What Drives Ag Land Values? Part 4

By Ag Land Values

There is a common saying in selling real estate (well, selling anything really) that goes something like this:

“Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it at the time you wish to sell it.”

There is a lot of truth to that, but of course MANY factors will ultimately drive what that price will be that someone else is willing to pay. In this multi-part blog series, we’ll cover some of the largest drivers of ag land values. We’ll also provide some context to our local Southern Red River Valley land market and how it relates to these factors. Let’s continue!

Read Part 1: Soils
Read Part 2: Drainage
Read Part 3: Size & Shape

Part 4: Status of the Market

This one seems obvious but it is worth discussing. Like any market, the ag land market goes in swings. Land prices go up, and land prices go down.  The extent to which those swings occur can change gradually or quite rapidly. The changes in the market are generally driven by global (macro) and local (micro) forces. Some of these forces have a slower, lagging effect while others can lead to quicker turns in the land value market. It is important for sellers to understand what type of a market they are in when they are ready to sell, as it may have an impact in either how the land is sold or even in their decision to sell at all. First, let’s cover some of the primary macro and micro forces that impact ag land values:

GLOBAL/MACRO FORCES

  • Commodity prices: The price of the products we produce here in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota can have a large impact on ag land prices. Commodity prices on their own have a HUGE number of factors that influence them of course, but it’s easy to understand why when times are good and prices are high, land values rise. When times are tougher, and there is no question that right now we are in one of those periods, land values will fall.
  • Interest rates: As rates go up (which is the recent trend), prices tend to go down because as the cost of capital to finance land increases, it becomes more expensive to buy land. To a smaller degree, it also causes investors to lose interest because higher interest rates tend to increase returns on other investments that make farm land less attractive to them.
  • National/Global Policy: Policy decisions or regulations at the national or even global stage can have impacts in agriculture that can lead to changes in ag land values. Global trade ties into this as well as the easier or harder it is to move product around the globe, you could see eventual changes to land values.
  • Demand & Consumption: If worldwide demand and consumption for the products we produce increases or decreases, those shifts will impact the entire ag sector. Naturally that will eventually have an impact on the value of the land raising those products.

LOCAL/MICRO FORCES:

  • Taxes: Are taxes for farm land high, are they low, are they increasing, or are they decreasing? Taxes can play a large part for some buyers in how much they will value the land (especially the investor buyer). For example, currently taxes on the Minnesota side of the Red River can be quite a bit higher than the North Dakota side. Investors may not be able to get a high enough rent to cover the difference in taxes, so they will likely value the Minnesota land lower than the same type of ground just across the river.
  • Weather/Water: If you are in an area with prolonged droughts or persistent flooding, the value of your land could be weighed down as a result. Weather can also be a MACRO force if there is widespread disasters in other countries or areas which may lead to crop shortages, although these isolated types of events do not have a big impact on farm land values.
  • Future development potential: Does your farm land sit in close proximity from a major city or growing community, and if so is the growth path headed your way? If so, your land value will be higher than farm land well outside the path of the city, sometimes by a factor of 2 to 5 times as much as traditional farm land.
  • Market Influencers: This one is a bit broad, but locally there are always some miscellaneous factors that can heavily influence the value of land. For example, there may be one or two VERY aggressive, well-heeled buyers in the local market trying to buy up land, and driving up prices. Or perhaps there is a buyer that others in the local market want to keep OUT so they will bid up land just to keep it out of their hands. Maybe your market has a higher than average number of investors or people with 1031 money, which puts more upward pressure on land prices as well.

Of course there are many other global and local factors that can impact the value of ag land, and some of them are changing rapidly. How quickly land values adjust to these influences can vary widely, but we know with time these forces and more will drive values higher or lower.

Commodity prices have been low for some time which has been a big reason for the decline in ag land values since their highs in 2012/2013. As farm land values have dropped, so too has the sales volume of land. It stands to reason that as land values go lower, owners tend to hang on longer hoping the prices rebound and they can capture a higher profit. While the supply of available farm land has been lower in recent years in the Red River Valley, demand still seems to be pretty strong which has helped prices from declining further it seems. In the local market TODAY, we see ag land values holding fairly steady and maybe even increasing in some areas, such as Cass County (read more about what land values did there in 2017).

Only time will tell if the current market forces will lead land higher or lower, but we still believe now is a good time for both buyers and sellers of farm land in the Valley. Feel free to contact us if you agree and could use some help!

Until next time,

Andy

Part 1: Soils
Part 2: Drainage
Part 3: Size & Shape

2017 Ag Land Values – Cass County

By Ag Land Values

With 2017 now firmly in the rear-view mirror, I figured it was time to provide some commentary and concrete data on what ag land values did last year in the Southern Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. Many of you may have read recent articles in the Fargo Forum that provided some farmland values across ND (link here) and MN (link here). There is some good data and research here, but we are a bit biased to our own information! Here at Goldmark we also track ag land sales extremely closely and with great frequency. We work hard to eliminate transactions from our data that are not “arms length,” which means eliminating family deals or other transactions that had circumstances causing the price to be out of the market. This process gives us a very strong pulse on the market, and since we’ve been doing this for over 6 years now, we can easily identify trends and inform our clients about what is happening (or has happened) in the local land markets.

With all that said, here is Part 1 of our series on 2017 Ag Land values. In this post, we’ll start with some highlights for Cass County, North Dakota:

  • Since 2012 (when we started tracking detailed ag land sales data), 2017 was the lowest volume year in terms of total acres sold and number of transactions in Cass County. This isn’t too shocking because when land markets see yearly declines in value (which we have seen since 2012/2013), less land tends to sell as owners hang tighter waiting for prices to rebound. Will 2018 see the market loosen up a bit? Many think so.
  • So just how much did things tighten up? Well, when eliminating deals that were not “arms length”, we count 34 unique transactions in 2017 for a total 4,718 acres. This compares to 50 transactions and 8,022 acres sold in 2017. That’s a significant drop in the “supply” of acres sold on the market (which includes public and private sales). From 2013 to 2016, the average acres that sold per year (again, in arms length transactions) was around 8,250.
  • Not all trends were negative however. The average price per acre in 2017 across those 34 deals was a 12% increase from 2016’s average. This too isn’t terribly shocking. Even with continued low commodity prices, demand for land (especially GOOD land) has remained relatively stable here in the Valley. When demand is constant but supply drops as it did last year, that tends to correlate to higher prices (Yes apparently I was paying attention in Economics 101!). Some 1031 money also helped drive prices up, which it tends to do. Is it possible we’ve come off the bottom of ag land values? I believe there is reason to think so.
  • Of course land in Cass County isn’t all the same, so when one looks at Red River Valley land (approx. the eastern 2/3 of the county) vs. the Drift Prairie dirt (approx. the western 1/3 of the county), there are some noticeable differences:
    • Red River Valley land: 3,161 acres sold at an average of over $4,700/acre (which was a bit less acres sold than 2016 but at a higher price per acre)
    • Drift Prairie land: 1,557 acres sold at an average of over $3,400/acre (which was WAY less acres sold than 2016, but again at a higher price per acre)
  • Townships with the most land sales activity by total $ in 2017 were: Gardner, Addison, and Wiser
  • Townships with the highest average price per acre values (having more than 1 sale) in 2017 were: Gardner, Maple River, and Addison

There is a LOT more information we have compiled than what you see above, so please contact us anytime if you want to dive into this information in more detail. Until next time!

Andy

Owning and Selling Farm Land with Undivided Interests

By Owning & Selling Farm Land

When it comes to owning land, many people tend to think about ownership in the singular form…one piece of land has one owner. However, it is quite common that a single piece of land has 2 or more owners. It might be a husband and wife, related or unrelated business partners, or quite commonly heirs of land that was passed down from a previous generation. There are two primary ways the legal title to property is held when 2 or more owners are involved: Tenants in Common and Joint Tenancy. In this post, we’ll cover what we see as the most common type with land owners generally: Tenants in Common.

