Often times, investors looking to purchase farmland are looking for large, contiguous tracts with significant scale. Investors are not emotional and don’t have to buy the piece next door. They aren’t driving by the showplace farm their entire lives on the way to the co-op knowing they will do whatever it takes to buy that piece if it comes to the market. Investors typically are focused solely on the financial returns of the investment. Therefore, they are naturally more conservative than the farmer buyer, who may look at a potential transaction as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It’s important to know the various types of investors. A public REIT (real estate investment trust), family office (family-controlled investment group), intuitional investor, or land fund all bring different things to the table. Depending on where you are located, laws may not allow for corporate ownership of land. Understanding the investor’s structure and long-term goals are important.
Farmers looking to sell their land to an investor buyer are likely looking for a leaseback provision and, sometimes, a buyback provision as part of the sale agreement. It can be tough for everyone to get what they want in this type of negotiation. Recognizing that the investor has the ability to look at land anywhere in the country is critically important.
You aren’t in the same negotiating position selling to an investor as you are selling to the neighboring farmer. It’s wise to help the investor structure the deal so it works for them, as well. This often means the purchase price and rent need to meet their return thresholds. If a seller wants to include things like a buyback provision, the investor generally will want some upside for including that provision.
In an ideal world, we would only sell farms to other farmers and we wouldn’t need investors. The current environment may make investors a key component to allow farmers to keep farming, and they can make great long-term partners for farmers wanting to expand acres and operation.
While a few investors make uninformed buying decisions, most are shrewd and sophisticated. They want to put together a fair arrangement with the farm operator. Being incredibly transparent is the key. Investors generally want a sustainable cash rent figure and can quickly see through inflated rents.
Negotiating these deals can be tough. Attempt to understand both the farmer and the investor’s point of view. If they can agree on a fair rent number that meets the investor’s return thresholds, you can usually put a deal together. This often translates into a lower sales price than the public auction might bring. Ultimately, the question farmer’s must ask themselves is, “Do I want to maximize the sales price or continue to rent the land back?”
This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.
About The Author
Steve Bruere, RLI Member, is the president of Peoples Company, an Iowa-based land brokerage with a diversified offering of land management, land appraisal, and land investment services in 20 states. He is also a member of RLI’s Future Leaders Committee