Land Sales Still Hot in Indiana

Ethanol plants fuel interest in buying land.

Purdue University's annual summer land survey, based on opinions and not actual sales, indicated a 16-19% rise in Indiana land values from summer 2006 to summer 2007. Craig Dobbins, a Purdue Extension ag economist, conducted the survey of ag bankers, farm managers and real estate folk.

Word of a recent land auction in Wabash County, a prime ag county in north-central Indiana, would indicate that the Purdue report was not only accurate, but that the trend is still heading upwards. It's been an upward trend for land values in Indiana since the mid-80s, when land prices began recovering form the sever crash in the early '80s. There was a blip in the mid-90s where the trend line began leveling out, but it shout up dramatically again with the huge increases in land value last year.

Halderman Real Estate Services, part of Halderman Farm Management Services, Inc., Wabash, said a 251 –acre parcel in PawPaw Township in Wabash County set a record price for the county. It sold at $5,364 per acre. At the same time, 355 acres in Lagro Township also sold.

Howard Halderman, president of the firm, believes opening of the biodiesel plant in Claypool in Kosciusko County and the ethanol plan tin Marion, plus others and rumors of more, helped support sale of this ag land. He believes people see Wabash County as ideally located for delivery to any one of a number of plants that will likely bid up prices compared to historical levels to obtain the corn and/or soybeans they need to maintain full production.

Higher land prices have been reported in other areas of the state over the past year, but those nearly always involve land closer to cities, where developers or individual would-be homeowners are a large part of the bidding audience. Wabash County would not be considered in one of these prime development areas, being an hour from the nearest large city- Ft. Wayne, and an hour -and –a- half north of Indianapolis.

In the Purdue survey, 'poor land' actually increased by the highest amount over the past year at 19%, while average and good land both increased 16%. That survey was based upon estimates of so-called insiders across the state, but not necessarily on actual sales.

The rise in poor land values is partly driven by keen interest in recreational land, observers note. Some want land for hunting or other activities. It may explain why ag lawyers are fielding more questions than normal these days about hunting rights and liability issues. Most advise it's definitely an area worth considering if you're buying land with recreational purposes in mind, or if you already own or farm that type of land, and allow either free or 'for lease' hunting. Your liability exposure under Indiana law is different if you're charging to hunt, one legal expert says.

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