How to Sell Agricultural Land in Pennsylvania?

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How to Sell Agricultural Land in Pennsylvania?

Bart Waldon

Pennsylvania's patchwork of rolling hills, fertile valleys, and lush forests has long been home to a thriving agricultural sector. But times are changing in the Keystone State, and many landowners are finding themselves pondering the sale of their farmland.

If you've been thinking about putting your agricultural property on the market, you're not alone. A recent Penn State study found that between 2012 and 2017, Pennsylvania lost nearly 6,000 farms and a whopping 400,000 acres of farmland. This trend is particularly noticeable in rapidly growing areas, where urban sprawl is nibbling away at once-rural landscapes. In fact, prime agricultural regions like Lancaster and Chester counties saw farmland acreage shrink by 13% during that five-year period.

Despite these shifts, agriculture remains a cornerstone of Pennsylvania's economy and culture. We're still a top producer of mushrooms, apples, and dairy products. But for those looking to sell, navigating the complexities of the agricultural real estate market can feel like trying to plow a field with a butter knife.

That's where this guide comes in. Whether you're a farmer ready to hang up your hat, an investor looking to cash out, or someone who's inherited land and isn't sure what to do with it, we're here to walk you through the process of selling your agricultural land in Pennsylvania. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and let's dig into the nitty-gritty of farm sales in the Keystone State.

The Lay of the Land: Understanding Pennsylvania's Agricultural Real Estate Market

Before you stick that "For Sale" sign in your cornfield, it's crucial to get a handle on what's happening in the world of Pennsylvania farm real estate. Like the weather, the land market can be unpredictable, with prices swinging based on everything from crop yields to urban expansion.

What Makes Your Land Tick (and Valuable)

  1. Location, Location, Location: Is your farm a stone's throw from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? Or is it nestled in the heart of Amish country? Proximity to cities, highways, and markets can make a big difference.
  2. Soil Quality: Not all dirt is created equal. Pennsylvania's diverse soil types can make or break a farm's potential.
  3. Water, Water Everywhere?: Access to reliable water sources is gold in the agricultural world.
  4. The Lay of the Land: Is your property flat as a pancake or hilly as a roller coaster? Topography matters.
  5. Buildings and Doohickeys: Got a state-of-the-art barn or a quaint 19th-century farmhouse? Existing infrastructure can add value.
  6. Red Tape and Regulations: Local zoning laws and land use rules can impact what buyers can do with the property.

Keeping an Eye on the Market

While crystal balls are in short supply, keeping tabs on market trends can help you make smart decisions. Check out reports from agricultural extension offices, chat with local real estate agents who specialize in farms, and keep an ear to the ground at your local feed store or farmers' market.

Sprucing Up Your Spread: Preparing Your Land for Sale

You wouldn't sell a car without washing it first, right? The same principle applies to your land, even if we're talking about hundreds of acres.

Taking Stock of What You've Got

First things first, let's do a thorough inventory:

  • How many acres are we talking about?
  • How much is tillable, pasture, or woodland?
  • What water sources do you have?
  • Any buildings or structures worth mentioning?

Gather up all your paperwork too:

  • Deeds and title information
  • Maps and surveys
  • Soil test results
  • Crop yield history
  • Water rights documentation
  • Tax records

A Little Curb Appeal Goes a Long Way

Now, we're not suggesting you plant a rose garden in every field, but a tidy property makes a good impression:

  1. Clear out any junk or debris
  2. Mend those fences (literally)
  3. Mow pastures and keep access roads passable
  4. Spruce up buildings with minor repairs
  5. If you've got a homestead area, a bit of landscaping wouldn't hurt

Crossing Your T's and Dotting Your I's

Make sure there aren't any legal hiccups that could trip up a sale. No liens, easements, or boundary disputes? Good. If there are, it's best to sort them out now rather than when you've got a buyer on the hook.

Price It Right: Determining a Fair Asking Price

Pricing your land is part science, part art, and a dash of gut feeling. Price it too high, and you'll scare off buyers. Too low, and you're leaving money on the table.

Bring in the Pros

Consider hiring a certified agricultural land appraiser. They know their stuff when it comes to valuing farms and can give you a detailed breakdown based on:

  • What similar properties in the area have sold for
  • How much income the land could potentially generate
  • What it would cost to replace any improvements
  • The land's "highest and best use" (fancy appraiser talk for what the property is best suited for)

Compare and Contrast

Work with a real estate agent who knows their way around a farm. They can provide a comparative market analysis, showing you what other agricultural properties in your neck of the woods have sold for recently.

