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What is the future for UK farmland prices?

09/10/2015

Every solar farm and anaerobic digester built is taking land out of agriculture’s traditional role of food production. Other factors reducing land for food production include infrastructure development such as road and rail, as well as commercial and residential development. In England alone the government is driving for one million houses to be built in the next five years.  Once taken out of agriculture and food production - it’s gone for good.

Despite the continued reduction in the finite resource of land, the impact of low world market commodity prices is also an influence. 

Technology is countering the diminishing land resource with productivity continuing to increase thanks to scientific research and development with world leaders targeting to double world food production in the next 15 years.

So what effect do these conflicting influences have on land prices?

The amount of land sold to benchmark against remains minimal. A few very large enterprises have come to the open market in the eastern counties, while in the west of the country working farms and land for sale remain in short supply.

The market in the eastern counties, fuelled by these few very large sales, has been supported by investor clients seeing agricultural land as a finite and diminishing resource and therefore a good long term investment.

In the west of the country the buyers generally remain active farmers who recognise that if they are to grow their enterprise, buying nearby land at the market rate is one of the few options to growing the business and spreading costs.

Currently we have a 330 acre mixed holding on the market, located on the Shropshire -Welsh border at Bishops Castle. Interest is generally from the more progressive farmers in the region. Many of these farms already have three or four holdings - and simply need to expand within a manageable distance for men, machinery and livestock to travel.

In the perfect world these farms would like to have 800 to 1500 acres within one ring fence. However history dictates that such sizeable farms are extremely rare in this part of the world, because farming has prospered through traditional mixed family farms averaging 200 to 300 acres. 

Consolidation

This year has been one of consolidation for land prices, following the rapid increases experienced in recent years, there has been no fall back and land values continue to be robust. The two key factors leading to a strong land market remain accessibility and size. Both make a significant difference to the number of people a parcel is suitable for and will appeal to, and ultimately influences the final price. In addition low interest rates continue to hold, offering good long term deals.

It would be wrong to overlook the fact that the price of land has never directly reflected the return from agriculture; other factors have significantly affected the value, particularly tax reliefs. However, there is speculation and uncertainty over Inheritance Tax Relief and Capital Tax roll over relief.

Land is perceived as a recession proof investment attracting both business and private investors, the latter benefiting from amenities linked to the land, including sporting rights, wildlife, social standing and privacy all of which can go hand in hand with owning land.

Lot 2 arable land

Lot 2 Setting

IMG 3219

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Land letting trends

08/10/2015

This year has seen an increasing trend to offer tenancies to known individuals “off market,” according to Agent, Andrew Liddiment of Balfours Property Professionals.

He says: “Agricultural lettings conducted by Balfours have all been met with strong demand, with a noticeable increase in tenancies offered to known individuals off market. In my involvement with four new lettings – which have all been very different units; only one was put to the open market. Despite this, all have yielded excellent applications and results. It’s a picture that is replicated by other agents too.”

Andrew says that in each case the certainty of achieving progressive relationships and land management objectives was the driver, bolstered by the knowledge that income did not have to be sacrificed to achieve these aims.

He continues: “Farmers are seeking extra land to ensure equipment and infrastructure is working for them with maximum efficiency, with depressed commodity prices at present analysing and creating efficiencies in a farming business is key.  Those who have been successful in expanding by taking on extra tenanted land have one thing in common, they appreciate excellent husbandry and a track record of good relations are very important to prospective landlords and key to expansion in this way.’

“From the landlord’s viewpoint re-letting is time consuming, disruptive and costly, so if it must be done we must ensure we get it right.

“This year we have let very different land packages, from top grade arable, to land requiring improvement, across Shropshire and neighbouring counties. Throughout the driver has been the mutual benefit of both parties,” he adds. Andrew, who is based at Balfours Craven Arms office, can be contacted on 01588 673314.

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Grade II listed barn, A* conversion

06/10/2015

Craftsmanship, quality materials and semi-open plan living lift this grade II listed barn into A* category.

Number two, Beeches Barn is a stunning four bedroom stone barn conversion in an idyllic location, just above the village Marton, situated on the Shropshire/Welsh border. Local amenities are found within the village while Welshpool and Shrewsbury six and 16 miles respectively are each easy commutes.

Agent, Tim Main of Balfous says: “The property has been finished with high quality materials, including limestone flooring and oak doors, window frames and staircase. There is a real wow factor in the open plan sitting, dining room, which spans more than ten metres by four and a half. A Clearview stove is a focal point within a central wall.”

The kitchen is of similar dimensions with central island and dedicated dining area, a limestone floor and glazing to three aspects add to the light ambiance, while exposed beams are a feature throughout the property. The kitchen provides access to the utility where appliances are plumbed and incorporating a separate wc and a link door offers access directly to the garage.

