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How to sell your farm in the economic downturn

Overseas buyers – driven by the discount created by the weak pound – are also actively searching for farms to buy.

However, the amount of farm land being marketed in the UK has fallen significantly.

In England alone supply is down 30% on this period last year, with 13,600 acres being offered in the first quarter, compared to 20,000 acres in 2008. The sector has not escaped the recession entirely, but the decline in values has been marginal. The average value of Grade 3 arable land in England fell less than 0.9% to £4575 per acre in the first quarter.

Charles Seligman of Savills Winchester said: "In short it is very much a sellers’ market, but owners thinking of selling would do well to do a little preparation before putting up the For Sale boards. These are just a few of the things I would encourage prospective vendors to consider."

First impressions count. Viewers will be more positive about a property and more inclined to bid if all the fences are in good repair and the yards are tidy. This is also a good time to identify any potential Health and Safety risks for visitors to the Farm and plan how to manage them.

Involving a solicitor and accountant from the start would speed up the sale, Savills said.

A solicitor can draw up a draft contract and pull together all the papers a buyer will want to see. These will include Title Documents, Leases and Licences, Sporting and Mineral Rights, SPE and Grant Statements. An accountant can deal with CGT, IHT and VAT matters which may need consideration.

If the land is not registered consider carrying out a voluntary registration, Seligman said.

Conveying a clean registered title will prove far easier for the solicitors than dealing with faded title plans from the 19th Century. With regard to leases, any friendly, word of mouth arrangements should now be formalised, to avoid disputes in the future.

Call the agents – they will be able to advise you on what the guide, or asking prices should be and how they think the property could be marketed to best effect. An agent will also be able to advise whether its best to sell as a whole, or whether added value could be achieved by separating out parts of the holding. It is possible to sell a property and retain an interest in it with an overage clause based on planning permission for development on the land and an agent will be able to discuss this.

Depending on when a sale is agreed the option is to complete post harvest, or agree to an independent tenant right valuation. Sellers should also consider whether they will require hold over on any part of the property after the sale and declare this from the start.

Seligman said: "Making the decision to sell one’s farm is neither a quick or easy one, but there is no doubt that the market conditions we are experiencing at the moment are weighing the odds heavily in favour of vendors."

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