Many farmers keen to find ways of diversifying have found a welcome stream of revenue literally sitting on their land.
They have realised the potential of letting out the cottages previously tenanted by their workers. Amanda Wiewiorka of Wardhaugh Property Management in Forfar estimates she has between 50 and 60 farm cottages on her books at any one time and regards agricultural lets as one of the fastest growth sectors of the lettings market.
“Farmers no longer see these cottages as a liability as they realise that they can offer a significant revenue stream,” she said. “If they are willing to invest, update and upgrade their asset to current legislation requirements. Tenants look for cottages that are well insulated with some form of central heating. There are a growing number of farmers who are renovating their surplus cottages on an on-going basis and are committed to a long-term cycle of investment.”
She has seen a surge in the number of high quality farm cottages come onto the lettings market over the past two years which are commanding attractive rents
Amanda has found that farmers were increasingly facing the problem that their cottages were unoccupied for long periods of time between tenancies and also faced with a high turnover of tenants. Farmers who have invested in their cottages for the lettings market have established a viable new business with good long term tenants.
“This way they are protecting their assets for the next generation and they are future-proofing the buildings. The cottages need good insulation and oil, gas or wet electric heating, they should have the wiring checked every five years, hard-wired smoke alarms fitted and to be finished to a good standard but once that is done, each one can bring in an average £500 a month,” she said. However Amanda does warn farmers that they should ensure they have the correct landlords buildings and public liability insurance in place on all their properties to ensure their investment is protected, whilst also satisfying themselves that their tenants have adequate contents insurance.
She has a constant supply of suitable tenants for rural properties, particularly those within commuting distance of towns and cities. Tenants range from young professionals to families and retired people who want to live in the country. Some want only a six-month assured tenancy, some are happy to stay for years.
“The key message to all potential landlords, including farmers, is to plan to invest on an ongoing basis to make sure they continue to offer a good quality property. Whereas farmers once saw their cottages as a liability they are now regarded as an asset and worth the investment involved in getting them ready for the letting market.”