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Small Towns Drawing Big Interest Even as Urban Demand Reignites

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Small Towns Drawing Big Interest Even as Urban Demand Reignites


May 15, 2020
Small midwest town at sunset
By Leigh Trail

Americans are now looking for small towns for more than just their charmthey’re looking for escape. Pageviews of homes in small towns with populations of 50,000 or less rose 105 percent year-over-year during the week ended April 1, according to Redfin. The real estate company says this interest is far more than it was last year or even just before the coronavirus began to really wreak havoc in the U.S. And the demand is not just wishful thinking. Though pending sales are down across the board, small towns have suffered the smallest drop in sales, down 28 percent for the week ending May 1 compared to last year. Meanwhile, while better than prior weeks' performances, urban areas faced an average 39 percent decline.

A remote home in the woods in 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 the property, the house is reminiscent of the Shire in “The Lord of the Rings.” It may be just one example of an emerging migration trend amid the coronavirus outbreak: the shift toward small towns.

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. And while sales have slowed everywhere, they haven’t suffered quite as much in small-town America—at least not yet.

Pageviews of homes in small towns surged 105% year over year during the seven-day period ending May 1, an acceleration from the 85% gain that occurred during the week ending April 1. In rural counties with fewer than 10,000 people, views climbed 76%, a sizable increase from the prior year but a deceleration from the 170% rise a month before.

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