IT was standing room only last Wednesday when about 150 people packed into the Grass Patch Hall to witness the auction of the Andrews' property, Char-Leay.
Elders Real Estate senior rural real estate executive and auctioneer Simon Cheetham commenced proceedings calling for opening bids on the first parcel offered, and despite some early hesitations from the crowd, bidding was steady until reaching $8 million for the first parcel and $1.375m for the second smaller parcel, both selling under the hammer to the same buyer.
The successful bidders were neighbours Michael and Heather Schutz, who secured both parcels for $9.375m.
Independent mapping showed there to be 982 arable hectares, which equates to a sale price of $9546 per arable hectare or $3863 per arable acre.
Buyer Mr Schutz appreciated the productivity of the country and mentioned that even at these new levels the land was still cheaper than the equivalent in the Eastern States.
Elders Real Estate rural sales specialist Rob Johnstone said the exceptionally high result was due to a lot of "bullish cashed up farmers", with very limited sellers in the region.
"What we're seeing right through the Esperance area is that huge wealth has been generated and there's a lot of confidence in agriculture," Mr Johnstone said.
The Esperance region has just come off its "biggest harvest ever", according to Mr Johnstone, with good rain during harvest - so there is already moisture in the soils set up for next year.
"The Esperance agricultural region is now one of the most reliable areas for getting its average annual rainfall," he said.
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"Grass Patch is north of the really prime cropping country, but they've had about five good years in a row."
Due to the Esperance region being tightly held, the Elders Real Estate team decided to go to auction to let the potential buyers in the room determine what the property was worth.
Mr Johnstone said the marketing of the property attracted very strong interest from local buyers since going onto the market, with more than 15 registered bidders on auction day.
Mr Johnstone opened proceedings by giving a brief summary of George and Winnifred Andrews' 60 years at Grass Patch - reflecting on the passion, belief and determination required to survive the challenges faced in developing new land in the early 1960s.
Those challenges paid off as the Esperance agricultural region is now recognised as one of the most reliable in Australia.
George and Winnifred Andrews were unable to attend the auction, but were well represented by their five adult children - Warren, Mark, Blake, Glen and Marnie.
Mr Cheetham said an auction remained a "highly effective and transparent method of sale in the current market" and he was pleased that such a strong result was achieved for the family, and wished the buyers all the best with their new acquisition.
"It was interesting how many people at the auction said it was their first land auction they had attended, with the feedback on the day being overwhelmingly positive," Mr Cheetham said.
With limited recent sales in the immediate area, many of the auction attendees were eager to get a better understanding on the state of the property market.
Many also indicated the eventual sale price far exceeded their expectations.
The auction also provided an excellent opportunity for the Grass Patch community to get together socially and acknowledge the contribution of the Andrews family to the district.
Char-Leay has been farmed conservatively as a stock and cropping enterprise, providing the new owners the opportunity to move the property to the next level.
Char-Leay is conveniently located on the western edge of the Grass Patch townsite and is only two kilometres from the Grass Patch CBH receival.
The property has a mix of duplex soils well suited to cereals, canola and legumes.
The average annual rainfall is about 350 millimetres.
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