With underfloor heating on both levels, the property is void of radiators – ensuring that space is maximised. There are four double rooms on the first floor, the master room with en-suite facilities and a family bathroom. 

Says Mr Main: “This is a fabulous and very well presented property well worthy of viewing. The area is ideal for those who enjoy country pursuits, while being easily accessible to road networks and a good selection of private and state schools.”

Two, Beeches Barn is marketed with a guide price of £450,000. For more information call Tim Main on 01743 353511 or visit www.balfours.co.uk

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County’s residential sale hot-spots - patchy

29/09/2015

Shropshire’s residential property market is revealing a few hot-spots, but one agent is cautious of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which has doubled its property price forecast for 2015 up from a 3% rise to 6%.

The RICS justified its revision as the number of homes for sale fell to the lowest level in more than 30 years, which, combined with rising buyer demand and low interest rates, is pushing up prices.

Head of sales, Tim Main at Balfours Property Professionals, which has offices in Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Hereford, said: “The market remains patchy; we have achieved a number of exceptionally speedy sales this summer, particularly in the £400,000 price region. For instance the sale of Blackhurst Cottagesouth of Shrewsbury was agreed within two weeks and we have sold others amid competition and above guide price.”

However the agent says that is not the case for all: “Unfortunately not all properties are courting such popularity and success in the market which remains patchy; every house and every buyer is individual. The important thing is to get the presentation right, particularly online and to ensure that the unique selling points of the property are highlighted to the buyer who wants something specific to their requirements."

The RICS has also lowered its forecast for the number of transactions for 2015 from 1.25m to 1.2m: “I would endorse this forecast, as we continue to seek stock on behalf of clients, which is why I would urge anyone considering marketing their property to take those first steps, they may well be very pleasantly surprised,” adds Mr Main.

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Appeal wins shepherd’s right to watch flock

29/09/2015

Three years ago the National Planning Policy Framework (The NPPF) replaced most of the previous planning policy statements and guidance.  PPS7 which was the previous guidance for planning in the countryside contained four pages on guidance relating to tied dwellings for forestry or agriculture.  The new guidance is condensed to one paragraph of which only two lines relate to tied dwellings.

You may imagine that the simplified guidance would lead to a simplified planning process, this is not our experience. Despite the change in National Planning Guidance three years ago, some Local Planning Authorities are still resisting applications for new agricultural workers dwellings on unjustified grounds. 

In a recent case we were involved in, the Local Planning Authority refused a new agricultural workers dwelling on a 400 acre farm on the basis that the main enterprise was a sheep flock of 1,100 sheep and that a full time dwelling was not required.  The Council justified their decision on the basis that a full time presence was only required during lambing and that a farm manager could live in a caravan on the farm during the busy lambing period at springtime. 

Happily, we were able to demonstrate at a Planning Appeal that the Council’s approach was unjustified and that a full time dwelling was required.   The Planning Inspector, having heard arguments from both sides, agreed with me and allowed the appeal.   Whilst this decision was obviously welcomed, it is frustrating. There should not have been the need to go to appeal if the Council had not sought to apply a blanket policy “that sheep only farms do not need a permanent dwelling,” without looking at the individual facts of the case.

It is not just the NPPF which has tried to simplify the planning process.   Permitted Development Rights now allow the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential and other various uses or the conversion of offices to residential.  However, on the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use we are seeing different approaches being taking by various Local Planning Authorities but generally these rights are helping speed up decisions as these must be made within 56 days unlike a planning application.

As an aside, looking back at statistics, ten years ago nationally 83% of applications were approved compared to last year where 88% were approved.  This would suggest simplification is working, it just does not feel like it all the time! Justin Stevenson planning consultant and associate partner with Balfours Property Professionals, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Bridge to Own Home

21/09/2015

Perfect for first time buyers or buy to let, 4 Sutton Bridge is located less than a mile from Shrewsbury town centre at Belle Vue, a popular residential area just to the south of the county town.

Launched to the market by Balfours Property Professionals, town sales manager, Alistair Hilton, enthuses: “This Sutton Bridge apartment is purpose built, light, airy and contemporary and provides entrance hall access, a good sized living room, with well equipped kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.”

Number 4 has its own allocated parking space as well as dedicated bicycle and bin storage area. Its proximity to Shrewsbury – is ideal for those seeking a healthy lifestyle, with many amenities just a stroll away, including The Quarry Park, Shrewsbury’s individual shops and restaurants, plus night life too.

For commuting Shrewsbury station is 1.3 miles on foot, while the Midlands road network is less than two miles away, as is Meole Brace Retail Park.

Number 4 Sutton Bridge is marketed with a guide price of £165,000, for more information call Alistair Hilton on 01743 353511 or visit www.balfours.co.uk.

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