Justin Lowe MRICS, Partner with Greenslade Taylor Hunt, explores the impact COVID-19 has had on the land and rural housing market.

Looking back at the Spring lockdown it seemed to act as an incubation period as Coronavirus fuelled people’s desire to move south and west to larger homes, often in more relaxed rural locations at a more affordable level.

Typical requirements we have seen this year across our offices from potential buyers include: larger properties with larger gardens, land very often, small holdings, residential farms, good views and clean air space around them, the availability of good schooling (both state and private), at home work space not just a study but a designated area  of the house, or suitable buildings to convert . They want to be carbon and possibly now phosphate neutral, they want buildings for business storage, access to train stations, access but not necessarily proximity, and that is the important factor that has changed and is particularly poignant for West Dorset!

Another change has been the growth of technology and our increasing reliance on the internet as a source of information and conducting our lives and businesses. The requirement for good levels of internet speeds can now be a deal breaker when selling a property. If there no hope of getting a decent download speed, then we are unlikely to go much further with the sale with some buyers.

However whilst the roads and lanes around us all are forever busy with delivery drivers getting lost this in turn will undoubtedly fuel the need for more rural warehousing and storage in good strategic locations! An opportunity beckons.

With regards agriculture, land values during this period have remained relatively static and resilient compared to other commercial assets. Trading has generally been in lower volumes, I would think we are currently 30 - 35% down on land areas being sold on the open market this year, however off market sales and purchases have been busier.

Typically we are selling in £6.5- 8k per acre for commercial pasture land and arable land between £8-11k an acre which have been consistent for the last couple of years. Of course, we all know if there is a keen next door neighbour interested then we can go wildly above these levels but in terms of open market, discounting special buyers, then that is where we need to be. Noticeably commercial farming buyers are generally holding off at present whilst they weigh up the potential outcome of  Brexit, Covid and the Agricultural Bill.

Certainly this year we are seeing more interest in areas of land suitable for planting woodland and generating tradeable carbon credits. Similarly developers will be looking increasingly for land for areas of biodiversity to offset the loss of wildlife and habitat on developments in the coming years. Poorer quality farmland may well be suitable to meet these needs.