Keep It Real

Remember, the market for farmland can be as fickle as the weather. Be prepared to adjust your expectations (and your asking price) based on what buyers are saying and what the market is doing.

Getting the Word Out: Marketing Your Agricultural Land

You can have the best piece of farmland this side of the Mississippi, but if nobody knows it's for sale, you're out of luck. Here's how to spread the word:

Know Your Audience

Think about who might be interested in your property:

  • Local farmers looking to expand
  • Investors with an eye on agricultural assets
  • Developers (if you're near a growing urban area)
  • City folk dreaming of a country life

Paint a Picture with Words

Craft a property description that really sells your land:

  • Highlight its location and how easy (or remote) it is to access
  • Talk up your soil types and how productive the land has been
  • Brag about your water resources
  • List any infrastructure that's already in place
  • Mention any unique features (Got a pristine trout stream? A hilltop with views for miles? Don't be shy about it!)

Cast a Wide Net

  1. Get your property listed on popular real estate websites and specialized agricultural land portals.
  2. Don't neglect good old-fashioned print ads in local papers and farming magazines.
  3. Harness the power of social media – a Facebook post about your farm for sale might catch the eye of the perfect buyer.
  4. Network at agricultural events and chat up the locals at farmers' markets.
  5. Slap up some eye-catching "For Sale" signs, especially near busy roads.

Consider Calling in the Cavalry

Working with a real estate agent or land broker who specializes in agricultural properties can be a game-changer. They can:

  • Tap into a wider network of potential buyers
  • Handle the flood of inquiries and property showings
  • Help you navigate negotiations and paperwork
  • Offer valuable insights into the local market

Red Tape and Regulations: Navigating the Legal Landscape

Selling a farm isn't quite the same as selling a house in the suburbs. There's a whole host of legal and regulatory hoops to jump through.

Zoning Zones

Make sure you're up to speed on current zoning restrictions and any potential changes on the horizon. Buyers will want to know if they can use the land for what they have in mind.

Preservation and Conservation

If your land is enrolled in any conservation or preservation programs (like Agricultural Security Areas, Agricultural Conservation Easements, or the Clean and Green Program), you'll need to understand how these might affect the sale or what you need to disclose to potential buyers.

Environmental Considerations

Be ready to address any environmental concerns:

  • Got wetlands on your property?
  • Any endangered critters calling your land home?
  • Any history of chemical use that might have left its mark?

Water Rights

In the world of farming, water is liquid gold. Make sure you clearly document and disclose any water rights that come with the property, including:

  • Surface water rights
  • Access to groundwater
  • Irrigation systems and permits

Show and Tell: Presenting Your Property to Potential Buyers

When it comes time to show your land to interested buyers, a little preparation goes a long way.

Ready, Set, Tour

  1. Create a detailed map of your property highlighting all the good stuff.
  2. Plan out a tour route that shows off your land's best features.
  3. Be ready to field questions about soil quality, crop yields, and what the land could be used for.

Sing Your Land's Praises

Don't be afraid to brag a little. Point out what makes your property special:

  • Got some prime farmland soil? Shout it from the rooftops!
  • Stunning views? Make sure to point them out.
  • Any historic buildings or unique features? Buyers love that stuff.

Paperwork at the Ready

Have copies of important documents on hand:

  • Soil maps and test results
  • Aerial photos
  • Production history
  • Conservation plans (if you have them)

Sealing the Deal: Negotiating Offers and Closing the Sale

Once the offers start rolling in, it's time to put on your negotiating hat.

Sizing Up the Offers

Look beyond just the price tag. Consider:

  • Any strings attached (contingencies and conditions)
  • How quickly they want to close
  • Whether the buyer has their finances in order

The Art of the Deal

Be prepared for some back-and-forth. Negotiations might involve:

  • Tweaking the price
  • Deciding what equipment or livestock (if any) is included
  • Working out lease arrangements if you want to keep farming for a bit

Bring in the Big Guns

This is where professionals can really earn their keep:

  • A real estate attorney can review contracts and handle the legal mumbo-jumbo
  • An accountant can advise you on the tax implications of the sale
  • Your real estate agent or broker can play middleman in negotiations

Dot Your I's and Cross Your T's

Once you've agreed on terms, the buyer will likely want to kick the tires:

  • They might inspect the property
  • Environmental assessments could be on the agenda
  • Title searches and surveys are par for the course

The Home Stretch

Work closely with your attorney and the buyer's team to:

  • Iron out any wrinkles that pop up during due diligence
  • Get all the paperwork in order
  • Arrange for the smooth transfer of funds and property ownership

Thinking Outside the Box: Alternative Ways to Sell Your Land

While the traditional route works for many, it's not the only way to sell your farm.

