Landowners benefit from land-for-rent websites

More interest, higher price | Auction websites list land for rent, soil and cropping information and wait for bids to come in

The bigger Canadian farms get, the wider the search for additional farmland becomes.

The proprietors of two web-based land rental services say thousands of Canadian farmers are willing to take that search online.

“The largest increase in traffic I’ve had is from people who’ve had land passed to them and they’re not actively farming anymore,” said Lyndon Lisitza, who operates a Saskatchewan-based service, Renterra, which claimed top prize at the University of Saskatchewan Tech Venture Challenge in 2012.

Landowners listing farmland for rent run the gamut from retired farmers to non-farming young people who grew up on the land to companies that have invested in farmland.

The dollar per acre value of that land, as well as who is available to rent it, isn’t always obvious to them.

“It’s not something you can just pull out of a hat and say your land is located here so this is the answer, so we knew that we wanted a system that would answer that question for landowners,” said Shannon Veurink, one of the minds behind Renthisland.com, a web-based service founded in Ontario.

Lisitza agreed.

“Everyone has an opportunity and is completely fully aware that they could potentially rent something,” said Lisitza.

“Ultimately, what you’re getting from this is a market solution. The market is determining what the value of something is and I think that’s a very fair way of conducting a transaction.”

Renterra is an online auction system where owners can list farmland, as well as soil and cropping history information, and receive dollar per acre bids that will lead to a physical contract. Cash rental agreements are the most common.

Lisitza said 111 western Canadian auctions have been completed through the website, which was launched in late 2012. Rental agreements vary from small parcels of land to larger pieces spanning several quarter sections.

Lisitza said most farmers using the website are younger than 45 and run operations from 1,500 acres to more than 25,000 acres.

“A lot of these guys are actively and aggressively searching for new land,” he said.

Lisitza said 2,000 farmers are registered with the website.

Veurink said Rentthisland.com has 1,000 farmers registered in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“I know in Ontario for sure if you put a decent quality piece of land for rent on Kijiji, landowners tell us they’re getting 50, 60 calls within the first 24 hours and it can be kind of a pressure cooker,” said Veurink.

“Farmers want the land, so they’re encouraging them, forcefully somewhat, to make a decision before they’ve really had a chance to field offers from everyone else. What (the site) does is it hits the pause button for both parties. It gives the farmers a chance to get their offer in and it gives the landowners a chance to have breathing space while offers come in without the social pressure in your face or at your door.”

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