The main thing to know about being Tenants in Common is that each owner has what is called an “undivided interest” in the parcel. Having an undivided interest means that no one owner has a specific piece of the land, but rather a share (or “interest”) in the entire property. So for example, if two people equally own 160 acres as Tenants in Common, each would have a 50% undivided interest in the entire 160 acres. They do not each own a specific 80 acres with set boundaries.

We see this method of ownership quite frequently in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota (it’s common in many other places too), and usually it is because of 2 primary reasons:

  1. Partners came together to buy a piece of land to operate it or for an investment, or more frequently
  2. The land was divided and passed down to multiple heirs through an estate or trust

Owning land with other parties can work very well and there are many reasons why. However, there are times when being Tenants in Common with other owners can have its downsides too. Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Three siblings own two quarters of land together as Tenants in Common. One of them farms the land, then pays a pro-rata share of rent to the other two siblings. The land is good but would be much improved with drain tiling, which typically comes at a cost of around $1,000 per acre. The sibling farming the land is pushing to get the land drain tiled at a cost of over $300,000 (or $100,000 to each owner). The other siblings do not want to put that much cash into land they don’t entirely own.
  • Four cousins inherit a quarter of land when their uncle passes away. Shortly after the funeral, one of the cousins finds himself in financial trouble and wants to sell the land to pay off some debts. Meanwhile, the other 3 cousins are content to receive the rent income and have no desire at all to sell.

You can see the potential trouble ahead in each of those scenarios. Thankfully there are options for owners to consider when it comes to the sale of land owned as Tenants in Common with undivided interests. They include…

  • There is nothing to stop a Tenant in Common from selling their undivided interest to someone else. They can sell it to one of the co-owners of the same land, or to a completely different buyer unrelated to the current ownership group. There are some buyers out there who are open to buying undivided interests, but the downside here is that not ALL buyers are open to that arrangement. Many buyers of land often want to have sole title to the property, usually to avoid the types of issues described in the scenarios above. When you reduce your potential buyer pool, you also reduce your chances of achieving the highest sale price for your land.
  • Another method is to “partition” the land through some legal agreements & documents whereby the undivided interests become DIVIDED interests into individual sole title owners. In this case, each owner receives a share of their deeded land with specific boundaries . For example, if two partners own 320 acres as Tenants in Common, they could have a Partition Agreement and Quit Claim Deeds drawn up to split off 160 acres to one party and the remaining 160 acres to another party. This process can be very clean or it can be very messy. It all depends on the willingness of the partners to divide the land along with how easily the land can be divided so that all partners receive their equitable share.
  • If owners cannot agree on how to partition the land, then the courts can step in and help get the land partitioned. Not ideal of course, but it is an option. Seek good legal advice if you are in this situation. This is usually called a “suit to partition” or “partition action” in the legal system.
  • In terms of the act of actually splitting up ownership of the land, this might be easy and it might be incredibly difficult. For example, splitting a quarter of land with consistent soils, drainage, and tillable acres across it would be quite simple. Each owner could feel good knowing the value of the land they received is an equitable share based on the percentage they owned under the Tenants in Common scenario. However, splitting a quarter of land that contained a mix of wetlands, pot holes, waste acres, varying soils of high and low quality, etc. could prove VERY difficult to divide. Some owners may receive higher value land and others may receive lower value land, so perhaps the acres aren’t split cleanly across the interests in the partnership. Appraisers, realtors and auctioneers can be good sources of help with how to equitably split a piece of land with varying qualities (feel free to Contact Us if you would like!).

If you find yourself in a tough position as Tenants in Common, take heart as we have seen these situations can be resolved successfully. The road may be bumpy at times but there are many who have gotten through it just fine and you can too! And remember that as Realtors and Auctioneers, we are not Lawyers or Accountants so make sure you consult yours to get into the details.

Until next time!

