Landowners in southern Riverina could be sitting on a bumper profit, with land values across the region having increased by more than $2.7 billion to $11 billion in just three years.
A huge increase in farm land values has helped drive the overall rise, which saw rural land alone valued at $5.5 billion in 2019, $2.2 billion more than in 2016.
The combined total value of land, excluding buildings, across Albury, Greater Hume, Federation, Berrigan and Edward River council areas, skyrocketed in the three years from July 2016 to July 2019, with some rural areas seeing a 90 per cent increase in value.
Residential land in South Albury and the newly released Thurgoona englobo urban release jumped by 22 and 24 per cent respectively.
But the hike in land values, doesn't mean rates will rise at the same steep rate.
Soaring ag value
Rural land values have increased significantly across all southern Riverina shires since the last NSW valuation report in 2016, with some areas of the Greater Hume Shire seeing increases of more than 90 per cent.
In 2019, the shire's rural land was worth a billion dollars more than it was in 2016, having experienced a sharp 65 per cent rise in value from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion.
At the same time rural land value in Albury increased 16.5 per cent to a combined value of $191 million, while Federation's rural land value jumped 69.4 per cent from $898 million to $1.5 billion.
Despite an ongoing dry period and many zero water allocation for general security holders, the value of rural land in Edward River increased 82 per cent from $375 million to $683 million, and Berrigan's rural land value jumped 58.8 per cent from $329 million to $523 million.
Greater Hume Council's director of corporate and community services David Smith said farm land had significantly increased in value across the shire, especially in the Mountain Creek area and the flat cropping land near Brocklesby.
"I know it looks pretty crook at the moment, but relatively speaking our farm land was still producing reasonably well when other areas were really, really bad," Mr Smith said.
"Under normal conditions it's a relatively reliable rainfall area, you're close to major markets, you've got two major highways, a rain line, it's close to major saleyards - all those sorts of things come into it. "Obviously farmland in this area is highly sought after at the moment and people are paying the money for it. It's certainly pushing the valuations up across the board."
The deputy valuer general's report found land in the northern corridor located between the Olympic and Hume highways, north of Culcairn-Holbrook Road, had increased in value by 85.6 per cent.
While land in the southern corridor, south of the Culcairn-Holbrook Road, had experienced a 93.3 per cent increase in value.
Reg Coulston of Albury Rural Elders said various areas and properties fetch very different prices so leveling an average across an entire shire can be unreliable.
"To put an actual percentage across the board is a bit dangerous but in reality we've seen some substantial increase in land values in prime agriculture land," he said. "Some top Billabong Creek country is making $5000 an acre, when five to ten years ago it would have been worth two."
Mr Coulston said they had a run of solid properties selling for higher than expected prices last year, with a trend towards Australian buyers.
He said rainfall and solid commodity prices were driving the market and historic low interest rates were making it easy for people to secure finance.
"Foreign investment currently, I wouldn't say its non-existent but certainly it's not as active [as previous years]," he said.
"There are a lot more farmer-to-farmer transactions, also wealthy individuals who have off-farm income like Sydney investors are buying and putting a manager on."
Areas to watch
The total value of land in Albury has increased by more than $300 million dollars, in three years, with residential land in South Albury and areas of Thurgoona experiencing huge growth.
The NSW Acting Deputy Valuer General, Paul Chudleigh, said since the last council valuation in 2016, the total land value in the Albury local government area increased from $3.9 billion to $4.2 billion.
While value of residential land in Albury has risen nine per cent from $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion.
The report said value of land in South Albury had increased 22 per cent since 2016 as the area experience "a resurgence as both developers, investors and owner occupiers [realise] the opportunity of the precincts location to the Albury CBD."
Stanley and Martin principal Scott Wilkie said land in South Albury was very closely held.
"It's a strong market, availability is always a bit limited," he said.
Albury mayor Kevin Mack said the overall growth in Albury land values is evidence of a strong, sustainable and growing economy.
The valuation report found Thurgoona remains the city's major growth corridor, with the value of undeveloped englobo land released in Thurgoona increasing 24.5 per cent since 2016, as developers look to purchase land for future sub-divisions.
