Selling a farm can be a hugely frustrating process.
Will Douglas, of Savills, offers his advice on how to get your farm ready for a stress-free sale.
Selling a farm often combines selling a home which has been occupied and farmed by the same family for generations, a business, a livelihood and the family’s inheritance.
With this in mind, selling the family farm is potentially a massive headache for those involved, with preparation key to making a sale as stress-free as possible.
For most owners who are selling, the primary objective is to achieve the best possible price.
But to achieve this, making sure the farm is ready for sale well in advance of any marketing is essential. And it can also help avoid any delays and potential conflicts later on.
Making sure all the correct and up-to-date documentation is there will reassure potential buyers and help the sale go through smoothly.
First impressions really count when selling the farm, so farmers need to carry on farming as if they are staying and keep up with any minor maintenance work which could put people off.
Will Douglas, Savills associate director, gives his advice on how to get the family farm ready for sale.
Check all of the ownership details are correct and up to date.
If the farm is owned by a company, be clear whether it is the company or purely its property assets up for sale.
All owners must be consulted on the decision to sell and sign the appointed agent’s letter of instruction.
A COMMON reason for sales being held up is delays with the legal team so sellers should choose a solicitor with experience in farm conveyances.
Providing copies of all the relevant documentation before starting to market the property can also help the legal team act efficiently once a sale is agreed.
Draw up a list of fixtures and fittings which are included in the price and another of items you will be willing to sell and the prices.
All of this will enable solicitors to provide a potential buyer with an information pack which will comfort them and help ensure the sale will be concluded swiftly.
DECIDE whether to sell the farm privately or on the open market.
Most land agents will offer the choice of a private or public sale so discuss the options available.
While marketing privately keeps the farm sale out of the public realm it can raise doubts as to whether the best price was achieved, whereas marketing openly allows advertising, the internet and the press to reach the maximum amount of people.
Sale by auction is more unusual today for whole farms, but remains popular for blocks of bare land, particularly when there are likely to be competing neighbours.
STANDING out from the competition is important and first impressions really count, so farmers need to think about how potential buyers will see the farm.
Farmers need to continue to farm as though they are staying to ensure any potential buyer does not believe the seller is giving up on the farm. This includes continuing to make any minor improvements you had planned or the farm needs.
Make sure potholes are filled in, fencing is repaired, gates are hung, gutters cleared and weeds are killed.
For livestock farms, much out sheds and top grass fields regularly.
When potential buyers visit to compare it with the others they see, simple things such as adding an extra dose of nitrogen to grass and not overstocking will help show off the farm to its full potential.
For livestock farms, make sure the relevant crops are sown as farmers can be compensated for these or include a holdover clause in the heads of terms.
Above all, remember first impressions really do count and the time spent preparing the farm, and its paperwork, for sale will all be worthwhile.
KEEPING details of the performance of the farm will help give potential buyers reassurance about what they are buying.
Have details of the past five years’ cropping and at least three years’ of yield history.
Records of regular soil testing provide buyers with comfort the land has not been exhausted of all its natural resources.
On livestock farms, keeping a record of lambing percentages, calving rates and average dairy cow milk yields will help.
Drainage plans need to be available, including details of any recent improvements to drainage systems.
And if the farm has won any awards for performance, conservation or has any other noteworthy achievements, make sure potential buyers are aware.
REMOVE all potential for confusion which will erode a potential buyer’s confidence.
Do not wait until negotiations are underway to surprise a buyer with issues such as rights of way, private water supplies or a local development which may affect the farm.
Make sure they are aware of any potential issues from the outset.