Andy

What drives ag land values? Part 3

By Ag Land Values

There is a common saying in selling real estate (well, selling anything really) that goes something like this:

“Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it at the time you wish to sell it.”

There is a lot of truth to that, but of course MANY factors will ultimately drive what that price will be that someone else is willing to pay. In this multi-part blog series, we’ll cover some of the largest drivers of ag land values. We’ll also provide some context to our local Southern Red River Valley land market and how it relates to these factors. Let’s continue!

Read Part 1: Soils
Read Part 2: Drainage

Part 3: Size & Shape

It is easy for people to understand that the LARGER a piece of farm land, the more money the seller will get as a whole. However, not everyone understands the inverse relationship that often exists with the size of the parcel compared to the dollars per acre received. In other words, the seller of a half section (320 acres) may not receive as much money PER ACRE as the seller of a 40 acre parcel would receive PER ACRE. The reason? The buyer pool for smaller farm land parcels is LARGER than the pool of buyers who can afford to buy or finance large parcels. Remember that ancient economics class you once took?! Well, higher competition (demand) usually equals a higher price per acre as a result.

This doesn’t mean an owner of multiple sections of land should split them all up into 40 acre tracts to achieve top dollar. It does however mean that sellers should consider having some flexibility in how land is divided or sold when multiple tracts or larger tracts are going to be offered for sale. If you have heard about “Multipar” or “Multi parcel” land sales lately, that’s because they are a growing trend to help offer Buyers a wider variety of options to buy land which in the end usually results in more money for the Seller. Every situation is different and should be evaluated on its own merits, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like some assistance in evaluating your options (even if your land isn’t in the Red River Valley we can still offer you some free advice!).

One other aspect related to “size” and how it can impact value is the shape of the parcel and the amount of tillable acres on it (how many acres can you plant and harvest crops in other words). In the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, most parcels are “square, flat and black.” However, because of things like drainage (natural or man-made), wetlands, railroad tracks, creek beds, telephone poles, coulees, etc., some tracts have an inefficient shape and/or a much lower percentage of tillable acres than those without these issues (which are often referred to as “encumbrances”). Some ag land tracts can be less efficient or hard for farmers with their larger equipment. For example, irregular shaped parcels can lead to over/under application of seed/fertilizer/chemicals, more time to plant/till/harvest, etc. which have a dragging effect on income or yield potential. Sellers must remember that buyers will place their value (and offers) on the tillable acres because that is where they will get their income (either by farming those acres or renting them out), so this must be taken into account when thinking about the value of your land. If you aren’t sure how many tillable acres your parcel has or the shape of it, you can always call your local county’s FSA office and ask them for more details (read Part 2 for help on contacting your local FSA office). We can also help look much of this up as well if you want to contact us.

Remember, the size and shape of your land is just one of many factors that impact the value of farm land. Stay tuned for future articles in this blog series that will uncover more.

Until next time!

Andy

Part 1: Soils
Part 2: Drainage
Part 4: Status of the Market

SOLD! Recent transactions, January 2018

By SOLD! Recent sales

Another “Closing Day” to report! Just this week we closed a sale for sellers on some excellent farm land in Gardner township. This was an out of state family who wanted help in finding a strong buyer for their land, and we were happy to help make that happen. Take a look through the recently sold parcels and contact us if we can help you buy or sell farm land in the heart of the Red River Valley!

Cass County, Gardner Township (pt 1)
Cass County, Gardner Township (pt 2)

Until next time!

Andy

What drives ag land values? Part 2

By Ag Land Values

There is a common saying in selling real estate (well, selling anything really) that goes something like this:

“Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it at the time you wish to sell it.”

There is a lot of truth to that, but of course MANY factors will ultimately drive what that price will be that someone else is willing to pay. In this multi-part blog series, we’ll cover some of the largest drivers of ag land values. We’ll also provide some context to our local Southern Red River Valley land market and how it relates to these factors. Let’s continue!

