Jan 132020
 

Farewell to my 310 acres of Saskatchewan farmland

Farmers and Wall St. bankers don’t have much in common. But something they both seem to enjoy is getting down and dirty with their hoes. 😉 Farming can be difficult. Some grain farmers barley scrape by. Luckily for me it’s a lot easier investing in farms than working on them. 🙂

Thank you so much everyone for following me on my 7 year farmland journey. I have received a lot of comments and support regarding this major investment. But all things must come to an end. As you may be aware, last year I put my farmland up for sale with a real estate agent. Well as of last week I have successfully sold my farmland. 🙂

I received my first offer after a few months of listing my land. The buyer and I negotiated and we ultimately settled on a price of $445,000. This is 5% below my initial asking price.

The advantage of getting out of an investment is being able to reflect on my decisions, and consider where I could have done better. In today’s post I’ll review my experiences of buying, managing, and selling the farmland.

Breaking down the numbers

I invested $40,000 of my personal savings, and leveraged up to buy $322,000 worth of farmland. It was basically a 12% downpayment that allowed me to greatly improve my returns by 8-fold. 😀

Farmland profitability 2013 to 2019: Let’s start by looking at the farm’s income statement over the years. In 2013 my operating costs were low because I only had a mortgage on one farm for most of the year. It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that I had closed on the second farm. I operated at a small loss in 2014 before turning a profit again in 2015.
Net operating profit: $10,000 

Let’s look at my capital gains next.

Capital gain = sold price – purchase price – transaction costs
Sold price: $445,000
Purchase price: $322,000 
Total commissions and other transaction fees: $26,000
Capital gain = $97,000
Cheese-n-rice! That’s the most money I’ve ever made buying and selling a single investment! This must be what affluent people feel like all the time. 😀 

Finally the return on investment can be determined using the following formula:

ROI = (Net gain from investment / Cost of investment ) x 100%
Net gain = $97,000 capital gain + $10,000 net operating profit
Cost of investment = $40,000

Return on Investment = 268% 

 

Wow. 268% ROI over 7 years works out to a 20% annualized return. 😀 Sweet sassy molassy! I feel simply elated! By comparison the TSX stock market index returned about 60% over the last 7 years, including reinvested dividends.

Here is a look at my farmland balance sheet over the holding period. $40,000 of cash savings was turned into $260,000 due to price appreciation and gradually paying down the farm loan.

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Nov 042019
 

I hope everyone had a good weekend. Many people turned back their clocks 1 hour marking the end of this year’s daylight saving time. But time wasn’t the only thing that fell back. Economic growth in the U.S. pulled back to just 1.9% for the 3rd quarter of 2019, lower than the previous 2 quarters. Last month I wrote about anticipating this GDP number, and warned that if it continues to fall (which it did) then we may be close to a U.S recession. The Canadian economy is also in trouble, managing to eke out a 0.1% gain in the latest month.

Yet somehow the U.S. stock market reached an all time high at the end of October. Senior citizens must be thrilled to see their retirement funds performing so well. 😀

So economic output is slowing down, but investors have never been more optimistic – pushing stocks to record highs. How does this happen? It’s basically the result of the U.S. Central Bank’s monetary policy. In late October the Fed lowered interest rates again, trying to stimulate the overall economy. However, all it did was push investors to buy stocks over bonds because bonds now pay lower interest/returns. But a higher company stock price doesn’t improve business hiring, productivity, or employee salaries. The average American worker doesn’t see any direct benefit from the Fed’s monetary stimulus. Only Wall St. does.

The result is a diverging economic reality between two worlds; the working class that’s just one paycheck away from financial ruin, and the investing class who continues to see growing asset prices. Over the last 10 years, the S&P 500 gave investors about 13% annualized return. So the fact is if someone put $1,000 into a low cost index fund in October 2009, then today he would have $3,400 – assuming he reinvested the dividends. Wow. And all this required zero effort on the investor’s part. Amazing. 🙂

So the lesson here is simple. Focus on investing your savings, and be patient. Investing is like cooking a juicy steak; the less you touch it the better. Working hard at a job can only get you so far. But the real secret to financial success is to leverage the Central Bank’s policies, and invest in a diversified portfolio to build wealth the easy way. 🙂

