When the pandemic started, rural real estate brokers were worried.
“They had deals that were almost completed that were falling apart and the phones quit ringing,” said Charles Gilliland, research economist with the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. “So everyone was really concerned.”
But by the third quarter of 2020, the market flipped. The phones started ringing again, and people started snatching up parcels in the country. They haven’t stopped since, Gilliland said.
“It’s a tremendous boom that is continuing even as we speak,” he said.
Many of the deals are for tracts of land around 10 acres. In some parts of the state, sales for those smaller parcels are up between 70 and 80% over last year.
There are a few reasons why this is happening. Working from home due to the pandemic has allowed more workplace flexibility. Investors, driven by global instability, are increasingly interested in assets like land. And some people have found they prefer to experience the pandemic in a rural setting, rather than in a city or suburb.
“One of the things I thought was interesting was one of the brokers remarked to me that the question that he gets asked most frequently is, ‘How far is it to the nearest H-E-B?’,” Gilliland said. “Which is a different kind of buyer than he has been used to dealing with.”
It’s too early to know exactly how these buyers will affect their new communities, Gilliland said. But buying up smaller tracts of land could contribute to land fragmentation, and greater demand for infrastructure and municipal service upgrades.
The only part of the state left out of the rural land rush is far West Texas, where low oil prices have depressed deals.