Whether you’re investing or running the business yourself, farms or income producing rural properties are considered to be specialised commercial properties.
With the right help, you can borrow the amount you need with your farm loan and grow your dream agribusiness.
How much can I borrow?
- Borrow up to 60-70% of the property value.
- Borrow up to 100% with a commercial property guarantor loan.
- Loans over $5,000,000 are assessed on a case by case basis.
- The bank will generally require a business plan and profit forecasting for the farm.
- Low doc options are not available.
- Interest rate discounts vary depending on the lender and your financial situation.
- Agribusiness line of credit is available.
- Turf farm loans are available.
Which bank is best for your farm loan needs? Speak to our mortgage brokers by calling 1300 889 743 or fill in our free assessment form to find out what farm loans are available to you.
How can our brokers help you?
Looking for a farm loan on good terms and a low interest rate? So is everyone else!
Our mortgage brokers are specialists in loans for buying a farm.
They understand that apart from getting a great interest rate, getting your loan approved at the highest Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) is just as important to your business over the long term.
It’s often much better to put your money to work in the business rather than trying to save up a large deposit.
We can help you find a product and set up your farm loan in a way that best suits your needs and support you in achieving your agribusiness goals.
Getting a mortgage that works for you rather than against you is the key when trying to run a strong farming enterprise and we understand this.
Best of all, we can do all of the loan shopping for you with almost 40 lenders to choose from!
Call us on 1300 889 743 or fill in our free assessment form to get an indicative funding approval for your farm loan.
How will banks assess my application?
One of the first things the bank will do with a farm loan application is undertake a detailed valuation of the property.
For borrowers wanting to buy the land (freehold) and run a business as a going concern, you’ll generally need to show that you’ve had some experience working in a similar operation. The bank will usually ask for:
- Financial statements including Business Activity Statements (BAS), an Australian Taxation Office (ATO) tax portal printout or bank account statements for the last three to six months showing your turnover.
- A business plan that details cash flow forecasts, market competition and your business model for your enterprise.
What if I have bad credit?
Luckily, with the right commercial lender, you don’t need to have a perfect credit file to get approved for a farm mortgage.
If you’re buying the land as a standalone investment (freehold), you’ll need to demonstrate that you can meet your repayments with a good financial position and good security to support the loan.
In addition, the bank will want to know the financial situation of the lessee and their business.
It’s similar to buying a going concern: the bank needs to be confident that the business can stay profitable and keep paying rent so you, in turn, can make your mortgage repayments.
Call us on 1300 889 743 or complete our free assessment form today.
How will banks look at the farm?
The commercial lending departments of banks will usually undertake what is known as a SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.
Although it works differently from lender to lender, a SWOT analysis for a commercial farm may look something like this:
Strengths: For example, you have experience working or even managing an income producing farm.
Weaknesses: You don’t have a thorough business plan that highlights how you can keep your business afloat during tough seasons.
Opportunities: This may come down to the fact that you’re producing a niche product such as a particular vegetable or type of cattle that is currently not meeting demand.
Threats: Competition is a major threat in the farming industry.
What about location?
It really depends on what type of farm you’re looking to buy.
Some climates and environments are better suited to dairy farms than a turf farm, for example.
Lenders have specialist teams that look into these types of factors and will be wary about approving farm loans for a location that won’t support the continuing success of your business.
What can I use the loan for?
Commercial loans for commercial rural properties are not black and white in terms of bank policy.
However, banks will measure the risk of certain applications:
- Investment (low risk): To buy or refinance the commercial farm that will be leased.
- Owner occupied (medium risk): To buy or refinance a farm that is leased to or occupied by your own business.
- Working capital (high risk): Financing the day to day operations of your commercial rural property or liquidity shortfalls.
What can I use as security?
Apart from a residential property, the bank will also take into account any existing assets that are part of the sale of the farm.
Some of these assets can include cattle and other income producing stock and farm equipment such as tractors and cranes.
The bank will run a valuation on these assets the same as if they were running a valuation on a residential property as security.
Will the bank need yearly reviews of the business?
