“Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above...
Don't fence me in.”
— Cole Porter
MANKATO, Minn. — No matter how you look at it, 6,500 acres is a lot of land — fences or not. In 2020, Wingert Realty & Land Services, Inc. found buyers for 60 different parcels of land totaling in the neighborhood of 6,500 acres. And as most people will attest to, 2020 was not a great year. Wingert Realty will typically handle 75 to 95 transactions in a year.
“Covid-19 impacted every aspect of society in 2020, and the market for land was no exception,” said broker Charles “Chuck” Wingert. “Purchasers were active in early spring, but took a wait-and-see approach as the year wore on. Even high-quality farms struggled to find buyers. Sellers also decided to hold back until the negativity in the marketplace subsided.”
Wingert Realty’s sales figures show nearly half of 2020 transactions took place by April; only seven were closed from May through August. But Wingert said properties which had been in limbo during the summer were quickly sold. “Expansion farmers and investors aggressively came back into the market,” Wingert said.
It is interesting to note that only about two-thirds of Wingert’s 2020 sales went to established farmers looking to expand while the other third were acquired by investors. “The internet really opens up the market to land investors,” explained Wingert. “It’s a safe investment, although with a lower return. Low interest rates have allowed developers to sell their past inventory of lots and are now acquiring farmland near many cities for housing development.”
Nearly all of Wingert Realty’s 2020 sales were under 200 acres in size, and half of the year’s sales were parcels under 100 acres. “In our area especially, ravines really cut up the lots,” said Wingert. “Plus, people with 1,000 to 2,000 acres aren’t selling.”
Wingert added land values stayed primarily flat from 2019. Top-quality tiled land sold in the $8,000 to $9,000 per acre range with the majority of acreage landing in the $6,000 to $8,000 range. Parcels with creeks, marshland and/or wooded acreage garnered a wide range of prices; most falling in the $3,000 to $5,000 per acre range.
Wingert credits online land auctions with boosting land prices 10 to 30 percent above seller expectations or appraisal. “Expansion farmers cite a profitable 2020, low interest rates and the opportunity to lock in profitable prices for 2021 as their motivation to expand,” he said. “Investors cite their desire to reposition stock market profits into land and purchase land ahead of the inflationary cycle they feel is just around the corner.”
Chuck Wingert has seen many ups and downs in land realty during his career. Wingert Realty opened its doors in 1976 as a surveying company designing drainage systems. “By 1985 were spending so much time with farmers’ tiling and erosion control needs, we started doing land sales,” he recalled. “Today, four times the land is being operated than in 1980. There is simply not enough land to satisfy the demand.”
In recognition for Wingert’s dedication to his profession, he recently received the national 2020 Land Realtor of America award at the Realtor's Land Institute national land conference. “I haven’t seen the hardware yet,” Wingert laughed. “The conference was all virtual. I was very pleased to be chosen. In our industry, this is a big deal.”
Wingert served as president of the Realtor’s Land Institute in 2013.
Wingert recently had other big news to share: On May 1, Wingert Realty & Land Services merged with Hertz Farm Management, Inc.
Founded in 1946, Hertz Farm Management specializes in professional farm management, farm real estate sales, farmland auctions (live and online), land acquisitions, and farm appraisals. With 15 offices throughout the Midwest, Hertz manages over 2,800 farms consisting of more than 625,000 acres.
Wingert’s Mankato office will expand services to include farmland sales and auctions, valuations, appraisals, and farm management while continuing to serve landowners across Minnesota and the northern region of the Corn Belt. Along with Chuck, Wingert’s staff includes Darrell Hylen, Rick Hauge, Geoff Mead, Adam Knewtson, Nick Meixell, Sara Strande, and Andrea Thomas.
“Wingert’s strong reputation and philosophy of providing knowledgeable, personalized service to farmland owners, dovetails perfectly with the Hertz philosophy of caring for and serving farmland owners,” said Doug Hensley, President of Hertz Real Estate Services. “We are very excited to welcome Chuck and his team into our Hertz family, and we look forward to the new opportunities it provides for everyone involved, including staff members, as well as current and future clients.”