Farm sales fell 21 per cent in the December quarter from a year earlier, although prices held up as increasingly expensive horticulture properties offset cheaper dairy farms, according to the Real Estate Institute.

Overall, 394 farms were sold in the three months ended December 31 from 499 farms in the same period a year earlier. Some 1,565 farms were sold in calendar 2017, down 10 per cent on the year.

Ten of 14 regions recorded declines in the number of farm sales for December quarter, with Otago posting the most substantial drop, with 27 fewer sales, followed by Northland, which had 25 fewer sales.

"Sales figures for the three months ending December 2017 are very much a reflection of the two key factors that impact on the rural sector – weather and prices," said Reinz rural spokesman Brian Peacocke.

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"The extraordinarily cold, wet early spring pitched straight into arid conditions which pushed some regions close to declarations of drought pre-Christmas."

While the number of sales slipped, prices continued to hold up, in particular for horticulture farms. The median price per hectare for all farms sold lifted 5.4 per cent to $29,266 in the December quarter from the same period a year earlier. The median sales price per hectare for a dairy farm was $40,484 from $46,397 in the same period a year earlier, a decline of 13 per cent.

Some dairy farms are even going for less. Bayley's is inviting offers of more than $21,000 a hectare for a 438-hectare farm 25 minutes inland of Greymouth, including 616,173 Westland Milk Products shares.

Bayley's saleswoman Shari Ferguson said "five years ago, good-quality West Coast dairy farms were selling for between $28,000 and $30,000 a hectare. While some vendors still want those prices, buyers have backed off, which is why this farm in the Grey Valley is priced to meet the market."

Horticulture farms, however, saw a median price per hectare lift 30 per cent on the year to $242,988.

Regarding farm types, grazing farms accounted for the largest number of sales with a 28 per cent share of all sales over the December quarter, finishing farms accounted for 25 per cent, dairy properties accounted for 20 percent, and horticulture properties accounted for 15 per cent of all sales. These four property types accounted for 88 per cent of all sales during the three months ended December 31 2017.

Meanwhile, the Reinz all farm price index rose 3.3 per cent in the three months through December 2017 compared to the three months to November 2017, and was up 8.1 per cent from a year earlier. The index adjusts for differences in farm size, location and farming type, unlike the median price per hectare, which does not adjust for these factors.