Big acres, little details

By Matt Reese

Big land auctions require careful attention to many small details.

Kevin Miller, with Oakridge Realty and Auction Co. in Allen County, sells quite a bit of farmland in Ohio, some of it in very large tracts. 

Kevin Miller

“We do specialize in farmland sales and auctions is obviously one part of that, we also do the traditional private treaty sale. Last year we sold over 1,100 acres at auction at one time. That was in about 17 different tracts. On Sept. 1 we have 762 acres from one seller and we’ll be selling that in 7 tracts,” Miller said. “When you have that much land, you have to figure out how to coordinate to get the best sale for the owners and bring in the most buyers. Large tracts of land offer challenges. They require a lot of data and a lot of studying to figure out how to break those down into different sized tracts to be attractive to buyers. We look at soil maps, crop yield history, tenants, leases in place. We study where these properties are, the amount of tillable and non-tillable acres and the best use for the property. We try to put together enough information for everybody to be very well informed the day of the sale. Selling land can be a difficult process. We make the sale of farmland easy for the seller too.”

Larger properties also tend to attract the interest of buyers from a larger area.

“When you are talking about these larger tracts, we want to help the local farmers to have the opportunity to add to their existing operations, but we are also now talking about institutional type properties where an investor would be coming in from a long ways away. Most people don’t want to travel far for a 20-acre piece or a 30-acre piece, but when you start getting over a couple hundred acres, people will come from a long way. You start seeing people from out of state,” Miller said. “We do a good job of marketing to those type of individuals that are looking for a long-term investment. We also try to set them up with local farmers who are interested in leasing that ground as well. We try to involve everyone in the process.” 

Miller likes the advantages of both online and in-person auctions to cater to the needs of the different types of buyers interested in larger properties.

“We definitely like online as well as in person. It depends on the farm we are selling and the size of the tract. We have sold farms to buyers as far away as New Jersey, California and Texas. Those individuals do not always have the opportunity to fly in for the auction, but they can be in the comfort of their own home or office and easily bid. Some people like to be private and they don’t want to be in the auction setting. They like to bid online. We like to give people the opportunity to choose either or,” Miller said. “The live setting is our favorite. We like to see farmers and groups get together and enjoy the process. It is a good time for everyone. You also get to see who is bidding and you know exactly what happens that day.” 

And, in many cases, these bigger properties remain in agriculture.

“It is important to a lot of our sellers that the land remains in agriculture. There are some solar projects, wind projects and warehousing projects around the state that have taken up some of the farmland, but currently we do see many of these properties staying in agriculture as the world demand for food continues to grow,” Miller said. “And the property values in the last few years have obviously climbed. They seem to be holding steady as interest rates have changed. We are also watching commodity prices and other factors. There are a lot of factors in what keeps values strong. We may not see land values continue to climb, but we don’t think they will fall off significantly either.”

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