Urban buyers flock to rural Texas

by Alsha Khan

Amidst pandemic woes and civil unrest in big cities, flocks of Texans ditched their urban residences for more rural settings in the later months of 2020. A total of 552,707 acres of rural land was purchased for $1.69 billion during the fourth quarter, a record-breaking feat, according to Texas A&M University’s  Texas Real Estate Research Center.

Photo courtesy of Texas Real Estate Research Center

Across the state, there were a total of 7,684 sales of rural land, up 28.9% from 2019 fourth-quarter sales. Due to increased demand for quieter country dwellings away from cities, Texas land prices increased 3.1% to $3,064 per acre, with the typical sale totaling 1,139 acres. Prices rose in all regions except for the Panhandle and South Plains. And while West Texas and Austin-Waco-Hill Country reported modest price increases, all other areas experienced year-over-year price increases of at least 2.51%, with prices in Far West Texas increasing the most, by 16.4%.

The Austin-Waco-Hill Country rural markets reported 1,103 transactions in the fourth quarter, the first time the area has seen more than 1,000 sales in a single quarter. Sales in the area were up 85.1% compared to the same period in 2019.

The number of rural-land sales increased in all regions except the far west, which recorded a 25.11% decrease. This can likely be attributed to plummeting oil prices, according to the research center. All other regions experienced significant increases in rural sales:

  • West Texas: +40.69%.
  • Panhandle-South Plains: +23.89%.
  • Northeast Texas: +22.51%.
  • Austin-Waco-Hill Country: +38.98%.
  • Gulf Coast-Brazos Bottom: +33.57%.
  • South Texas: +8.14%. 

South Texas was the only region that reported an increase in transaction size, up 5.44% from 2019. Total dollar volume grew in all areas except Far West Texas.

With urban unrest quieting and vaccinations underway, it is unclear if these trends will continue. However, the research center reports that a core urban demographic harbors a desire for country living even when these concerns are not present.

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