J. Durham Reports Strong Interest in Farmland Sales

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Sales activity is up at at J. Durham & Associates, a full-service auction company specializing in farmland and equipment, industrial property and equipment, commercial property and other real estate, driven mostly by farmland sales.  Sales of commercial property, timberland and hunting property remain depressed.

"Commercial properties are moving slowly and the housing market is dead.  I don't see any change until after the election," Durham said.

"Who would want to open a business right now?  There's nothing to entice people to open or expand a business.  After the election, people will begin to make decisions and figure out what they need to do to survive."

According to Durham, credit will have to become more available if the economy is to grow.  Buyers continue to have a hard time getting qualified, which limits investment in real estate, equipment and other property.

Based in Albany, J. Durham & Associates is a full service real estate auction, sales and marketing brokerage firm that has been in business for 30 years.  Through its network of contacts, the firm is able to market properties nationwide, attracting multiple, qualified buyers.  The firm can provide the auctioneers, salesmen to solicit bids, clerks, cashiers and everything else needed for a successful professional auction.  J. Durham has enjoyed a closing ratio of 94 percent over the last 30 years, which it attributes to its attention to detail and team approach.

"The biggest misconception about the auction business is that it is mostly forced sales or foreclosures.  In reality, we market properties by auction.  I'd say 99 percent of our properties are sold for top dollar," Durham said.

Commodity Prices Driving Farmland Sales
Farmland is the one bright spot in the real estate markets served by J. Durham and Associates.  High commodity prices are driving greater interest in cropland sales, especially irrigated land. However, continued growth is contingent on getting a good farm bill out of Congress, according to company President Joe Durham.

"The new farm bill is crucial.  Right now farmers are doing well and bidding is up on farmland.  The interest is there but a bad bill could drive that away," Durham said.

Given the status of negotiations when Congress left for its August break, Durham finds it difficult to assess the prospects of getting a good bill.  "When they get it down from 4,000 pages to 300 pages, then most people will be able to understand it and what it will mean to farmers."

State of the Auction
While auctions have been held for many years, the number of auctions in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the past decade.  The Internet has fueled an entirely new segment of the auction industry, most notably with the success of eBay.  The Internet has also impacted business at more traditional auction companies like J. Durham.

"We added Internet auctions a few years ago and now offer live simulcast auctions, which include online bidding as well as in-person," Durham said.

Among other twists on the traditional auction business are the partnerships between J. Durham and local real estate brokers.  The firm consults with brokers on stale listings to develop a marketing plan for the property and negotiate a split commission.  These types of partnerships represent about 20 percent of J. Durham's business.

"We encourage brokers to call with stale listings.  Moving these types of properties can definitely have a positive impact on the local real estate market," Durham said.

Building a Stronger Community
J. Durham is very involved in the Albany community, providing resources for auction fundraisers for a number of organizations.  The most important priority for local elected officials and community leaders, according to Durham, should be improving the public K-12 education system.  

"We have too many kids on the street.  We need to find a way to motivate them to stay in school and get an education.  That's the only way we can build a competitive work force," he said.

At the same time, he would like to see federal, state and local government work to increase the supply of adequate housing.  More direct and transparent assistance to developers of low-income housing is one possible avenue.

"People are still living in non-adequate housing.  We're just not doing enough," Durham said.

More information on J. Durham & Associates is available at www.jdurhamauctions.com.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.