Plantations swamp South Carolina market

Monday, March 12, 2012. Ivan Radford @themovechannel

Plantations are swamping the South Carolina property market. The pieces of land, steeped in America's history, rarely go up for sale, but the state now has eight separate plantations all listed on the market, just as farmland values skyrocket around the world.

Plantations for sale in South Carolina

Photo credit: Kay Gaensler

Plantations are swamping the South Carolina property market. The pieces of land, which conjure up images of forests, crops and slavery, are steeped in America's past. Owned by families for decades - or even centuries - they rarely go up for sale, but the times are a-changing: the state now has eight separate plantations all listed on the market, ranging in price from $3 million to $20 million.

Spanning up to 7,000 acres, the historical patches of land have maintenance costs to rival the hefty price tags. It may deter some investors in the current economic climate. Indeed, plantation owner Max Hill, according to Charleston's Post and Courier, put his land up for auction a few years ago but failed to find an interested buyer. And yet the financial crash is partly what has prompted the sale of the land in the first place.

One plantation is reported to have been the home of Michael Obama's great-great-grandfather by locals, while others date as far back as 1704. With many owners unable to afford to run the plantations, an injection of wealth from a foreign investor can keep history alive for another generation.

"The people who want them truly value land for its own sake," Hill told Reuters.

One of South Carolina's plantations was reportedly home to Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather.
Photo credit: Kay Gaensler

Indeed, farmland is already being hailed as the big boomer of 2012. Illinois has seen values soar in recent years, selling for $3,200 per acre in 2009 and now fetching up to $5,000 per acre. The UK has seen a similar surge, with the RICS Rural Land Market Survey showing a rise in per acre prices to £6,514.

Investors keen to stash funds in a secure slice of real estate and help fund a food supply to a growing population are turning to places as wide-ranging as the Yorkshire Dales and Uruguay for options. As one realtor explains to Medill, "It's not like a stock. It will be there tomorrow."

Following the listing of the American plantations, another ancestral piece of real estate was put up for sale in Scotland last week, boasting ties to William Wallace and 13th Century battles. But as agriculture values around the globe climb to record highs, it's not just in Scotland and South Carolina that buyers can own a share of history.

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