Data’s Role in Farmland Appraisals

When determining the value of farmland, appraisers turn towards three main methods: income-approach, cost-approach and market-approach. All three utilize multiple layers of current and up-to-date data, which assists  the appraiser in making the most accurate estimate of value. The more data available creates an added layer of confidence in the accuracy of the determined value. Generally, this data is spread across multiple sources - county assessor websites, government sources, broker pages, appraisal websites, etc. FarmlandFinder streamlines this process.. 


Using FarmlandFinder for an Appraisal

Students at Iowa State University have the opportunity to take the course Econ 364: Rural Property Appraisal. Under the instruction of Dr. Wendong Zhang, the class studies the methodology used during the appraisal process of farmland, rural and agriculture buildings, livestock facilities and more. During the semester, students complete a hands-on project in which they pick a parcel of land, sometimes coming from their home farm, and create a 30-50 page appraisal report on the cropland as if they were an appraiser. When Dr. Zhang heard that FarmlandFinder was started by an ISU alum, he was excited to see how the product could be implemented to help his students in the educational setting. Since 2017, students have had the ability to utilize FarmlandFinder in the research process of gathering information to support their appraisal claims.  


During their class appraisal project, students use FarmlandFinder as a data source in 3 ways: 


1) Gather information about their subject property

2) Identify comparable sales with additional data 

3) See recent & historical farmland price trends


Information Spread Across Multiple Platforms

“Different counties have their assessor websites completely configured differently. So their formats look very different and the information shared is not usually user-friendly, especially when you are trying to find market prices, not just to figure out what the tax burden,” said Wendong. Many appraisal sites don’t carry all the same information and it can be difficult to get a similar set of data for all parcels being compared. “A quarter of the students in the course are from out of the state of Iowa, so a lot of the data sets that I know for Iowa don’t really apply to them. FarmlandFinder offers a way if they want to find farmland sales in Illinois or Indiana, which is very useful... The students find FarmlandFinder much easier to use and navigate compared to others.”

“FarmlandFinder was my preferred tool to gather information because it is simple to use, provides accurate data, and is updated frequently. I had access to everything I needed in one centralized, user-friendly location and was able to download what I needed to look back on later,” said Brianna Gorham, an ISU junior who took the course in the Spring of 2020. 


Students often used the FarmlandFinder tools l to not only gather information on their parcel into one place, but also have similar data for comparable sales in the area. Being able to download the PDF reports gave students the option to easily return to the data they had gathered and closely compare points like soil mapping, percent tillable, CSR2, size, location, crop and sale history, and distance from the subject. “The full property reports had all the information I needed in one place that I could easily download and refer back to,” said Gorham. Students were also able to take mappings and charts from the property reports and insert them into their papers to use in support of their claim, giving them a similar, professional layout for all parcel data.


Common Challenges

  • Hard to find data across multiple sources from different states
  • Difficult to find same data on all parcels being studied
  • No way to save information for later


How FarmlandFinder Helps

  • Bring 12 states worth of data into one centralized location
  • Provide exact information and analysis on each parcel of land
  • Property Reports Tool allows for downloadable PDFs

"FarmlandFinder is very user friendly and my students found it useful to find comparable sales and do research on properties."

 – Dr. Wendong Zhang, Department of Economics at Iowa State University


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