Lifestyle buyers seek out farmland as demand grows during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 06:02 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 06:02 01 July 2020
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A lull in the property market during the coronavirus pandemic has created pent-up demand for farmland – with the lockdown prompting some potential buyers to “pursue a change in lifestyle and escape to the countryside”.
Rural agents at Savills said the amount of farmland being publicly marketed in the East of England looks set for another record-breaking low in 2020 as sellers remain cautious amid the uncertainties of Covid-19.
Christopher Miles, who leads the farm agency team for Savills in the East of England and is based in the firm’s Norwich office, said while movement restrictions had prevented the typical early-spring peak in sales, the lack of supply has created high levels of pent-up demand, with interest in rural properties rising 50pc compared to pre-lockdown.
“For those who follow the farmland market, such low supply will not be surprising,” he said. “Potential sellers were, and in many cases continue to be, cautious and the poor weather and volatile market outlook has not yet prompted further pressures to sell, and for many it seems the inclination is to wait. But farmland has a strong track record in times of economic uncertainty.
“We have seen a number of deals through to completion over the past few months; either where the transaction was under way prior to the Covid-19 lockdown or where the buyer already knew the land on offer. Once viewing restrictions were eased, there was a substantial increase in the number of enquiries and requests to view property.
“Indeed, pent-up demand is evident across the market, with buyers increasingly frustrated with a prolonged period of limited supply. Here in the East, commercial farms for sale or let have received strong interest, indicating fresh confidence in the sector. Those with environmental benefits or potential also remain desirable, while many new applicants are also looking at residential farms for a change of lifestyle.
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“How long the surge in demand will last is hard to tell. With a predicted weakening of the economy some may decide this dream is something they can’t afford to chase. On top of that we also have ongoing Brexit negotiations, with no certainty on trade tariffs or the Agriculture Bill.”
Nationally, Savills’ research suggests there were just 19,100 acres of publicly-marketed farmland to the end of May this year in Great Britain, down 68pc on five and ten-year averages. The average size of farms marketed was also down, averaging 126 acres during the same period compared with the 10-year average of 205 acres.
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