Spring has been slow to start this year.
Farmers have been busy and now it’s time for the traditional rush of properties coming to market in time for the Royal Highland Show.
This has spurred land agents and solicitors into their own preparations.
Much has been heard about the state of flux that Scottish agriculture finds itself in.
The effects of land reform and CAP reform have been compounded by additional concerns over the possible Brexit from the EU.
Such widespread change means it is anticipated that more land will come to the open market this year, allowing retirees to take advantage of relatively high land prices.
Farmers are a resilient and optimistic bunch and while there are those who will choose to “go public” and proceed with a sale on the open market, there are others who may simply take stock of their situation and think carefully about how to increase profitability of their unit by either expanding or, in some cases, contracting or diversifying.
In any of these situations what will put the exiting land owner, aspiring entrant or expanding farmer in a stronger position is to take professional advice early and to thoroughly investigate their circumstances before making any decisions.
In all cases, a careful review of the business’s position will have to be made based on the needs of all individuals involved in succession planning.
For many it may mean hard decisions. Working effectively with financial and legal advisers will be key to successful outcomes.
There have been more than a dozen acts directly related to land reform since the introduction of the Scottish Parliament.
These have included community empowerment, rights to roam, tenant and community rights to buy as well as the most recent changes to the system of land registration.
This all means that proper preparation for sale or purchase of land has never been as important as now.
The introduction of the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012 has served to reiterate that full and detailed preparation of a title in advance for sale of a property is of huge benefit.
The need for suitably qualified rural land agents and solicitors to work together with the owner can be paramount to the smooth sale of the property.
If undertaking a purchase of land either on or off the open market, the complexities of the contract for the purchase of the rural property can mean that without proper preparation and advice deals can be protracted and sometimes jeopardised altogether.
The complexities of sale and purchase have been intensified by the recent changes to the entitlement system and also tenancy and land registration reform.
With banks often being the source of funds in a purchase it is also worth noting that it is not simply up to the seller or purchaser to agree what is reasonable in a contract.
There are strict bank-enforced criteria for lending in relation to the validity of the title to the property and satisfaction of all other regulations relating to the property.
This includes everything from Sepa regulation to local authority consents where a house or houses may be included.
A recent change has also been to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, with new provisions relating to an additional dwelling supplement being payable on dwellings not forming the main residence of the purchaser.
In the case of farms where more than one dwelling is included in the sale then this cost will be an additional consideration for the purchaser when budgeting for the purchase.
Again the legislation is new and complex and specialist legal advice should be sought.
There is no doubt that change is upon us and there will be winners and losers.
It will be interesting to see how full the farming pages are this year in the traditional show frenzy.
Linda Tinson is director of rural business at Ledingham Chalmers.