Data provided by Redfin shows that daily searches for rural properties were 125 percent higher during the first three weeks of March, with searches spiking by 364 percent over the previous year on March 7.
The president of a North Carolina real estate company specializing in rural land called Retreat Realty, John E. Haynes, told Reuters that the current outbreak has caused people to realize they should have invested in a “bugout property” a long time ago.
He’s seen a large uptick in business thanks to the outbreak, with sales of rural properties climbing significantly in recent weeks. He said many of those buying these properties had already been contemplating such a move for some time, and the virus prompted them to finally take the leap.
All this interest in rural areas is causing those already living in such places some concern, however. Places like Door County, Wisconsin, have issued advisories asking people with seasonal or second homes in the area to stay away. Half the county’s population is made up of elderly people, and they only have a small, 25-bed hospital.
Sixty percent of the properties and second homes there are owned by residents from out of state, many of whom are now headed to the area looking for safety. The county isn’t enforcing the advisory, and they say lots of people have been arriving there, exhausting resources in grocery stores.
Some areas are taking a stronger stance, like Dare County on North Carolina’s barrier islands. Visitors and non-resident property owners have been prohibited from entering to protect the community’s public health and safety.
Survival retreats and underground bunkers are also reporting big surges of interest. The survival community Fortitude Ranch, for example, has seen a tenfold rise in interest in joining the survival retreats they offer during the pandemic.
The company’s chief executive, Drew Miller, said that many people he’s heard from are concerned that if the virus mutates or the quarantines aren’t successful and the economy collapses, food distribution could be disrupted and law and order would break down.
While it’s true that viruses can spread more easily in densely populated areas, outbreaks in rural communities are on the rise in the U.S. Many hotspots are popping up in rural areas, especially in the south, and the numbers can be quite alarming when you adjust for population size. There are also higher death rates in some areas of Louisiana, Alabama, and northern Mississippi than we’re seeing in urban settings.
One big reason these areas are seeing so many problems is the fact that people are leaving cities to ride it out in rural areas and bringing the virus with them. There’s also the fact that the states that have been slow to adopt official social distancing policies could be putting their rural populations at risk and sending the public mixed messages in terms of how dangerous this disease really is. There’s also a strong sense of community in rural areas, where people often have big gatherings with family and friends.
As far as the elevated death rate in rural areas goes, these communities tend to see higher rates of many chronic health conditions as well as reduced access to medical resources. There tends to be more obesity, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking, which is a recipe for disaster when combined with poverty and less access to healthcare.
Whether you live in a big city or a rural area, it remains essential during this pandemic to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. It’s also a good idea to start learning some survival skills if you haven’t already – they just may prove useful sooner than you think!
Sources for this article include: