Farms in BC: A family business grounded in agriculture
Brothers Nav and Taj Sekhon have been actively involved in blueberry farming since they were young children, learning the profession alongside their father Himmat and their uncles and cousins.
The brothers play more of a management role now for the Sekhon farms in Surrey. But blueberry farming is not the only successful business in which Nav and Taj are involved. They followed their father’s lead when he procured his real estate license in the 1990s, and they learned about the business by first helping him with paperwork and tech support.
In 1990, Himmat began selling residential, agriculture and commercial properties. When he realized there was a niche market for agriculture, he changed his focus to specialize in agriculture real estate sales and decided that was the route he wanted to take to grow his business.
Being an active farmer, he was able to provide a true full-service experience for his clients by helping them not only with the real estate transaction, but also supporting them in their farming dreams.
Their father is Nav and Taj’s biggest inspiration. “He came from India with nothing and we saw how he and his brothers worked together to build their dreams with all the hardships they faced along the way,” says Nav. “And we are inspired by knowing that we can make a difference in the agricultural community and bring happiness to our clients when their plans become a reality.”
Nav started in 2007 with Sutton Medallion. In his early career Nav’s focus was more on residential sales, but he always had a passion to specialize in agriculture real estate sales. In 2010 Nav had an opportunity to join BC Farm and Ranch Realty, a company dedicated 100% to agriculture real estate.
Shortly after, Himmat joined the company. With Himmat’s knowledge and experience and Nav’s vision of newer real estate techniques and marketing strategies, business really started picking up.
Taj came on board about a year later. By combining their skill sets they began actively growing the real estate business.
Their goal was to become a leader in agriculture real estate sales, and in 2012 Nav and Taj launched Farms in BC with their father. They now have access to offices in Abbotsford and Surrey to offer their unique services to the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver.
“We have always had a family approach to our businesses and we thrive off the family-oriented atmosphere at our work place,” says Taj.
Farms in BC is recognized in the top 10% of realtors in the Fraser Valley by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and employs three full-time realtors, a marketing coordinator, an administrative assistant, and an office administrator. They integrate the latest technologies and marketing strategies, and review their processes regularly.
“When someone works with us, they get the benefit of the entire expert team behind them,” says Nav.
Buying Farm Properties
Farms in BC provides buyers with resources including industry contacts who can help them prep the land for various crops and put land back in production—and the team can then put farmers in touch with consultants to maintain crops and livestock, and buyers for their product.
They also help buyers make connections with municipalities and various departments to go over the details they may overlook, and help them work with agricultural committees dedicated to preserving and protecting agriculture land.
Nav, Taj, and Himmat guide their buyers through property inspections and make them aware of any red flags. And the Sekhons’ relationships with various lending institutions allow them to put buyers in contact with specialists who can help finance property purchases.
Agriculture real estate is a niche market with a lack of inventory and the team at Farms in BC can help buyers prospect properties that meet their criteria using resources available to them.
“We often know of properties not on the market,” Nav reveals.
Selling Farm Properties
For sellers, the brothers stress the importance of speaking with an accountant prior to listing or selling farm property. Sellers should understand capital gains and whether they are eligible for any exemptions.
Find out if there are any charges or liens that affect the title of the property and clean up the land and try to declutter as much as possible, they advise.
Detailed information regarding upgrades, rental or lease agreements, survey certificates, financial statements (if operated as a business), and a breakdown of equipment and appliances included with the property should be gathered.
The demand for land from highest to lowest is house and acreage, hobby farms, recreational farm properties; then outdoor ground crops, vegetable and berry farms; and lastly the more commercial farms like mushroom facilities, nurseries, greenhouse operations, poultry, and dairy.
Agriculture Real Estate Trends
“We’ve seen the highest increase in real estate prices in 2015 and 2016 in general and a big increase in land and agriculture prices for farms that are less than 20 acres. Most farms over 20 acres increased slightly but this was due to low inventory on the market place and more buyers wanting to purchase farm land as part of their investment portfolio,” Nav explains.
For the last quarter of 2016 the Sekhons have seen more inventory come on the market and prices come down slightly but not considerably. They feel that more inventory will start selling in the spring of 2017, but they also anticipate more inventory to come on the market. They feel prices will hold throughout the first half of 2017, but with ag land being limited in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver, and with the high demand for it, prices will more likely increase like they have historically over the years.
Agriculture real estate is the cheapest land that can be bought in any city compared to residential, commercial, and industrial, and the Sekhons have seen a lot of clients buy agriculture land for hold and lease out the land to farmers.
According to the Fraser Valley Regional District Agricultural Land Use Inventory, around 75% of land in the ALR is farmed or used for farming operations.
Nav believes this number will keep increasing. “With a limited supply of agricultural land there will be more land cleaned up and put into some agricultural production,” says Nav.
The Farms in BC team follow the agricultural industry very closely each day, but most importantly they complete a review of the market three times per year for the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver regions, broken down by each municipality. This market review is available to all farmers who register with them and is a useful tool to follow the market trends for farm sales in their region.
When asked which strategies work best for them, Nav and Taj agree the best approach has always been honesty and loyalty to their clients.
“We keep clients up to date with the market and market conditions and guide them to make the right decision before buying or selling a property,” Taj says.
The Sekhons are always looking for innovative ways to keep up with and integrate the latest technologies to provide clients quick access to detailed information and make sure their properties have the most exposure on the market. Because each farm is different in its own way, they highlight each in as much detail as possible. Using tools such as aerial and ground videography and photography allows buyers to view and zone in on properties suitable for them.
Social media allows Nav and Taj to reach a broader audience effectively. Farms in BC utilizes all outlets of social media within their marketing strategies and has a strong presence within the agriculture industry. They also market extensively through www.farmsinbc.com and www.bcfarmandranch.com.
“The agricultural industry is a very important field,” Nav points out. “We, as a community, need and rely on agriculture to provide for our families.”
Whether they are working on the farm or in the real estate office, the Sekhons strive to be part of the community and to be advocates too. Watching their buyers put agriculture land into production is the greatest satisfaction.
The team at Farms in BC is thankful to the community for being supportive over the years. Their goal is to provide the best possible service for their buyers and sellers. They will continue to focus on agricultural real estate sales and are always available to provide honest, reliable advice to their clients.
“Everything we do in the business world is for the family—there’s no way any of us could have done this as individuals. That’s why we continue to work together. We want to grow as a family and move forward as a family,” Nav concludes.
CONTACT Nav, Taj or Himmat