By: Jay Frazier

No one would argue that the land market is vastly improved from where it was three years ago, but where exactly is it now? Seller’s market? Buyer’s market? Neutral? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

The average sale price climbed pretty steadily through all of last year and the first half of this year while the number of transactions fluctuated. This last quarter the market waffled again in favor of more completed transactions with a lower average sale price. The number of completed transactions in 3rd quarter took a big leap up 58% compared to the first two quarters of this year.

SW WI Land Sales Chart

Conversely, the average price per acre dipped to just under $3,000 ending up at $2,985. This price drop likely reflects the type of land sold more than a market correction. During the first half of the year 36% of the acreage sold was tillable farmland (which typically carries a higher value than other types of land) while 3rd quarter sales comprised only 19% tillable acres.

SW Wisconsin Land Prices Chart 3rd Quarter 2014

Historically, the number of 3rd quarter transactions total somewhat less than the spring months, but this year defies tradition. A closer look at the transactions this 3rd quarter reveals the majority of sales were properties in the 20 – 80 acre range many of which came on the market and sold quickly. Not only did they sell quickly, but most of the sale prices calculated out at over 90% of the asking price. This would indicate a high demand which, when combined with low inventory, paves the way for further market improvement in the 4th quarter.

Here are a few specific highlights for 3rd quarter:

  • Sauk County shines as the only county to realize whopping average price gains since January 1st ending up at an average of $3,805/acre.
  • Richland County moved the most acres selling 632 acres in 7 transactions. The average price/acre there remains steady at $2,374.
  • Vernon County showed the most sales with 8 completed transactions and saw a price drop mainly due to the majority of land sold being wooded versus the higher value farmland parcels sold in the first half of the year.
  • Grant County also lost ground in the price category with land type being the major factor there in 4 completed transactions of mainly wooded land and very little tillable.

SW Wisconsin Rural Land Sales 6 Month Report
April 30, 2014 through September 30, 2014

Grant Iowa Lafayette Sauk
2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr
# of sales* 3 4 3 6 4 0 6 7
# acres 207 208 284 491 298 0 1155 331
woods 31 142 244 389 75 0 787 221
tillable 177 45 23 84 123 0 336 86
pasture 0 21 6 15 10 0 10 21
wetland 0 0 10 3 90 0 21 0
avg $/acre $4,334 $3,232 $3,669 $2,895 $2,915 $2,915 $3,513 $3,805
Vernon Crawford Richland TOTAL
2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr
# of sales* 2 8 4 6 2 7 24 38
# acres 42 297 269 266 112 632 2367 2225
woods 0 212 230 192 97 461 1464 1617
tillable 42 61 22 56 15 101 738 433
pasture 0 23 14 16 0 10 40 106
wetland 0 0 0 0 0 20 121 23
avg $/acre $4,636 $2,746 $2,721 $2,927 $2,032 $2,374 $3,403 $2,985

Buyers and sellers need to be aware that average sale prices are only a general guideline. An on-site property evaluation by an experienced land agent is needed to give you an accurate picture of what a property is worth in the current market. To learn more about the current land market in Southwest Wisconsin, begin your search here:

*SW Wisconsin includes Grant County, Lafayette County, Iowa County, Sauk County, Richland County, Crawford County, & Vernon County. All data was taken from the SCWMLS & WiREx. Because this article was intended to review the rural land market, properties smaller than 20 acres, residential, and commercial land sales were not included. Acreage breakdown may vary due to land remnants and other factors.
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