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Serving: IN

Farmland Prices Depend Upon Circumstances

Behind-the-scenes factors drive sales price.

Auction and reality companies maintain excellent Websites that allow you to track what land sold for in Indiana and even surrounding states. On some sites, you can go back several months. What isn't easy to track is why one parcel brings $6,000 per acre, and another $2,500, or why one doesn't sell at all.

Both farm managers and farmers say it hinges on many factors behind-the-scenes. Some may be obvious in the fancy sales brochures auction companies send to entice buyers. Others may not be so obvious. And remember that many sales are private, between neighbors or former tenants and landlords, and aren't reported on the auction Websites.

Here are some examples. Recently a large tract in Illinois sold at what some might consider below top market price. The reality was that the tenant had farmed the land for many years, and was considered almost one of the family by the owners. When the heirs decided to sell, their goal was to make sure that their long-standing tenant could buy the land, if he chose to- and he did.

Second example- One piece of good farmland in the Benton County area was set to sell privately at a set price. Then the first large wind energy project tin Indiana was announced, and the easements offered landowners for allowing the company to erect the wind towers was substantial. The price of the land reportedly went up several hundred dollars per acre, and the buyer was willing to pay it. More wind energy projects are planned along the Indiana-Illinois border, in Benton County, and perhaps in other locations in north-central Indiana. Towers for the first project are expected to be raised starting within the next few weeks.

Third example- A small tract of 35 acres sells for around $3,000 in northeast Indiana. That's not the most expensive land sold there, most likely. But to understand it, you need to read the fine print in the brochure. This was land that couldn't be used for development. In fact, it was muck ground. It always pays to understand the properties of the soil on the land you're considering buying.

Fourth example- A tract of land in northern Indiana reportedly fetched nearly $6,500 per acre recently. But the buyers farmed next to it, and wanted the property that adjoined their land. The same quality of land, located somewhere where neighbors weren't interested or didn't have the resources to bid as strongly, could sell for considerably less.

Fifth example- Three small parcels offered in northern Indiana at auction recently didn't sell. While the land was farmed, they were obviously intended as development tracts, perhaps for single homeowners. The market for development land for homebuilding has slowed in some areas, sources report.

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