Read Part 1: Soils

Part 2: Drainage

Another heavy-weight when it comes to factors impacting the value of farm land is how well or poorly a piece of land drains. Good drainage on farm land has huge benefits. Well drained soils a) can generally be worked and planted earlier in the spring, b) have higher seed germination, c) grow plants with a stronger root system which leads to better access to subsoil moisture and nutrients, and d) generally produce higher yields.

You may have the best soils around, but if the water backs up on your land or stays on the land too long, it will have a big impact on the value of it. If a piece of land has a lot of wetlands on it and/or is prone to flooding or drown out areas, this means the yield potential for the land will be diminished. Generally, the lower the yield potential the lower the value.

While most of the land in the Red River Valley is generally described as “flat, black, and square,” that doesn’t mean water drains the same across the entire valley. Many pieces of ag land in our area have some natural drainage features or impediments, such as natural undulation, elevations, roll or slope (however subtle they might be), small coulees, natural drains, and more. These natural features usually have either a positive or negative effect on drainage within a given piece of farm land. A great way to see the elevations and contours of land is through LiDAR images which show high and low points really well (example to the right). Contact us if you want a LiDAR image of your land. You can also contact your local FSA office (ND or MN) and ask for a wetland map of your land which would show likely problem areas.

Then there are man-made changes to drainage, all meant to improve drainage for the land. Two common in this area are surface ditching and drain tiling. Drain tile in this area is becoming more and more common as a way to improve drainage of land that otherwise may hold water longer than desired, or even to help reduce issues such as salinity in the soil. While drain tiling can come at a hefty expense (many ballpark the cost at around $1k/acre +/-), the benefits can also be significant.

Keep in mind, not ALL land is a good candidate for drain tiling. Depending on the soil types or other issues such as soil sodicity, you may not get the full benefits tiling can bring. Here is a good article put out by the NDSU Extension Service that may help you decide if your land is a good candidate or not.

If you farm your land, you already know if you have good drainage or not. If you do not farm it or perhaps live out of state and aren’t sure, you may be curious to know how good your drainage is. The easiest way to find out is to call your renter and ask for their feedback! If you want another opinion, you are always welcome to contact us as well and we would be happy to do some research for you.

Remember, drainage is just one of many factors that impact the value of farm land. Stay tuned for future articles in this blog series that will uncover more.

Until next time!

Andy

Part 1: Soils
Part 3: Size & Shape
Part 4: Status of the Market

SOLD! Recent transactions, December 2017

By SOLD! Recent sales

Another “Closing Day” today to report! With four different pieces of ag land scattered around Cass County closing this morning, combined with the closing last Friday of our auctioned land in Richland County, it’s been a busy month for the Goldmark Ag Land Sales & Auction team. Closing can sometimes be a hard thing for Sellers, but these recent closings had happy Sellers and happy Buyers in all cases…a great Win-Win that we strive for in every sale we perform! Take a look through the recently sold parcels and contact us if we can help you buy or sell farm land in the heart of the Red River Valley!

Richland County, Barney Township
Cass County, Addison Township
Cass County, Bell Township
Cass County, Gardner Township
Cass County, Gunkel Township

Until next time!

Andy

What drives ag land values? Part 1

By Ag Land Values

There is a common saying in selling real estate (well, selling anything really) that goes something like this:

“Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it at the time you wish to sell it.”

There is a lot of truth to that, but of course MANY factors will ultimately drive what that price will be that someone else is willing to pay. In this multi-part blog series, we’ll cover some of the largest drivers of ag land values. We’ll also provide some context to our local Southern Red River Valley land market and how it relates to these factors. Let’s get started!

Part 1: Soils

This one should come as no surprise. If you have quality, highly productive soils, your land will be worth more than land with poorer, under-performing soils. If you farm the land yourself, you inherently know which land has high quality soils and which land does not. After all, the proof (i.e. yield) is often “in the pudding.” If you are not a farmer however, you may wonder how good is your soil? Well thankfully there are some objective ways this can be evaluated.

