OF the farms brought to the market in Devon by Stags Farm Agency so far this year, approximately 70 per cent were offered for sale in lots and also as a whole.

However, interestingly 58 per cent of the farms offered for sale this year by the agency have been sold or sale agreed as a whole whereas in previous years, the majority would have been sold in lots.

Stags say they are frequently asked why so many farms are divided into smaller sections, often with the subtext that to do so goes against the grain. Lotting can undoubtedly be an emotive issue. The issue boils down to achieving the maximum possible sale price.

When a farm has been in the same family for multiple generations it is never an enjoyable prospect to contemplate the division of a farm into lots, but the fact remains that in doing so it can immediately widen the appeal of the property. This allows the agency to target not only buyers that are looking to purchase whole farms, but also residential house buyers who are looking for a dwelling with a few acres, as well as those searching for bare land to add to their existing holding or indeed as an investment. This creates competition between the different types of purchaser, which in turn can help achieve the best possible prices as well as speed up the whole sale process.

Often a house buyer will not want the responsibility of 100 acres with a dwelling, as in reality they require only five or ten acres for privacy. The additional land not only increases the purchase price and therefore the amount being borrowed, but also brings the headache of how to manage such a large acreage. Meanwhile, a farming business may not want a house absorbing a large capital sum that could otherwise be spent on land that fits into their existing business.

In 2019, examples of farms where the farmhouse has been sold separately to the farm land include Toatley Farm near Chawleigh in the Taw Valley which was sold with 11 acres; Tottiskay Farm near Southleigh in East Devon was sold with 9.5 acres and a farm within the Exmoor National Park saw the farmhouse and barns sold with seven acres.

It should be noted that not every farm is suitable for lotting, advises Stags. If there is low demand for land in the local area or if road access is not suitable, offering a farm for sale as a whole may achieve the best outcome for the seller.

Holwell Manor near Tavistock (113 acres), Tremlett Farm near Wellington (118 acres) and Sholford Farm near Huish Champflower (73 acres) have all been sold this year as whole farms. The agency have also agreed sales on some more commercial sized farms as a whole, ranging from 75 acres up to 290 acres.

Andrew Dodds of Stags Farm Agency said: "No farm is exactly the same as another and when advising on a potential farm sale we always consider whether lotting will potentially add value to the final sale price, but sometimes selling as a whole is the best option."

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