Mr Wilkie said the value of industrial and residential land in Thurgoona had grown, but it was a difficult area to gauge reliable values, as prices could varied depending on whether builders and developers offer house-and-land packages.
"Over the past 12 months we've seen a price increase on englobo land where developers have been buying land for up to 50 per cent more than two years ago," he said.
Mr Wilkie said in the last two years all the old Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation land had sold, with the value of industrial land increasing on both side of the Border.
"We've seen potentially a 50 per cent increase in industrial land value," he said.
"That needed to happen because there was an oversupply with the old corporation land, and prices went down.
"Now there's limited land and the average square-metre rate is getting close to being double what it was."
Mr Wilkie said all current evidence points towards continued growth for Thurgoona, with about 3000 blocks planned for the latest land release, and funding approved for the Davey Road intersection which will allow a new growth corridor Thurgoona-Wrilinga.
The value of land zoned industrial and business also increased, however the report indicated there was a slight oversupply in rental space across the Border that would eventually be absorbed as the region grows.
"The significant commercial redevelopment underway in Wodonga increasing regional supply of lettable floor space for both retail and office requirements in addition to the growing online market will possibly slow rental growth initially," it said.
Ups and downs
The overall land value of Federation shire jumped from $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion from 2016 to 2019, with rural values buoyed by strong returns for livestock and commodities.
Residential land values increased 8.8 per cent from $569 million to $619 million since 2016, in part due to the demand for residential englobo parcels in Corowa and Howlong as developers look to future subdivisions. Residential land around Mulwala continues to benefit from tourism to Lake Mulwala.
In Greater Hume the value of residential value decreased 2.23 per cent from 2018 to 2019, but grew 16 per cent from $202 million in 2016 to $235 in 2019.
The report said the 2018-2019 increase reflected a quick increase in supply which exceeded the short-term demand.
Holbrook experienced an influx of available properties on the market due to the sale of re-mediated vacant land from NSW government's loosefill asbestos program, while the supply of land in Jindera increased through the through opening of new subdivision and stages expansion of existing estates.
Overall though, the southern part of the shire, especially Jindera, continues to see huge growth.
"The land values in the southern part have just been going up exponentially over the last 10 to 15 years," Mr Smith said.
Land values in Edwards River have increased by 54 per cent since 2016 with the total value now sitting at $968 million. Residential values actually decreased 0.15 per cent in 2018, but increased 12 per cent overall from 2016 to 2019.
The value of land in Berrigan shire has increased significantly since the previous local government valuation in 2016 from $573 million to $722 million in 2019.
Driven by the strength of the rural land value, which increased by close to $200 million, residential, commercial and industrial land values in Berrigan jumped by 21 to 25 per cent.
The valuation report stated despite ongoing dry and zero water allocation, there was a particularly strong demand for rural property driven in part by adjoining or nearby land owners looking to increase in scale and efficiency.
Increased value, increased rates?
Just because the value of a piece of land has increased, does not mean rates will increase at the same level.
Greater Hume's David Smith said rate rises were dependent on how much land value has increased in relation to comparable areas. He said this means some areas like Holbrook where overall residential values rose only by 1.5 per cent, could actually see a reduction in rates because comparable towns like Henty and Culcairn had value rises of about 30 per cent.
"It's not my valuation went up by 10 per cent, so therefore my rates will go up 10 per cent, it all comes down to how much your valuation went up compared to other people within your category," he said. Mr Smith said the amount of rates a council area can collect was also governed by the rate peg - meaning the pie has to stay a similar size.
He said despite the fact rural land in the shire experienced a huge increase in value, it was most properties would not see a huge increase in rural rates.
"We can only increase the overall yield by the rate peg amount, so if everyone went up, all it'll mean is we'll have to put our rate in the dollar down so we remain within the rate peg parameters," he said.
Federation general manager Adrian Butler said an increase in land value does not cause a corresponding increase in rates.
"The land value is used to apportion the amount of rates to be paid by individual property owners across the council area," he said. "Some ratepayers will pay more and some will pay less, depending on the change in the value of their property relative to changes in the value of other properties."