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Rural retreats in retreat as commercial farming improves

In contrast, demand in the commercial sector has been strong, with 22% more surveyors reporting a rise than a fall, as large scale commercial farmers return to the market looking to expand their production. Evidence suggests that interest is localised and foreign demand, particularly from Irish farmers, is in decline.

Despite this improvement prices continue to fall, albeit modestly. The RICS opinion based measure for current farmland prices for bare land recorded a relatively modest fall of 1%, with the weighted average falling from £12,336 per hectare to £12,172. Arable land fell 1% to £13,085 per hectare from £13,182 and pasture land saw a fall of 2%, from £11,490 to £11,260 per hectare. Falling supply levels are providing some support for prices.

Reflecting the drop off in demand for residential land, the RICS transaction based measure for farmland prices, which includes residential farmland, shows a greater fall in prices, with the weighted average price of farmland falling 7.5%- from £16,342 per hectare to £15,114.

Unsurprisingly the outlook for prices is mixed, with the non-residential sector turning positive (15% more surveyors expect price rises than falls, up from -42). In contrast, 9% more surveyors are still expecting prices to fall in the residential sector; however this is a significant improvement on the extreme lows in the second half of 2008, when 79% more surveyors were expecting falling prices.

RICS spokesperson, Julian Sayers said: "While the economic climate remains so uncertain, it is improbable that we will see demand for rural retreats return to pre-recession levels.

"As a result, residential land prices look likely to remain depressed for some time to come. The improvement in commercial land is encouraging, however, with the downward pressure on arable prices we are currently seeing and the lack of foreign demand there is a risk that this more favourable trend could run out of steam."

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