Buyers are eyeing small towns — even as interest in big cities rises

Pageviews of Redfin home listings in small towns jumped 105 percent year-over-year, while pageviews of homes in urban metros increased by 16 percent.

Pageviews of Redfin home listings in small towns jumped 105 percent year-over-year during the week ending May 1, an acceleration from the 85 percent surge in views that occurred during the week ending April 1, according to new data from Redfin.

Pageviews of homes in rural counties with fewer than 10,000 people also rose by 76 percent during this period. Comparatively, homes in urban metro areas of at least 1 million people or more saw a 16 percent increase in pageviews during the same week, a reversal from the 13 percent decline urban listings saw the previous month, according to a recent Redfin blog post.

As one example, this home in Sheridan, Illinois, a small village 67 miles southwest of Chicago, was one of the most-viewed listings on Redfin during the month of April. (Granted, the home’s unique hobbit hole-like underground construction likely added to its garnered attention.)

Taylor Marr | Redfin

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

However, buying a home in a more rural area is not just a pipe dream for some.

Although pending home sales have dropped overall, they haven’t been impacted as significantly in less-populous areas.

Lily Katz | Redfin

“Pending sales plummeted 39 percent in urban metro areas during the week ending May 1, compared with a drop of around just 25 percent in both small towns and rural areas,” Lily Katz, Redfin data journalist and the study’s author, wrote. “That gap is wider than the one we saw during the week ending April 1, when urban metro areas had experienced a 28 percent decline in pending sales, compared with a decrease of 20 percent in rural areas.”

Although pending sales declined 35 percent during the week ending May 1 compared to the same week the previous year, that number has risen from the 41.7 percent decline pending sales saw at their lowest point in mid-April.

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