Although October was a good month for stocks, I had a major expense (property tax payment for my farms) that stifled my savings. In the end, I was able to grow my wealth by $8,300 for the month. Not bad, but I didn’t reach the $1 million net worth milestone I was aiming for. Oh well. Better luck in November. 🙂

 

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes: = $5,400

  • Part time job =$600
  • Freelance = $400
  • Dividends =$1200
  • Interest = $500
  • Farm rent = $2,700

*Discretionary Spending: = $3,700

  • Food = $300
  • Miscellaneous = $2,100
  • Interest expense = $1300

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Total Assets: = $1,384,500 (+7,000)
  • Cash = $9,100 (+300)
  • Canadian stocks = $195,100 (+2400)
  • U.S. stocks = $134,900 (+1400)
  • U.K. stocks = $21,900 (+500)
  • Retirement = $137,700 (+1900)
  • Mortgage Funds = $37,100 (+200)
  • P2P Lending = $36,700 (+300)
  • Home = $367,000 (assessed land value)
  • Farms = $445,000
  • Total Debts: = $385,100 (-1,300)
  • Mortgage = $186,100 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $162,400 (-500)
  • Margin Loans = $34,800 (-200)
  • Line of Credit = $1,800 (-200)

*Total Net Worth = $999,400 (+$8,300 / +0.8%)
All numbers are in $CDN at 0.76/USD

This will probably be the last year I pay property tax for my farmland. I have been in contact with a realtor in Saskatchewan, and have already instructed him to list both my farms for sale. 🙂

Agricultural land has not been immune to the wider real estate slow down across the country. But there does seem to be some interest in my farms so far. In terms of market pricing, my realtor says I can probably expect to sell my farmland for about $446,000 in 2019. That’s pretty close to the farmland value I’ve already been using to calculate my monthly net worth so I will stick with my existing number for now.

Farmland values have had a great run in Canada, but slowing economic growth, trade barriers, and changing local conditions suggest to me that it’s time to reduce my exposure to Canadian farmland.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

May 212019
 

Farmers are feeling the pain

Last year Canadian farmers couldn’t grow enough canola to satiate China’s appetite. About 40% of Canada’s canola exports go to China every year. In 2018 that worked out to about $3.8 billion. But it all changed this year after Canadian officials detained Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech company Huawei, due to an extradition request from the U.S. government.

In March, China started to ban shipments of Canadian canola on the grounds they’re plagued with pests, even though Canadian authorities say they’ve received no evidence to support that claim. Unfortunately the trade war and political shenanigans between the U.S. and China have affected households around the world, including Canadians. Our farmers in Saskatchewan are in trouble. They’re caught up in a global conflict between the two largest economies in the world, that has nothing to do with them. I canola imagine what they’re going through. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced financial aid for canola farmers. But it’s not a proper long term solution.

value of major exports from Canada to China

Major export products Canada shipped to China in 2018.

 

But canola isn’t the only export facing bans in China. Canadian peas and soybeans also have restrictions. And earlier this month, China suspended imports from two major Canadian pork producers over paperwork issues. According to the Canadian Pork Council the suspensions appear to stem from a labelling problem and are not tied to any political moves by China. But some people think that excuse is complete hogwash. 🙂 It’s ironic that China is currently experiencing a major pork shortage due to swine fever. The country could lose up to 200 million pigs to disease during the epidemic. To put that into perspective that’s about 3 times the pig population in the U.S. :0 And yet China still refuses to buy our pork. But that’s because China is so big, it can afford to cut off its snout to spite its face. It doesn’t need Canadian bacon because it can import it from other countries.

 

Farm prices rose modestly last year

The new farmland values have been published by Farm Credit Canada. It appears the average value of Canadian farmland increased 6.6% last year. That’s down from 8.4% in 2017 but at least it’s still going up. 🙂 Quebec had the highest increase, while Nova Scotia actually saw a decline.

It’s nice to prices continue to rise for farmland almost across the country. By contrast, Canada’s housing market fell about 5%  in 2018, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA.) But maybe farmland prices naturally lag the residential market? It would be interesting to how prices change in next year’s value report. 🙂

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Apr 132017
 

Farmland Update – Small Price Increase

Farm Credit Canada just released its annual Farmland Values Report which provides a yearly overview of provincial and national land values trends across the country. As usual, it is this time of the year that I adjust the value of my Saskatchewan farmland using the average change of this report and the inflation rate (CPI.)

