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Country Homes: Coronavirus Prompts Huge Spike in Rural Property Clicks

The East Mile High Ranch near Sierra Blanca was marketed in 2019. It is an hour’s drive from El Paso.

HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – Folks may be taking the road less traveled to plant roots in rural America, far from the urban crowds that ramp up the coronavirus infection quotient.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, homes in the country are attracting a huge amount of interest from would-be home buyers looking at property listings online, according to statistics compiled by real estate brokerage firm Redfin.

Redfin says online page views for homes in small towns surged 105 percent year-over-year for the seven-day period ending May 1, 2020, an acceleration from the 85 percent year-over-year spike that occurred during the week ending April 1, 2020.

Based on Redfin’s recent findings, a remote home in the woods of a tiny Illinois village 67 miles southwest of Chicago was one of the most-viewed listings on Redfin.com in April. Complete with a wood-burning stove and a natural spring running through it, the property was just one example of an emerging migration trend amid the coronavirus outbreak: the shift toward small towns, says the report.

“Americans are shopping for homes in small towns—those with populations of less than 50,000—at an exceptionally higher rate than they were last year and even last month, far eclipsing the modest recovery occurring in cities as the coronavirus pandemic drags on,” the study notes. “And while sales have slowed everywhere, they haven’t suffered quite as much in small-town America—at least not yet.”

“During the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in rural areas skyrocketed while queries about homes in cities fell, with many urbanites dreaming of packing up and heading for the hills,” said Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr.

“Some of that boost in rural areas proved to be temporary, but it appears to be more sustainable in small towns, which may be a more realistic option for those looking to work from home primarily or commute into the office once or twice a week.”

Meanwhile, Marr noted, homes in urban metro areas with at least 1 million people saw a 16 percent increase in inquiries from would-be buyers the week ending May 1, 2020. “That marks a reversal from the 13 percent decline Redfin saw a month prior, but still represents a much slower increase than small towns and rural areas are experiencing.

The move to sylvan surroundings shows up in actual sales around the nation, says Redfin. “While pending homes sales are down across the board, less-populous regions aren’t being hit quite as hard as large cities. Pending sales plummeted 39% in urban metro areas during the week ending May 1 compared with a drop of around 25% in small towns.

The Redfin report doesn’t break down the figures for any specific communities. However, it does offer some data about various Houston neighborhoods and which might come under the microscope of those opting for a small town existence.

It takes a bit of driving to find a rural feel for anyone departing from the Greater Houston area, which has  a population of more than 7 million.

“Houston is a sprawling city covering roughly 600 square miles with 2,112,810 residents,” says the report. It is largely a car-dependent city, but not all neighborhoods in Houston require an automobile. Seven miles of tunnels and skywalks connect buildings in downtown, offering pedestrians protection from extreme weather. And there’s the METRO rail from downtown to the Texas Medical Center.

The brokerage report says a couple of neighborhoods are “very walkable” – Montrose and the Museum District among them.

National home sales update: While cities and remote areas are dealing with different levels of fallout fueled by the presence of coronavirus, sales overall are beginning to show signs of recovery. A total of 40,952 homes were under contract to be sold nationwide during the week ending May 1, a 35 percent decrease from the same period in 2019. That’s an improvement from the 41.7 percent drop that occurred when pending sales dropped into the cellar in mid-April.

May 20, 2020 Realty News Report Copyright 2020

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