GRAZING property listings held by some agents have virtually been exhausted in the New England and Central Tablelands of NSW for the timebeing, as locals ride the wave of cattle industry confidence to snap up local properties.
Bruce Rutherford from LandmarkBoltons at Walcha, in Northern NSW, said there had been a “really good run” of property sales this year, but his agency had now more of less run out of listings.
“There’s not a lot for sale. Some properties have been withdrawn from the market due to improved cattle prices. Most people considering selling a property are content to sit back and wait and see where the market settles,” he said.
Mr Rutherford said in the New England, the biggest improvers were the properties that local buyers could afford. “Places that are running 2000 cows have increased significantly more than properties that are running 700 to 800 head,” he said.
Martin Tremaine is in charge of national agribusiness at Opteon, a national provider of valuation and property advisory services. He is also the director of Opteon Northern Inland NSW, based in Tamworth.
Without a doubt, he said, there had been a renewed interest in the region’s beef properties fuelled by increased cattle prices.
“Favourable seasonal conditions and strong cattle prices are attracting solid interest and in some areas, property values have been driven by lotfeeders buying extra properties for backgrounding,”Mr Tremaine said.
Prime cattle properties were in demand from the Queensland border to the Victorian border. “It’s the safer, higher rainfall country that’s attracting interest, as opposed to the drought stricken areas in Western NSW.”
Doughboy Mountain and Mirrugalee set benchmarks
Mr Rutherford said there had been interest from virtually all points of the compass, from South Australia to the tip of Cape York, for Ebor properties Doughboy Mountain and neighbouring Mirrugalee. They sold recently for a combined $10.3m to privately-owned agricultural business TA Field Estates which owns other properties in the nearby Walcha district.
Seventeen parties registered to bid at the recent auction after 17 inspections of Doughboy Mountain and 36 inspections of Mirrugalee. In the end, the 1352ha Doughboy Mountain property sold for $7.65m or $5658/ha and the 540ha Mirrugalee sold for $2.75m or $5092/ha.
“Queensland, which has been missing in action in local inspections for the past 10 years, showed enormous pre-sale interest. It was largely from existing grazing entities chasing rainfall. However, there was a limited amount of interest from the Chinese or large corporates because the adjoining properties weren’t considered a big enough grazing aggregation,” Mr Rutherford said.
Mr Tremaine said international and corporate buyers were mostly chasing the top end of the property market in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Others like Paraway Pastoral Co, which owns and operates large-scale sheep and cattle enterprises across Australia, and Hassad Australia, the Qatari Government-owned company which is building its Australian farm portfolio, were chasing bigger pastoral holdings in New South Wales’ Riverina and the Macquarie Valley.
A locals market
Mr Tremaine said the New England property market was being strongly supported by locals.
“The Northern Tablelands is historically a high value area. It is a safer location and it is tightly held. Around Walcha, for instance, there are a lot of long term established farmers who are sitting pretty comfortably. I’d suggest property values in the region will stay fairly strong.”
A cautious Mr Tremaine said while there had been some price increases, it was still early days. “Property prices vary considerably from sale to sale. The initial improvements range from as low as five percent to as high as 20 percent.”
Mr Rutherford believes values in the New England have lifted between 10 and 25 percent over the past 12 months, depending on the individual holding’s type and location.
“The best country – the red basalt and high rainfall country – is certainly right up there in value increases. The lesser quality, lighter country has been far less sought after.”
Mr Tremaine said there is no doubt the current cattle boom has had an impact on property values across the New England. “They are all attracting strong interest and there are shrewd people buying, so there’s definitely an underlying confidence in the market,” he said.
NSW Central Tablelands
There’s also a bullish property market evident on the NSW Central Tablelands, where Simon McKittrick from Mudgee-based Logical Livestock Marketing specialises in the sale and marketing of cattle and rural property.
“There has been real, local buyer interest for beef cattle properties in the $2.5m plus bracket over the past six months, but especially in the last eight weeks,” he said. “They are mostly neighbour-to-neighbour transactions, and people looking to expand their current holdings.”
Mr McKittrick said rural families, who have previously been conservative in their business dealings, are now keen to pursue other land acquisitions.
“The driver is underlying confidence in the beef industry – the lower Australian dollar, lower interest rates, record global demand for beef and record beef prices. Rain has also been a catalyst. Favourable seasonal conditions – a late start to spring but a good winter – have been the icing on the cake that’s given people the confidence to jump in.”
Mr McKittrick said for every place that’s ‘on the market’, there are another one or two that are ‘off the market’, but whose owners were thinking about listing.
“There’s a steady flow at the moment and good quality listings are attracting good strong interest. Properties that may have been unsaleable on vendor price expectations three months ago are now realising that expected value.”
He said three types of buyers were currently active. “There’s that core local interest, those within a two-hour radius looking to expand outside their current operations, and thirdly, buyers who are looking for higher rainfall areas or different country.”
Mr McKittrick said the interest had been heartening given talk about the demise of the family farm. “I think it shows a lot of resilience. Rural families who are stepping up to buy obviously feel the time is right.”