Top 10 Country
Knight Frank boasts more than a century in rural property – and country hand Clive Hopkins has seen more than a quarter of it from within. Hailed as ‘terrific’ and ‘seriously good’ by industry experts, he heads the firm’s farms and estates division – a specialist team within its London HQ.
He speaks of a ‘challenging’ 12 months: demand may be low, but supply is low too. ‘The market is very short on stock,’ he says.
Gone are the days when you could estimate the cost of a patch across the country: ‘Pre-2007, say, it was £3,250 an acre – that could apply to parts of East Anglia, Devon or parts of Yorkshire. Now, there’s no consistency. Last year it varied from £5,500 an acre in South East England to over £17,000 an acre. That variation plays huge in the market.’
That requires far greater clarity when advising clients: not least ‘where it is, what’s driving it and why they want to sell, or buy’.
The year ahead is likely to be just as challenging. Stamp duty increases continue to weigh on the market, while Hopkins expects prices to come under further pressure from the uncertainty of Brexit and, for farmland purchases, over farm subsidies.
‘It couldn’t be more the case that we are still in a limbo period – the only trend is that purchasers react to competition,’ he says. ‘They’re happy to bid and bid strongly, if they’re bidding against someone – otherwise, they will sit tight.’