Drought fails to dry up bush de­mand

Times may be tough on the land but most farm­ers are stick­ing it out, which means big prop­er­ties are at a pre­mium, Jo Stud­dert re­ports

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space -

YOU would ex­pect the drought to be dev­as­tat­ing rural prop­erty prices, es­pe­cially along the Murray River where wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions are at zero or near zero lev­els, but val­ues are hold­ing up and, even stranger, there is such strong de­mand for land that real es­tate agents are send­ing buy­ers away dis­ap­pointed, par­tic­u­larly in the east­ern Rive­rina.

‘‘ We’ve got cashed- up city and cor­po­rate buy­ers ready to pay de­cent prices but farm­ers are just not putting their places up for sale,’’ Al­bury prop­erty val­uer David Shooter says.

‘‘ They just can’t be tempted. There is an el­e­ment of want­ing to wait out the drought and get some de­cent in­come be­fore they sell, and a re­luc­tance to put the farms they love and have pride in on the mar­ket when they are look­ing a bit poor.’’

Bill Sargood, rural prop­erty sales man­ager at El­ders in Al­bury agrees. Small places sell to lo­cal peo­ple, but in the past two to three years we have had no large prop­er­ties for sale, al­though we cer­tainly get asked for big places, es­pe­cially from ex­ter­nal buy­ers.’’

In the rest of the Rive­rina, wa­ter is the se­cret. Val­ues are be­ing main­tained on the dry­land farms of the east­ern and west­ern Rive­rina but ir­ri­ga­tion prop­er­ties are not do­ing so well.

Cor­po­rate and city buy­ers are es­pe­cially keen on dry­land coun­try and so tend to avoid the cen­tral Rive­rina with its sub­stan­tial ir­ri­ga­tion com­po­nent.

John Dal­ton, sales man­ager at El­ders in Fin­ley in the cen­tral Rive­rina, says cor­po­rate buy­ers are also not in­ter­ested in land so far away from the cities and rarely look in his dis­trict ( a re­gion of ir­ri­gated farms, dry­land farms and dairies).

Even so, val­ues are buoy­ant and are be­ing held up by strong lo­cal and re­gional Vic­to­rian in­ter­est. We’ve had some qual­ity sales. Brick­kiln, an 890ha ir­ri­ga­tion and farm­ing project at Jer­ilderie, sold in Fe­bru­ary for $ 1.4 mil­lion, which was a good price for the prop­erty, and there was an ex­cep­tion­ally good sale through Ray White in De­niliquin of a dry­land place that went for more than $ 10 mil­lion,’’ Dal­ton says.

‘‘ South Wang­a­mong, a 1618ha farm­ing and live­stock prop­erty, also sold in May for more than $ 3.5 mil­lion, which was a very good price in the area,’’ he says.

Even in the north­ern Rive­rina val­ues are strong, Dal­ton says. ‘‘ Places around Hay and Ivan­hoe are sell­ing for very good prices and there is sus­tained in­ter­est from buy­ers. They want dry­land places,’’ he says.

James Sides at El­ders De­niliquin says: ‘‘ It has gone from no move­ment at all to a lit­tle, but there’s lots of in­ter­est — both lo­cal and ex­ter­nal. It has been very mixed: places with lim­ited wa­ter have been very hard to sell but places with wa­ter have sold like mad. Now, with a rain break, even places that weren’t sell­ing are. I have no list­ings left. None.’’

Over in the west there is sus­tained in­ter­est and again the cor­po­rates are in the pic­ture ( again in vain), says Ian Triplett at El­ders Swan Hill.

‘‘ There’s enor­mous de­mand from all over the place for ce­real coun­try since the rain. Lo­cal peo­ple are al­ways in­ter­ested but we’ve also got city money as well as NSW and Vic­to­rian ir­ri­ga­tors who want to di­ver­sify into dry­land prop­er­ties.

‘‘ We’ve also got cashed- up south­ern ce­real farm­ers, whose prop­er­ties have been bought at top dol­lar by man­aged in­vest­ment schemes for olives or al­monds, com­ing north to buy ce­real prop­er­ties, which are cheaper here than where they have just sold.

‘‘ So, we have a two- pronged at­tack on the re­gion by buy­ers and it is keep­ing our ce­real land val­ues good and strong.

‘‘ It’s ex­cel­lent for the dis­trict and the op­ti­mism among ce­real farm­ers is very high,’’ Triplett says.

De­spite the gen­eral paucity of of­fer­ings in the east­ern Rive­rina, there has been one no­table sale: Kil­nyana near Mul­wala sold for $ 7.7 mil­lion in May through Brian Unthank Real Es­tate in Al­bury.

‘‘ It was a very well- main­tained prop­erty, well wa­tered and with ex­ten­sive pre­served ar­eas and na­tive veg­e­ta­tion and a sev­enbed­room home­stead,’’ Unthank says.

‘‘ It was a big price for our dis­trict but a fair price,’’ he says.

The en­tire Rive­rina has fi­nally had some rain and farm­ers, in­clud­ing ir­ri­ga­tors, are be­gin­ning to test the wa­ters.

‘‘ I think we’ll see a rush now: we’ve had good falls — 40- 150ml — so it’s start­ing to green up and even the dams are fill­ing a bit,’’ Shooter says.

‘‘ The rain gave farm­ers a win­dow for plant­ing, which makes a prop­erty more mar­ketable.’’

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