By Jay Frazier

The first quarter of 2013 is now history and spring has finally made a weak appearance.  If you recall, last winter (2011-2012) was the year of unwinter and strong land sales numbers continued through the normally slow period. 50 transactions were completed in the first quarter of 2012 with an average price per acre of $3,322.  This year has been quite the opposite with snow removal being an almost daily activity and winter loathed to leave when the calendar said it should.  The number of transactions for 1st quarter reflects a more normal Wisconsin winter, but when compared to last year’s unusual circumstances they appear weak.

SW WI 2013 1st Quarter Stats

Despite the price drop shown here, it’s almost certain the land market is in better shape than a year ago.  You can see this when taking an overall look at the price trends for the past 12 months.

One thing I consider when I see a sale price spike (like in 1st quarter 2012) is the amount of tillable acreage that was sold. Currently, tillable land (cropland/farmland) is generally bringing a higher price per acre due to the faster ROI (return on investment) than other types of rural land. While tillable acreage sold in recent quarters hovered right around 30% of the total acreage, in the 1st quarter of 2012 the tillable acreage sold was 47% of the total. This appears to be the dominant factor influencing the price hike at that time. Throughout 2012 the average price dropped even as buyer activity increased. As a result of sellers becoming more motivated and buyers taking advantage of record low interest rates, a lot of excess inventory was cleared out making way for market improvement.

Land Price Trends '12-'13

From the looks of things where they are right now, 2012 was the time to buy at the bottom. All factors point to slowly rising prices this year and there are even a few indications that a seller’s market may be around the corner.

Buyers and sellers need to be aware that average sale prices are only a general guideline. The demand and sales price for any particular property will most likely vary up or down (often substantially) from the averages shown. Location within a county will affect price as will soil types, zoning, road access, government programs, water, timber value, easements, rental value, lay of the land, potential building sites, access to utilities and various other factors. Of course, a home, out buildings or other improvements will also affect the value.  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:

For those that enjoy statistics, here’s the breakdown by county:

GRANT 1st   Quarter LAFAYETTE 1st   Quarter
2013 2012 2013 2012
# of sales 2 8 # of sales 5 3
total acres   sold 179 686 total acres sold 244 228
Tillable acres 74 272 Tillable acres 150 207
Wooded acres 99 269 Wooded acres 46 21
Pasture acres 0 138 Pasture acres 50 0
Wetland acres 0 1 Wetland acres 0 0
$/acre $2,622 $2,938 $/acre $4,630 $5,962
RICHLAND 1st Quarter SAUK 1st Quarter
2013 2012 2013 2012
# of sales 5 7 # of sales 3 13
total acres   sold 408 565 total acres sold 107 620
Tillable acres 86 139 Tillable acres 6 286
Wooded acres 302 412 Wooded acres 101 290
Pasture acres 20 14 Pasture acres 0 92
Wetland acres 0 0 Wetland acres 0 6
$/acre $2,537 $2,626 $/acre $2,132 $3,198
CRAWFORD 1st Quarter VERNON 1st Quarter
2013 2012 2013 2012
# of sales 5 3 # of sales 1 10
total acres   sold 336 184 total acres sold 100 1215
Tillable acres 96 30 Tillable acres 25 722
Wooded acres 231 118 Wooded acres 75 491
Pasture acres 20 27 Pasture acres 0 0
Wetland acres 0 0 Wetland acres 0 2
$/acre $2,579 $2,071 $/acre $2,231 $2,591
IOWA 1st Quarter TOTAL for all 7 COUNTIES 1st Quarter
2013 2012 2013 2012
# of sales 4 6 # of sales 25 50
total acres   sold 147 436 total acres sold 1521 3934
Tillable acres 24 200 Tillable acres 461 1856
Wooded acres 102 168 Wooded acres 956 1769
Pasture acres 2 84 Pasture acres 92 355
Wetland acres 19 2 Wetland acres 19 11
$/acre $3,174 $3,871 Avg $/acre $2,844 $3,322


*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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