Unfortunately farmland values in east-central and southeast Saskatchewan remained unchanged in 2016. This is where my plot of land is. The FCC report points to the oil and gas industry slowdown as the main reason for the lack of appreciation. However, other parts of Saskatchewan did see increases. 🙂

There was 0.00% increase in value to my farmland according to the report. The overall inflation rate in Canada was 1.43% in 2016. The average of these two numbers is 0.715%. Therefore I will be adding $3,000 to my farmland value from $433,000 to $436,000 in my April net worth update. 🙂

Ever since I started to invest in farmland, the FCC reported values is SK have always appreciated faster than CPI. This is the first year where the inflation rate has surpassed that of the annual FCC report.

Despite the stagnation in some parts of Saskatchewan, the overall appreciation in Canadian farmland was pretty good. Each province saw positive growth in aggregate, and the average increase across the country was 7.9% for 2016.

Luckily my farmland operation is profitable and I have a rental contract for the next 2 years so I am not too concerned that my farmland did not appreciate in 2016. I just hope it retains its value for the next 4 years, at which time I will probably sell it to free up capital for other, more liquid investments.

I bought my farmland in 2012. If I had to grow my own crops I would probably start with fruit farming. I think I would be berry good at that. 😀 But for now, I am happy just being a landlord.  My tenant always pays on time and the land’s value has gone up a lot so far.

But as we can see, the growth has been slowing since 2013. I believe the hay-day of farmland investing is behind us. Interest rates can’t go much lower than it already is. A weakening of the Canadian dollar and more foreign investments can spur a little more growth in the farmland market, but it’s not a guarantee.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Domino’s has over 8,000 stores across 82 countries, making it the 2nd largest pizza chain after Pizza Hut.

Oct 132016
 

Slow and Steady

A reader recently asked for a farmland update. So here’s the latest. I’m collecting $8,500 a year from my tenant who is growing canola on my 310 acres of farmland. He pays me twice a year, half the total amount in the spring and the other half in the fall. Here’s the latest cheque that I deposited into my bank account last week. This amount includes 5% GST.

16-10-farm-rent-final-2016

My farmland loan outstanding is about $193,000. The interest rate is 3.4%. Property tax was about $1,500 this year. No insurance or other cost is necessary for owning farmland. So my total expenses came to $8,100. I’m rounding these numbers to the nearest $100.

Thus I’m able to make a $400 profit on my farmland in 2016. Slowly but surely, the financials are improving each year. 🙂

16-10-farm-update-financials

I think farmland returns are starting to dry up in North America. Commodity prices still haven’t recovered. So unless crop receipts increase by a substantial amount it’s hard to see any reason for the underlying land to become more valuable. Maybe farmland will continue to keep pace with inflation for the foreseeable future so it’s still a good store of wealth, but I don’t see much more appreciation from here.

It’s too bad the Canadian prairies is so cold. Many plants like hemp can’t grow out there. Since marijuana will soon be legalized there will probably be a lot of new cannabis growers by this time next year. Not to be blunt, 😄 but this obviously creates opportunity for investors too. For example, last year I blogged about buying some shares in Canopy Growth Corp, a supplier of medicinal marijuana. So far the stock has doubled in price! Not bad. 😀

Free eBook Download

Maybe I just got lucky with that marijuana stock. You shouldn’t get your investment advice from an amateur finance blog anyway. 😉 But my acquaintance David Chilton, who runs his own financial planning business is more than qualified to offer quality advice. I use the term “acquaintance” loosely because we’ve only corresponded by email a couple of times. 😛 Anyway, he’s teamed up with Tangerine bank to give away the eBook edition of his latest work, The Wealthy Barber Returns. 

16-10-wealthy-barber-returns

If you’re interested, just go to this Tangerine page and use one of the download links on the right. I’ve read the paperback before and recommend it for anyone who likes personal finance. The book covers a lot of core investing topics like index funds and the stock market. You can download it to your computer, or mobile device. It also supports the Kindle App. Enjoy! 😀

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