Poor weather has caused a slow start to the year for the English farmland market.
Strutt and Parker’s Farmland Database showed only 18 farms over 40 hectares (100 acres) were marketed in England in the first quarter of 2018, down from 21 in 2017.
And poor weather has slowed down both the amount of farms being publicly marketed and sales agreed.
Michael Fiddes, head of estate and farm agency, said: “Despite this, there are early signs pointing to the market remaining pretty robust, with our data showing average prices are higher than they were at this time last year and a number of new launches since the start of April.”
The average price of arable land sold remained at the same level as the end of 2017, at £24,206/hectare (£9,800/acre), but the range of prices paid has narrowed to between £17,043/ha (£6,900/acre) and £29,640/ha (£12,000/acre).
For pasture prices, an average of £20,748/ha (£8,400/acre) was paid.
However, Mr Fiddes said there was a ‘hidden’ market to factor in with private sales on the rise, as vendors were keen to sell, but only at the right price.
“It allows them to test the market on their own terms,” he said.
There were fewer buyers this year in the South West but the ones seen were ‘among the most committed we have seen over the past couple of years’, according to Charlie Evans.
“Many of them are looking to reinvest rollover funds from development, with others looking to expand their existing operations.
And he expected lack of supply would keep the market ‘relatively strong’ over the next few months.
Tight supplies were seen in the North with no farms over 100 acres coming to the open market in the first quarter, according to Will Parry.
“This means that what is currently available is property left over from last year, being privately marketed or is in smaller blocks.”
He added buyers needed properties offering opportunities over and above agricultural use.
“They are looking for farms which give them options in terms of income generation.”
There was strong demand in areas where there was lots of development, with such as West Leicestershire and North Warwickshire.
Sam Holt, said: This is because buyers are typically farmers who have the funds as a result of the development and are looking for land close to their existing farms.
Giles Allen said very little land came to the open market and he was expecting this to continue but considerably more land was being sold privately in East Anglia.
“Most of the land which was launched during 2017 has now sold, with prices typically ranging from about £7,500/acre to £9,750/acre.
“The best prices are being paid for easily-accessible land, with medium to long-term development potential.”
Farms were in relatively short supply in the South East but Matthew Gibson said there seemed to be plenty of buyers.
“As always, lifestyle buyers are strong in the South East and they are looking for a good house, surrounded by enough land to create a good amenity feel.
“There is also a steady trickle of rollover buyers looking for good quality bare commercial farms.”
But he warned prices did need to be appropriate with buyers hoping to snap up a bargain.
Matthew Sudlow said it had been a quiet start to the year in terms of transactions with little movement on prices.
“Some new farms have come to the market in recent weeks, with the majority in the west of the region and Wales.
“There will be more acres available shortly, although some of this will continue the trend of being offered privately, without any advertising - at least to start with.”
William Dalrymple, associate director at Strutt & Parker, said the market had been relatively quiet compared to last year.
“The north east and south west saw some early activity with a number of farms launched and sold already while the north east has managed to keep momentum in terms of volume - Aberdeenshire has seen a quarter share of the market so far.
“With the exception of three farms, all farms marketed in Scotland so far this year have been under 250 acres which shows us that it is the smaller less profitable units which are being sold. This is perhaps because the owners of larger and more profitable farms are waiting to see what Brexit will bring.
“There is a strong demand for farms presently with evidence showing that some of the early farms on the market this year went to competitive closing dates after shorter than usual marketing periods.”