Land Buying Companies

Outfits like Land Boss specialize in buying agricultural land directly from owners. This can be a good option if you're looking for a quick, no-fuss sale. The benefits?

  • They can often close quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks
  • They typically pay cash, so no worries about financing falling through
  • They'll usually buy your land as-is, saving you the hassle of pre-sale improvements

The trade-off? They typically offer below-market prices. But for some sellers, the speed and simplicity make it worthwhile.

Going, Going, Gone: The Auction Route

Auctions can be an effective way to sell farm property, especially in hot markets. The upside:

  • You might score a higher price if a bidding war breaks out
  • There's a set sale date, so no endless waiting
  • Auctions often generate a lot of buzz and marketing

The downside? There's always the risk that your property won't meet the reserve price or that you won't attract enough bidders.

Conservation Sales

If preserving your land's agricultural or natural character is important to you, consider selling to a conservation organization or entering into a conservation easement. While you might not maximize your profits, you could snag some tax benefits and the satisfaction of knowing your land will be protected for future generations.

Final Thoughts

Selling your agricultural land in Pennsylvania isn't always a walk in the park. It takes planning, patience, and often, a good dose of flexibility. Whether you opt for a traditional sale, work with a land buying company like Land Boss, or explore other options, the key is to make decisions based on your unique situation and goals.

Remember, the land market can be as unpredictable as a Pennsylvania spring. It might take some time to find the right buyer at the right price. But with the right approach and a little perseverance, you can turn your valuable Pennsylvania farmland into a successful sale.

Whether you're a farmer ready for retirement, an investor reshuffling your portfolio, or a landowner facing new chapters in life, there's a path forward. Here's to finding the right buyer for your piece of Pennsylvania's agricultural heritage!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it typically take to sell agricultural land in Pennsylvania? 

The time it takes to sell agricultural land can vary widely depending on factors like location, property condition, and market conditions. On average, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to sell farmland in Pennsylvania. However, some properties may sell faster, especially if priced competitively or located in high-demand areas. If you need a quicker sale, consider options like land buying companies or auctions, which can sometimes close deals in a matter of weeks. 

Do I need to continue farming the land while it's on the market?

It's generally a good idea to maintain the land's current use while it's for sale. This helps potential buyers see the property's full potential and keeps the land in good condition. However, you don't necessarily need to continue full-scale farming operations. At minimum, ensure the property is well-maintained, accessible, and free from debris. If continuing farming is challenging, consider leasing the land to a local farmer to keep it in agricultural use during the sale process. 

Are there any tax implications I should be aware of when selling agricultural land in Pennsylvania? 

Yes, selling agricultural land can have significant tax implications. You may be subject to capital gains tax on the profit from the sale. However, Pennsylvania offers several programs that might affect your tax situation, such as the Clean and Green program, which provides property tax relief for agricultural land. Additionally, if your land is under a conservation easement, there may be tax benefits. It's crucial to consult with a tax professional familiar with agricultural land sales in Pennsylvania to understand your specific tax situation. 

Can I sell only a portion of my agricultural land? 

Yes, it's possible to sell a portion of your agricultural land, but there are several factors to consider. First, check local zoning laws and subdivision regulations, as these may restrict how you can divide your property. You'll likely need to survey the land and potentially go through a formal subdivision process. Also, consider how selling a portion might affect the value or usability of the remaining land. It's advisable to consult with a local real estate professional and possibly a land use attorney before proceeding with a partial land sale. 

Are there any special considerations if my agricultural land is enrolled in preservation programs?

If your land is enrolled in programs like Agricultural Security Areas (ASAs) or is under a conservation easement, there are indeed special considerations. These programs may restrict how the land can be used or developed, which can affect its market value and the pool of potential buyers. In some cases, you may need approval from the program administrators to sell the land. Be sure to disclose this information to potential buyers upfront. It's also wise to work with a real estate agent and attorney familiar with these programs to navigate the sale process correctly and avoid any legal issues.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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