Yes, business plans and forecasts are generally required but it depends on your exposure limit, the type of security you have and your previous experience in successfully running a similar business.
As a general rule, any enterprise over $1 million will require yearly reviews but some lenders don’t require yearly reviews at all!
Complete this free assessment form or call 1300 889 743, tell us what you’re planning to do and one of our experienced mortgage brokers can help you find a lender that will take a common sense approach to your farm loan application.
What if I’m a foreign investor?
As of 1 December 2015, government laws now require foreign persons who own, or have an interest in, Australian agricultural land to notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) of their interest.
This has been implemented under the register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Act 2015.
These requirements are for foreign investors who:
- Have an interest in agricultural land at 1 July 2015 or acquire an interest or change that interest after that date.
- Plan to purchase farmland worth $15 million or more.
The threshold is cumulative!
FIRB will take into account the value of any agricultural land that you currently own (or have an interest in).
For example, if you previously acquired agricultural land valued at $9 million, you wouldn’t have been required to notify FIRB.
However, if you intend to buy another piece of land valued at $10 million, you will exceed the $15 million threshold and will need to report this purchase and the details of your current land ownership to the board.
It’s also important to keep in mind that direct interest in agribusiness valued at $55 million or more will also be screened by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).
If you’re required to seek FIRB approval on the sale of a commercial farm worth $10 million or more, you”ll be required to pay a non-refundable application fee of $100,000.
For more information, please refer to the FIRB website.
Tips for buying
Are you just buying the land
With many farming industries across Australian either booming or in a stable position thanks to the so-called ‘dining boom’, you can earn a steady income as a landowner.
Like any other commercial purchase though, it’s essential that you run over the last few years financials of your tenants with your accountant.
Be wary of tenants that are reluctant to provide certain financial statements: it’s usually a red flag that something’s not right.
Farm leases can vary but one thing to keep in mind is that longer leases can potentially pose a high risk to your return on investment.
Much of this has to do with the unique effect of weather and climate farm businesses compared with other types of industries.
For example, if the price of land were to increase during the period of the lease, you could miss out on capital gains.
On the flip side, it’s likely the farmer could have a poor season over such a long term and may not be able to meet their rent, leaving you in search of new tenants.
Setting the rental price.
Deciding on the cost of the lease comes down to a number of factors including:
- The location and size of the property.
- Soil condition.
- The number of water sources located on the property.
- The carrying capacity of the land (the maximum amount of animals that the land can sustain).
It’s a good idea to research past prices, seasons and yields and draw up a budget to determine a fair price for both you and your lessee.
Are you running the farm yourself?
In a freehold going concern arrangement, you own both the leasehold and the freehold which means banks may be willing to allow you to borrow at a higher LVR.
The reason is that the land itself is a real estate asset and can be taken as security, along with the profitability of the business, when the lender values the farm.
Compared to other commercial ventures, a lot of what’s involved in running a successful farm is out of your control and in the hands of the seasons (the weather), markets and fluctuating running costs.
In fact, recent industry estimates put farm returns at an average of 1.5-2% excluding capital gains.
That means in order to generate enough to make your commercial loan repayments and make improvements to the property, you’ll likely need to diversify your business.
Relying on just being a carrot farmer, for instance, is a major risk because if you were to have a bad season: it could easily see your business fail in the first year.
Have you considered:
- Growing other vegetables?
- Raising livestock to sell for meat?
- Restoring the farmhouse and converting it into accommodation (bed and breakfast) for travellers that pass through town?
- Leasing some of your land for share farm purposes? In that way you can generate some rent.
These are just some of the diversification strategies you can employ. You can read more about it on the Victoria Agriculture page.
- Stay up to date with industry changes, market conditions, competition and the changing environment around you, including weather patterns.
- Competent financial management and attention to record keeping is crucial when running an enterprise of this size.
- Have appropriate insurance in place.
- If you’re an exporter, consider the exchange rate and how that will affect your turnover.
- Are your farm loan repayments aligned to cash flow (seasonal factors)?
- Have appropriate equity levels to provide coverage for poor seasons.
How can a specialist solicitor help me?
Did you know that there are solicitors that specialise in the purchasing of farmland and rural commercial properties?
