After Pandemic, Will People Flee Cities?

Real estate brokerage firm Redfin reported this week that people are increasingly searching for homes in rural areas and small towns on its website amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the week ending March 23, page views on Redfin were up 115 percent in rural areas and 88 percent in small towns, compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, page views for metro areas of 1 million people or more dropped by 10 percent from a year ago.

“America’s urban cities have boomed over the last few decades for their density of amenities, entertainment, innovation, and jobs,” Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr said. “But this pandemic has forced us to close down those benefits and has shined a bright light on one of the historic downsides of density—the possibility for spread of disease. It will remain to be seen if this shift in demand away from urban metros lasts or is temporary.”

Small towns are defined as those communities with 10,000 to 50,000 people.

Redfin said there has not been an increase in actual sales, but the decline in pending sales has been less dramatic in rural areas and small towns (down 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively) than in large urban areas (down 26 percent).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 46.1 million people lived in non-metro counties in the United States in July 2018 (about 14 percent of the population), the latest information available. That’s down from 46.3 million in July 2010, but there has been a slight increase since 2016.