Landowners looking to sell in the next 12 to 18 months are likely to face a much tougher and fragmented market, according to one expert.
Kevin Prince, a rural partner at Carter Jonas, warned a seminar of resident land agents who manage large estates including those in Wiltshire of increasingly difficult times.
He told the seminar at Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn, that sellers now entering the market were largely profit-taking investors, those who thought values had plateaued, and those moving further west or north to increase their holdings at lower prices.
“In the last few years, landowners could almost expect as of right to sell quickly and at good prices,” he said.
“That’s no longer the case - good land will always find a buyer but second rate land will struggle. In fact the market has split further than good or second rate and there are now many tiers of land quality with lesser quality holdings becoming harder to market.”
There is good news for landowners in the south, however, as figures clearly showed that land value rises had tracked in percentage terms the huge growth in prime London residential property in area like Kensington, Chelsea, and Westminster.
“The ideal farm in the current market is within a cone-shaped zone spreading west from London along the M4 at its core, with land slightly north of the M40 forming the northern boundary and to the east of the M3 the southern boundary," he said.
"The western edge is on a curve from Bournemouth almost to Bath, past Cheltenham, embracing the Cotswolds and finishing just to the north east of the M1 above Northampton.
“For perfection in the current market, it needs to be about 1,000 acres of undulating light land no more than 1.5 hours from London with some wood and valley, a modest house in good condition, and good access and grain storage.
“Farmers are still driving the market and if land does not attract interest from near neighbours to create an element of competition it will also struggle to reach high values.
“More land was publically marketed in 2013 than 2012 - 140,000 acres compared with 120,000 acres - but the headline sales were off-market, and outside those figures, in the private arena and land that appeals there will always be a strong performer.
“Few properties really make the grade in that respect, so landowners need to be realistic in their expectations and not rely on oft-quoted average values which are now largely irrelevant.
"Investors who bought anything when the market was rising just to be active may now regret their impulse as they try to divest themselves to use their money elsewhere while those who bought to cultivate their investment will be able to sit it out until the market improves.”
For advice on land issues, contact Kevin Prince on 01962 833365 or email Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org