They can help you run a thorough check on both the Contract of Sale and the property title.
There are many questions they can help you answer such as the following.
Are there easements or rights of way that may run through the property that will prohibit the types of activities and building projects?
Easement agreements still stand even if the right of way hasn’t been used for a while.
Are all services installed on the property including power, water, sewerage and a telephone line?
Many commercial farms don’t have the luxury of these basic types of infrastructure so it’s important you consider whether these features are essential to you. The costs of installing them in the future can be expensive.
Are there any carbon, conservation, heritage or other caveats or covenants on the property?
Again, this can hinder the type of agricultural activities that you can undertake.
Does the contract include any licenses such as water usage?
Have the current owners implemented measures to control noxious pests and plants?
What type of farm do you want to run?
Farm loans cover most farming industries depending on the strength of the applicant but it’s still really important to consider what your strengths are.
Firstly, look at particular activities that you have an interest in, such as raising chickens for the purposes of producing eggs, animal husbandry, particularly as it applies to cattle, or producing dairy products such as milk and cheese.
It may be that you already have experience in a particular field of farming but the point is that you need to be aware of what you’re getting into.
Undertaking a short TAFE or university course on the type of farming you want to do will give you a good perspective and essential skills on what’s in store.
Each type of farm has different workloads and they each require varying amounts of capital to get them up and running. On that note, the second consideration you’ll have to weigh is up is how much profit you’re expecting to generate.
Farms operate within their own unique market and they’re largely at the mercy of the seasons, the resources you have available on the land and your own skills.
Some of the most popular types of farms in Australia include:
- Poultry (for both eggs and meat).
- Fruit and nut.
- Sheep (for both lamb and wool).
Despite the above farms boasting the most commonly-produced primary products in Australia, it rarely makes sense to compete with these established markets when you’re starting out as a farmer.
Like other industries, businesses that thrive in commercial farming are the ones that operate in small niches or are able to carve out a niche of their own.
Some examples of this include:
- Boutique vineyards (viticulture).
- Honey farms (beekeeping).
- Organic vegetables and fruit.
- Guinea fowl and duck farms.
- On-farm abattoirs and boutique meat processing plants.
- Farms that diversify their business earnings with on-farm accommodation.
Why location matters
When searching for land, you’ll likely have a budget for what you’re willing to spend.
Like buying a residential property, the important thing to remember is that it’s not only the size of the land that determines price – it’s the location itself.
Farms located in rural areas, many kilometres from the nearest city or major regional town tend to have cheaper price tags.
It sounds great on paper but it also means that you’re some distance away from essential services like shopping centres, schools, hospitals and veterinarians, the latter being crucial if you plan to raise animals.
It’s also crucial to understand what long distance travel will mean for transporting your livestock and produce to market: there’s not only fuel costs to consider but the amount of travel time involved.
In addition to this, every region across Australia will either support or be a detriment to the type of farming you want to undertake. For example, dairy farmers are generally located around these belts:
- Subtropical (Kempsey, NSW to the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland).
- Western Victoria.
- New South Wales.
- Murray Dairy.
- South Australia.
- Western Australia.
The environmental factors in these regions, including the average temperature and the nature of the rainy and dry seasons, best suit dairy farmers requiring green pastures for their cattle.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t start a dairy farm in other regions, it just means you may need to compromise on the number of livestock you own, compensate for the limited rainfall with more irrigation and be prevented from growing certain vegetables and fruit.
What should I look for in the property?
As mentioned previously, you need to have a pretty clear vision of what you want to achieve from the farm with a solid business plan to back it up.
Buying land and then changing it to suit your needs takes time and a considerable amount of capital which you’ll need to make sure that other parts of the farm are in good working condition such as fences, barns, troughs and pastures.
In that sense, it’s better to choose land that’s right for the purposes you need it for from the beginning.
For grazing and grain production, for example, you’ll likely need several hundred hectares of land. With intensive farming business that sell products directly to customers, you can probably run a viable business on just 10 hectares or less.
Are you growing crops?
- Properties that have clear access to natural water sources for irrigation.
