4 Ways to Buy Farmland as an Investment

June 13, 2022
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This article was originally published on November 20, 2018 and updated June 13, 2022.

Overview of Land Buying Options

Investing in agricultural farm land is difficult. That is why options for investing in land have historically been limited.

Before we get into the discussion, let's take a quick look at why we believe AcreTrader is the most attractive option to diversify your portfolio with a long term investment in farmland.

Investing in farmland through AcreTrader offers the most benefits when  compared to benefits of funds vs REITs vs full ownership

While institutional private equity farmland funds, farmland REITs, and outright ownership of farmland assets all provide solutions for how to invest in farmland, each has distinct drawbacks.

Investing in Land With Private Equity

Agricultural land funds offer institutional alternative asset investors the ability to invest in land at scale.

Indeed, the attractiveness of farmland as an investment has drawn a large amount of investment in farmland private equity. The chart below shows over $25 billion raised by global farm funds since 2007.

Large amounts of capital is raised for farmland by private equity funds but investing in farmland through funds can have extremely expensive barriers of entry

Many of these private equity farmland funds measure their assets in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. We think there is well over $20 billion invested already in the U.S. market alone. (For context, the value of total U.S. farmland is measured in the trillions of dollars.)

This type of scale provides great leverage in farming, back office functions, and ability to participate in auctions of large farms.

However, this scale also means that these funds are creating a much more "efficient" market with these large farms, as multiple funds show up as bidders on the mega deals.

Further, this scale means that many of these funds require an investment minimum of $1 million with often 10-year lockups on investor funds. This compares to AcreTrader, where investors can start investing with as little as $10,000-15,000.

To reiterate, we think farm funds have a place in the U.S. market, and some of these funds have great teams, processes, approaches, and returns. However, for the overwhelming majority of investors looking to diversify their portfolio with farmland, AcreTrader offers a more practical approach.

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Investing in Ag Land With Publicly Traded REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are an asset class that has been around for a long time. A type of agriculture stock, REITs are publicly traded companies that typically own and operate real estate utilizing debt to pay out attractive dividends.

Agricultural REITs are relatively new, with the two publicly traded companies having been listed just in the last five years.

While publicly-traded farmland REITs provide investors easy access to farmland, they also lack key reasons why investors buy land in the first place: to get away from the stock market and to reduce volatility.

For example, one of the publicly traded REITs, Farmland Partners, Inc., was recently written up by a short seller saying the company risks insolvency.

For the purpose of this article, the contents of the short seller report and their truthfulness aren't the concern. If the contents are manipulative or inaccurate, then we feel incredibly sorry for the company's investors and employees.

However, while the report may be debatable, the impact on the stock is not. See if you can spot when the short report was published:

Investing in farmland through REITs exposes you to volatile stock market, take a look at Farmland Partners, Inc closing prices over 2018

Importantly, the company owned roughly the same assets a month before and a month after the report. Unfortunately, for investors involved with this agricultural REIT, the stock saw a negative correction of over 40% around the few weeks of July 2018 when the report was published.

To reiterate, REITs do provide an easy way for investors to access farmland. But, this comes at a high cost of being in a volatile stock market. The same goes for agriculture ETFs.

In addition to market exposure, a lack of transparency and the burden of debt makes investing in farm land REITs a potentially dangerous proposition.

Buying Land Directly

The most common method to invest in farmland by far is direct ownership. Despite the exceptional friction and headache that can accompany investing in farmland, some astute investors have historically invested directly in farmland assets.

Indeed, over 30% of U.S. farmland is owned by non-operator landlords:

pie chart of United States farmland owners with 30% owned by non-operator landlords and 70% owner-operated or rented out by a landlord farme

Though direct ownership in farmland is well established, it historically required investors to commit hundreds of thousands in capital (taking portfolio concentration risk) and manage the business and complexities associated with it.

A typical outright investment in farmland goes something like this: search for and identify attractive land, conduct due diligence, negotiate terms with a bank, coordinate a lengthy closing process, identify a manager and/or farmer for your land, open bank accounts, negotiate leases and contracts, manage payments and collections, pay taxes and insurance, deal with problems, constantly monitor operations, etc.

You get the point. Buying land directly is hard. AcreTrader helps eliminate the friction involved by allowing investors to skip these pain points with a few clicks and keystrokes.

Final Thoughts

Each of the above options provide access to buying land. However, these land purchase options tend to work only under certain circumstances and leave the majority of investors without a real ability to invest in agricultural land under attractive terms.

Thus, despite the historically sound and appealing investment characteristics of farmland, it hasn't been highly publicized as an investment alternative.

AcreTrader changes this. We are democratizing the farmland investment process by providing users transparency, ease of use, access, and experience otherwise unavailable. AcreTrader.

Create your account today to discover upcoming farmland investment opportunities.

Note: The information above is not intended as investment advice. Data referenced herein Preqin, USDA, Yahoo Finance, and Company Filings, with additional calculations and analysis performed by AcreTrader. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. For additional risk disclosures regarding farmland investing and the risks of investing on AcreTrader, please see individual farm offering pages as well as our terms and conditions.

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