Is now the time for retiring farmers to sell their land?

Christopher Miles, head of farm agency for Savills in East of England

Christopher Miles, head of farm agency for Savills in East of England - Credit: Richard Marsham

Now could be the ideal time for farmers thinking of retirement to put their farm on the market, said rural agents.

According to the latest Savills Farmland Values Survey, farmland prices in the East of England remained "remarkably resilient" in 2020 and were largely unaffected by the wider economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus crisis.

But after two years of record low supply, the firm said the pent-up demand - allied to farmland’s reputation as a “safe haven” for investment during volatile times - offered opportunities for both buyers and sellers.

Christopher Miles, Norwich-based head of farm agency for Savills in the East of England, said: “In terms of buyers there will continue to be farmers who want to expand their enterprise and seek opportunities for further investment, so best-in-class commercial farms will likely remain in high demand.

“The appetite for lifestyle and residential farms also looks set to last. The latest lockdown only seems to have reaffirmed people’s desire to move and those with the financial security to do so will continue to be on the lookout for properties with more space and access to the countryside.

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“However the real opportunity will be for buyers looking to demonstrate an awareness of the environment. Whether rewilding, woodland or habitat creation the idea of natural capital and biodiversity net gain is starting to gather momentum and is already high on the political agenda.

“The concept of ‘polluter pays’ will encourage more and more businesses and organisations to look at farmland and the environmental benefits it can provide as a way to offset their carbon footprint.

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"It’s likely to become a very competitive market and one that people should start to seriously consider if they want to get ahead of the rush.

“As a result, I think if you’re a farmer who is considering retirement then now is a good time to weigh up your options."

Mr Miles said the low levels of farmland offered for sale had created considerable pent-up demand among "a large pool of very committed, motivated and active buyers".

According to the Savills survey, the amount of land brought to the public market in England dropped by 5pc in 2020 to its lowest level since the firm started tracking the market in 1993. Meanwhile, average values across all land classes increased by 0.8pc to £7,408 per acre.

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