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Land Prices Holding Steady in Uncertain Times

By ASFMRA Press posted 09-03-2020 08:54 AM

In a year where so much has changed, it’s nice to see one thing that hasn’t: rural land values.

“Steady is kind of the story on good land,” said Dennis Reyman, AFM, ARA, and incoming President-Elect of the ASFMRA during a recent panel discussion on land prices in the COVID era. Reyman was referring to his experience in Iowa, where he lives and works, but this observation was shared by the other panelists, including Ray Brownfield, AFM, out of Oswego, IL, and Matt Marschall, ARA, from California. 

One of the bigger factors affecting prices seems to be the general rule of supply and demand. All three panelists noted that there just hasn't been very much quality land being put up for sale recently, but there are plenty of buyers in the market. The lack of sales was especially pronounced at the start of the pandemic. Dennis Reyman discussing Iowa land sale data

“There was no activity, basically, in our area” said Reyman, before referencing Jim Rothermich, an ARA based in Des Moines who tracks sales around Iowa on a monthly basis. In the month of May, Rothermich reported only five sales across the entire state. Brownfield, who owns Land Pro, LLC, about 40 miles west of Chicago, corroborated the lack of activity, noting that there was “...not much on the market, not much to really look at.”

For Marschall, the low amount of property sales means that extra care is needed for the transactions that do occur. Because of the lack of quality land for sale, he says, “Many of the buyers are concerned that they’ve been either over-shopped or there’s a problem (with the land). So, whether you’re doing a brokerage or valuation or consulting, your due diligence, and your requirement for due diligence are at an all-time high.” He added that, “You really need to know those properties, you need to know the nuances of those properties,” in order to satisfy your buyer.

Matt Marschall covering COVID impacts on land pricesWhile land prices are faring well, the COVID-19 pandemic is gumming up some of the usual appraisal processes. According to Marschall, “The ability to […] get title insurance, to have the professionals get to the property to provide the professional services […] that's needed to fully underwrite an asset, it’s very slow in coming.”

Clark Oman, an ARA based in Colorado and an attendee of the panel discussion, was pleased to hear that the pandemic has had little to no impact on farm properties. “It’s kind of what I thought, but it’s always nice to hear the same from others.”

Oman viewed the entire webinar as a valuable learning experience.

“It was so interesting,” he noted. “The timing format was good, too. It allowed everyone to have their say, but left enough time at the end for questions... It was good to hear all the optimism, especially when all the news you hear every day is so bad.”

ASFMRA members can view the full webinar here.