A bit of background first. There are a handful of major soil types in the world (sandy, silty, clay, peaty, loam, etc.) but among these there are THOUSANDS of soil series across the US alone (identified and labeled thanks to work done decades ago by the US Government’s soil surveys). In the southern Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, examples of local soil series includes the Fargo, Bearden, Kindred, or Tonka series (and a whole lot more). As you have likely heard before, the Red River Valley has some of the richest, most productive soils in the world. Yet variations in soil quality are very common here too.

You see, under a series there are thousands of different Soil Map Units which include the specific variations/combinations of each series. Examples in our area of a Soil Map Unit include Fargo silty clay, Hamerly-Tonka complex, or Kindred-Bearden Silty Clay Loam just to name a few. Below are two soil maps for farmland in our area for example (one parcel with a very diverse soil mix and another with just a couple soil map units). Notice the wide differences you can see in complexity, diversity and more.

 

Each Soil Map Unit is assigned a relative quality index, commonly referred to as  “Crop Productivity Index” or CPI. You will see that value in the last column in the soil maps above. These indexes can vary from region to region, so comparing these numbers for land in North Dakota versus Wisconsin for example would not be apples-to-apples necessarily. But for looking at soil quality within a given area, this CPI can be useful to gain a relative understanding of soil quality. Generally speaking, in our region a CPI in the 80’s or 90’s represents the strongest quality soils. A CPI in the 70’s or lower may indicate a lower producing piece of land. Take heed however…CPI is NOT the end-all/be-all of soil quality and it alone cannot be used as a measure to determine soil health, quality, and value. There are cases where land with a lower CPI has consistently out-yielded land with a higher CPI. It is however a good place to start when evaluating soil quality.

We won’t get any deeper than this, but it is safe to say that soil types and quality is very diverse across any geographic location and the southern Valley is no exception. And keep in mind, even within the same county (such as Cass County, ND), you can find vastly different soils on the eastern 2/3’s of the county (“Red River Valley” soil) compared to the western 1/3 (“Drift Prairie” dirt).

So how good is your soil? Well, the first step is to figure out what soils are on your land. One option is to pay for some of the online tools that make it very easy to look up this information (we use https://www.agridatainc.com/ for example). To look up this information for just a few pieces of land, it’s likely going to be cost prohibitive to do that however. A FREE option is to use online resource the USDA provides that allows you to look up any piece of land in the United States and get the soil survey information for it (https://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.aspx). A bit harder to use, but you get what you pay for!

Once you know the soils you have, you can find a lot of information online about the different soil series and even individual Soil Map Units (such as https://soilseries.sc.egov.usda.gov/). You can also contact us at any point for help in quickly looking this information up for your land at no cost.

Land in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota may also have soil issues such as high salinity or sodicity, which we haven’t covered here. And remember that information about soil types, map units, CPI, etc. is not bullet-proof and does not reflect things like soil health (a growing concern/focus among farmers and buyers) or other large drivers of ag land values (such as drainage, size, location, etc.). In future articles we’ll cover these other drivers and provide more insight into what ultimately drives the value of a piece of farmland.

Until next time!

Andy

Read Part 2: Drainage
Read Part 3: Size & Shape
Read Part 4: Status of the Market

Welcome!

By General

Hello and WELCOME to our new website focused on helping buyers and sellers of southern Red River Valley farmland! We hope you will find this site informative and helpful, and maybe even a bit entertaining from time to time! It is exciting to launch this website as yet another excellent tool to help our clients near and far achieve their goals when it comes to selling, buying, or managing their ag land. Following are a few things you can expect to find here in the future:

  • Information on farm land that is currently available for sale.
  • Helpful information about recent land sales in the Southern Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.
  • Informative articles about numerous topics related to farm land ownership, management, and sales.
  • As always, superior service and marketing from your ag land experts at Goldmark Commercial Real Estate!

You are welcome to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of our homepage to stay up-to-date, or contact us anytime if you have questions or needs we can help you with. Thank you for stopping by…we hope you will come again!

Until next time,

Andy Westby

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