After a flurry of sales activity earlier in the year – including some “big ticket” transactions – the rural property market showed signs of levelling out as the year drew to an end.
Agents still see some scope for further rises before the market plateaus, but all agree the biggest part of this latest three-year uplift in values is now behind us. Elders’ real estate sales manager for NSW, Richard Gemmell, said buyers had become “a little more discerning” in the wake of an upturn in property listings triggered by the late spring rains.
But he said buyers remained active, and an encouraging sign was the number of established farming families seeking land for expansion, to provide for sons or daughters now keen to pursue a career in farming.
Some of the best demand, and sales activity, has been centred on the Southern Slopes around Albury/Holbrook, and adjacent mixed farming districts.
Landmark’s Albury-based rural real estate manager Brian Liston said values of some land types had doubled in four years, with mixed farming country in the Corowa/Henty/Walla Walla areas now fetching above $3000/ac ($7500/ha) and up to $4000/ac ($10,000/ha).
He said the seasonally favoured Holbrook district had itself seen a “dramatic” increase in values over the past 12 to 18 months, lifting the benchmark price to around $4000/ac ($10,000/ha).
A similar lift has occurred on the Southern Tablelands, where values for good grazing country – both basalt and lighter – have effectively doubled over that time. Several recent sales of choice basalt blocks at Crookwell have seen prices paid in the $4000-$5000 an acre ($10,000-$12,500/ha) range, whereas a few years ago $2000/ac ($5000/ha) was a good price.
A case in point was the 418ha arable grazing property “Weedalga” (pictured), which fetched $4.3m or $10,299/ha ($4163/ac) when offered at auction in April by Professionals Goulburn.
At Armidale, where price rises have been tempered by the reality of ongoing drought, Elders’ Frank Spilsbury estimates the market has risen 30-35 per cent since 2016.
He said while local demand had been constrained by drought feeding costs, the level of corporate investment in the region – mainly for cattle grazing – was higher than he had seen.
Meanwhile on the North West Slopes and Plains, domestic and offshore investors seeking large operations have lifted prices for winter/summer cropping land by as much as $600/ac ($1480/ha) since late 2016, according to Elders Gunnedah’s Ian McArthur.
This has had the spillover effect of forcing local buyers to lift their sights on the limited offerings of smaller holdings, particularly grazing properties, where values have almost doubled, to around $10,000 a cow area. Mr McArthur said recent weather conditions had created some uncertainty as to where the market was heading, with signs of demand easing as surplus cash was absorbed by drought feeding costs.
Paul Thomas at Landmark Narrabri also reports some falling-off of buyers towards year’s end, although inquiry remained strong for well-developed irrigation properties with entitlements. Notable sales of farming country for the year included “Byalla” at Edgeroi and the Bellata properties “Karinya” and “Mulgamah”, all of which sold in a range from $2800/ac to $3260/ac ($7000-$8150/ha).
Drought has also constrained property sales activity in the Western Division, where Greg Seiler at Landmark Walsh Hughes in Bourke predicts a flurry of pent-up listings when the season breaks.
He said these would range from 4000DSE to 11,000DSE in scale, and the better blacksoil country was expected to command values from $400/DSE to $500/DSE and above.