- Good, flat land. The aspect of the land is also important, with north facing slopes tending to minimise the risk of frost.
- Good quality soil. It’s recommended that you organise for a soil test from an appropriately licensed specialist to check for high levels of salinity and erosion. Soil pH should be maintained at above 5.5 in the topsoil and 4.8 in the subsurface.
- Land contamination, which can happen a lot with farms with abattoirs. Farms with meat-processing facilities have mass animal disposal areas which can have a massive impact on watercourses and groundwater if proper burial and decontamination processes aren’t undertaken. Similarly, sheep and cattle dips can result in DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and arsenic contamination.
- Land free of noxious weeds and pests.
- Any intensive animal industries, sewerage treatment facilities, processing plants or other high-impact land uses that are located within a few kilometres of your farm. Find out about the direction and strength of the wind in your location and whether it has the potential to carry harmful chemicals onto your land.
Are you raising livestock?
- Horse stables and other types of housing for animals such as chicken coops and pens for cows, sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas. These aren’t essential since you can build these yourself but it’s something you should factor into the costs of buying the property.
- Fencing and gates that are in good condition.
- Access to water from natural sources such as ponds and lakes.
- Adequate pasture for grazing livestock and poultry.
- Sufficient shade for the spring and summer months. This can be as simple as having a few trees big enough to cover a few animals simultaneously.
Have you checked the existing buildings on the property?
Apart from the dwelling itself, do a thorough inspection of sheds, fences, tracks, drains, yards, water pumps, water supplies (including tanks, dams, pipes, bores and troughs) and power supplies (location, single and three phase). Are you planning on living on the property? The dwelling isn’t as important a consideration as the land itself since the commercial farm is going to be your main source of income and livelihood.
In saying that, a property that is livable and comfortable is something to think about, particularly as you transition yourself to getting up early and working long days. It always helps to be close to work and in a comfortable home.
Quality of the buildings on the property is one thing but what catches a lot of new commercial farmers out is not ensuring that structures have been council approved.
Organise to have an inspection undertaken prior to committing to a purchase because you may find that your operation will be shut down by a government official in the future.
In addition to checking that the existing infrastructure meets federal and council regulations, the structures and buildings (such as barns and water tanks) included in the sale of the property should be clearly marked on the first page of the Contract of Sale.
A solicitor who specialises in commercial farms can help you draft up a Contract of Sale that is favourable to both you and the vendor.
What are the legal requirements of running a farm?
Legislation involved in owning farmland is split between the federal and state government as well as the local council in which your rural property is located.
The federal government sets rules for taxation, trade and commerce, important factors from a business perspective.
It’s when you start getting to the state government level though that you get into regulations concerning conserving land and native vegetation, water management, animal welfare, livestock tagging and controlling noxious weeds and pests.
Lastly, local council are concerned with planning so they will govern what type of structures you can build and the renovations you can undertake.
The reason why these laws are in place is to ensure that the land stays healthy and rich over the long-term so farming can continue into the future.
What are the zoning requirements?
Farming Zones are designed to ensure that the land is used and maintained for the purposes of agricultural activities.
Part of the requirements for farming zones includes the practice and implementation of land management measures.
Although non-farm activities are discouraged, you may be allowed to do the following on your commercial farm although restrictions and permit requirements apply:
- You can have five farm animals or less on the farm without a permit. Any more, and you will require you to apply for your state’s equivalent Livestock Property Identification Code (PIC).
- You can run a bed and breakfast/camping facility/caravan park from the property. No more than 10 people can be accommodated at any one time and one car space must be provided for every 2 persons.
- You can have a dwelling on a farm that’s at least 40 hectares in size without the need for special approval. Access to a dwelling must be provided via an all-weather road with dimensions adequate to accommodate emergency vehicles.
- Selling produce and farm goods on your property is permitted but most councils restrict you from selling these products within 100 metres of a dwelling in separate ownership. In addition, the area used for the displaying and selling of primary product usually can’t exceed 50 metres squared.
- Carrying out earthmoving or constructions projects that are within any of the following setbacks are generally not permitted: Road Zone Category 1, 100 metres from a waterway, wetlands or designated flood plain.
