An "underlying fear of an international food shortage" is spurring interest in American farmland among U.S. and foreign investors, maintains Hudson, N.Y., real estate broker Irving Price.

"It's not a matter of tax advantages or cash flow," he said in a recent interview. "Rather it's because big money is available and there is confidence in the land as a stable investment.

A lecturer, consultant and writer who heads a 140-person firm, Price was here on a promotion tour for his new book, How to Get Top Dollar for Your Home in Good Times or Bad (Times Books, New York City, $9.95). But he never mentioned it.

Instead, he preferred to talk about farms -- he was raised on one near Hudson. He contends that the new international interest in purchasing American farms -- generally those from 100 to 200 acres -- is a "salvation for the small farmer who wants to sell."

Price sees a trend to larger farms, more experimental farming and a big move to raising corn, because it's the base for the production of gasohol. Feed and fertilizer are valuable by-products, he noted.

Price said the most sought-after farms are within 50 or 100 miles of a big city, have 60 to 70 percent of their land cleared, have a mile or two of public road frontage and are near water. "And the house does not have to be a mansion -- just adequate with some good living quarters for employes," he added. "The estate with a Taj Mahal house is at the bottom of the list."

Many purchasers are willing to permit former owners to stay put for 10 to 15 years or more, Price said. "The foreign buyer has cheap dollars and wants a stable investment because of fears about security in other countries.

On other topics, Price sees:

A declining demand for extra-large houses.

A revival of the center cities, with a "u-turn in the 1980s from conventional suburban homes of the other post-war decades to the condo box.

"I know one woman who bought five condo apartments right here in Washington," he added. "They were priced at about $175,000 and she expects to double her investment in five years."

But in the 1990s, Price predicts that there will be renewed interest in suburban houses -- when today's young career women decide to have children.

The increased demand for housing spurred by new household formations in the 1980s will suggest zoning changes to enable owners of close-in large houses to remain there while converting some of the space to one or more studio apartments, Price said.

In his new book, Price assumes that house sales have fallen on hard times and that it behooves sellers to do all the right things -- 100 of which are listed -- to make their property sell.