Land of milk and money: south-west farms in demand

MORE than $100 million worth of farmland has changed hands in the south-west over the past year. 

Sales of agricultural properties in the region have outpaced almost all other parts of the state with close to $45 million worth of farmland sold in Moyne and Warrnambool alone in the 12 months from November 2012. 

Landmark Harcourt franchise manager Jason Hellyer said the protracted takeover battle for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter (WCB) had boosted confidence in the region, providing struggling farmers with a good opportunity to exit with healthy sale prices.

“We’ve found that many of these sales are neighbours selling to neighbours or often the smaller farmer ‘getting out’ by selling to a larger conglomerate seeking scale, particularly in the dairy segment,” Mr Hellyer said. 

“If you don’t have scale it’s harder to compete and it’s harder to make a dollar.”

Both Moyne Shire and Southern Grampians turned over the second highest value for 40-hectare-plus properties last year at $42 million — second only to Southern Gippsland’s $48 million. 

Sales in Corangamite topped $41 million. 

The farm sell-off has also triggered a 9 per cent surge in sales for smaller lifestyle blocks, typically sized under four hectares.

“There’s certainly an element of that. You might have a farmer who downsizes to 500 acres because they don’t want to live in Warrnambool,” Mr Hellyer said.

Residential sales across the south-west, including Warrnambool, Moyne, Corangamite, Glenelg and Southern Grampians, tipped over 1216 last year. 

The value of house sales in Warrnambool alone between February 2013 and February 2014 topped more than $65 million. 

But Moyne Shire has recorded the highest average price at $331,500 compared to a median price of $315,000 in Warrnambool. 

Mr Hellyer said there had been an 8 per cent increase in new property on the Warrnambool market compared to February last year.

“From a buyer’s perspective there’s a lot more choice, from a seller’s perspective they may need to offer a bit of a discount because they need to move stock,” he said. 

“In terms of choosing and range there’s never been a better time to negotiate.” 

Brian O’Halloran & Co Real Estate agent Brian Hancock said it had been a busy year. 

“It’s been quite active with the number of new properties coming onto the market,” Mr Hancock said.

Agents are also seeing a rise in the number of homes selling for over $500,000.

“We’ve certainly sold a few that would have been up around $900,000. 

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