity.
Another income generating property which also attracted considerable interest and again sold by Contractual Tender for above the guide price was Parsonage Farm courtyard and buildings, four miles south of Faversham. This consisted of 15 consented period office units, storage units, unconverted agricultural buildings and paddock land all bringing in a rental income in excess of £45,000 per annum.
Realistic pricing remains crucial to generating interest and offers on any form of property with a residential element and I anticipate this will continue well into the first half of 2020.
Interest from buyers searching for smaller ‘hobby farms’ with up to 100 acres for their lifestyle and equestrian interests remains steady at best and while I think this demand will remain next year, buyers are no longer “rushing” into these deals with offers of funding behind them, so sales are becoming more protracted, making prudent pricing even more critical.
Good quality and well-located agricultural land, with or without buildings, also continues to be in demand.
We have a portfolio of Grade I and II arable land in the hands of solicitors at three separate locations on the Romney Marsh, extending to a total of 370.52 acres. The property includes a significant range of buildings including over 1,900 tonnes of grain storage and this is currently under offer at competitive prices to separate purchasers.
Land suitable for growing vines continues to be popular across the South East with local, regional, national and international buyers all knocking on the door.
Investment and ‘oven ready’ development opportunities remain popular with a range of developer and private individual buyers searching with specific requirements. Sold this summer was Summerfield Nursery near Staple in East Kent, which was originally marketed as a going concern due to retirement of the owner. As a nursery business it failed to secure a purchaser, but it sold quickly once residential planning permission was obtained for the site for up to 16 houses.
If 2019 was the year of political ups and downs, 2020 can only get better and on a more even keel. If you are looking to buy or sell land, farms and rural residential property in Kent and Sussex, please get in touch with our teams in Challock and Heathfield.