Overall, there is a general need to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the environment surrounding the farm, including the retention of native flora and fauna.
For specific zoning requirements for your location, it’s essential you speak with the local council.
Ensuring that your animals are healthy not only makes good business sense, it’s also a legislative requirement under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.
As the farm manager, you’re responsible for providing for an animal’s food, water and living needs, as well as implementing controls to protect them from predators and exercising euthanasia where appropriate.
In relation to care and food, water troughs should be fixed in position and must allow easy access for multiple animals at once.
It’s also essential to make sure that stock (especially the young) are familiar with watering points and the location of shaded areas on the property.
Adequate shade can be anything from trees on your property to shelters you construct using shade cloth, corrugated iron or timber. Beware of animals all huddling in the one spot when there are other shade sources available.
Signs of heat stress include:
- Arching backs.
- Panting, slobbering or showing excessive salivation.
- Foaming at the mouth.
- Open mouthed breathing.
- Lack of coordination and trembling.
The duty of care codes mentioned above are voluntary but adherence to these requirements can provide a defense against animal cruelty charges.
There are specific guidelines for the care of cattle, goats, honey bees, horses, pigs, poultry, rabbits, sheep and non-indigenous animals like camels, bison, water buffalo and llamas.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Agriculture agency has great resources and tips if you’re planning on keeping any of these types of animals on your commercial farm.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), Australia’s scheme for the identification, tracking and tagging of animals used in primary industries like agriculture and farming.
You can find more information about the NLIS here.
Other questions you may want to consider when researching locations include:
- How far is the farm from a vet?
- Will you be willing to get your hands dirty when livestock give birth, as well as the feeding and vaccinating that comes with newborns?
- How long will dam water last? Cows, sheep, llamas, pigs and other types of livestock all drink at different rates so determining how long water sources will last will be determined by the number and type of animals on your farm.
You can find more great information on animal care and drinking rates on the Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) websites.
Water and drought management
Water scarcity and drought is simply a reality of running a commercial farm.
You can’t always rely on rainfall but there are steps and measures you can take to ensure that you have enough water for your livestock and your wider agricultural activities.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but some things for you to consider are:
- Farms located on floodplains generally enjoy fertile lands for the purposes of grazing but the devil is in the detail. Specifically, you’ll have to ensure that there is proper drainage, dams and levees in place. Also, you can avoid damage to soil health and the growth of weeds, which is a staple of lands located on floodplains, with a solid grazing regime for your cattle.
- Check out the 20-year rainfall records for the farm’s location. This will give you a fairly reliable gauge as you consider whether the associated environmental conditions are right for what you’re trying to produce on the farm.
- Is there enough water to carry animals through the winter? Is it worth keeping all of your animals or better to lighten the load?
- You can actually give bore water to your animals as well as use it for irrigation purposes as long as it has been properly tested for mineral contamination and has a suitable pH level.
- If you have a creek or river flowing through your property, consider restricting stock access with fencing to help improve water quality, both for your farming neighbours and the overall health of the environment.
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, farmers undertaking new farm activities should be aware of:
- Nationally threatened and migratory species.
- Nationally threatened ecological communities.
- Wetlands of international importance.
- World and national heritage properties.
If you’re planning to undertake major changes to the land like land clearing, check first by calling the Department of the Environment on 1800 110 395.
Their website has a map letting you know whether matters of national environmental significance are likely to occur in the area in which your agribusiness is located.
While these are factors are in the national interest, there are also biosecurity factors to consider.
Biosecurity refers to keeping people, animals and plants/crops free of noxious weeds, pests and disease.
It plays an important role not only on your farm but in the prevention of disease outbreaks across the wider farming community. Biosecurity measures don’t necessarily have to be expensive either.
Some simple things you can do include:
- Requesting a Commodity Vendor Declaration (CVD) when purchasing feed for animals and plants.
- Ensuring feed doesn’t contain a high ratio of weed seeds that could propagate on the property.
- Cleaning food and water troughs regularly to avoid contamination.
- Not feeding restricted animal material (RAM) to ruminants like cows. Engaging in this practice is illegal in Australia because it is linked to the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or ‘Mad Cow’ disease).
- Ensure that animal manure and green waste is aged and thoroughly composted to destroy the weed seeds and diseases that often come with organic fertiliser.
- Always follow the instructions when using chemicals, paying particular attention to dilution and application rates, expiry dates and the proper disposal of chemical residue.You can find more information on this on the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
It’s recommended that you speak to an agronomist to ensure that you’re using the land and its resources in a sustainable manner.
Properly placed fuel breaks on your farm are a great way to stop the spread of low intensity bushfires or bushfires in their early development.
It also allows better access to volunteer firefighters and other emergency authorities to undertake firefighting activities.
Seasonal fuel reduction is highly recommended by all Australian fire authorities. You can create a ‘zone of protection’ on your commercial farm by:
- Having livestock graze selected areas.
- Regularly ploughing and harrowing vegetation.
- Slashing or mowing vegetation is also helpful as long as the clippings are removed and allowed to rot down before fire season.
Check with your relevant state government authority or the local council for more tips and guidelines on managing fire risk on your hobby farm. The NSW Rural Fire Service provides a great resource.
There may be tax concessions for running a farm
Your small scale farming operation may classify you as a primary producer for tax purposes and this can have a significant impact on your tax reporting requirements and qualify you for a tax concession.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will firstly determine whether you’re running a business as opposed to a hobby farm. The next thing they will determine is whether you’re a primary producer.
If you are primary producer, you may be in a position to claim a tax reduction for any landcare operations you undertake such as erecting fences and gates, erosion control and drainage works to prevent soil salinity.
Other tax benefits include three-year write offs for the construction/installation of water facilities such as dams, tanks, nores, wells, irrigation channels, water towers, windmills, pipes and pumps.
Although the government does offer tax concessions, there are also capital gains tax (CGT) considerations that you need to be aware of when running a commercial farm.
For example, CGT applies on the sale, transfer and ending of water licences, allocations, quotas and entitlements because they’re considered as assets.
There are other tax implications and strategies to consider when running a commercial farm, including the deferring of profit on the forced disposal or death of livestock in the event of drought, fire, flood or the compulsory acquisition of land by the government.
It’s essential you speak to a qualified accountant and possibly a financial adviser before making any tax decision.
Seeking out advice is essential
Conduct an inspection of the farm with an experienced farm manager and find out what past owners used the land for.
Your neighbours are your best friends.
They can give you a really good idea about weather patterns for the region particularly when it comes to dry and wet seasons and average temperatures.
Apart from cultivation, by speaking with the locals you’ll also be able to get a sense of whether the location is the right place for you to stay commercially viable.
This page provides great tips but there is so much more information, guides and tools out there for you to take advantage of.
There are also plenty of associations across the country that host expos and open days and most of them are free to the public.
Check out your relevant state’s farmers association for more information:
- NSW Farmers.
- Victorian Farmers Federation.
- Queensland Farmers’ Federation.
- Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association.
- South Australian No-Till Farmers Association.
- NT Farmers.
- WA Farmers.
What about equipment finance?
Unfortunately we cannot assist you with finance, lease or hire, to buy equipment, technology, vehicles (such as tractors) or any other asset you require for your farm business.
We do have plans to do so in the future because we recognise that farm technology and innovation will continue to be a focus for commercial farmers as they grow their enterprise.
Links to government agriculture departments
- Australian of Agriculture and Water Resources.
- NSW Department of Primary Industries.
- Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
- Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
- Department of Agriculture and Food.
- Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
- Meat and Livestock Australia.
- National Farmers’ Federation.
Call us today
Farming is one of Australia’s economic backbones but that doesn’t make it any easier to run a commercial farm and carve out your own successful agribusiness.
Luckily, our mortgage brokers are specialists in farm loans and we can definitely help on the finance side things and make the settlement process smooth.
We know how to properly assess your situation by asking the right questions and matching you with a commercial loan that best suits your business needs.
We’re with you every step of the way, from building a strong application, submitting the loan, reaching settlement and beyond, so call us on 1300 889 743 or complete our free assessment form today.