House Hunters' Hunger for Small Towns Continues to Soar, Even as Interest in Big Cities Begins to Recover

Staff Report

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Pageviews of homes in small towns surged 105% year over year during the seven-day period ending May 1, an acceleration from the 85% gain that occurred during the week ending April 1, according to a new report from Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage. In rural counties with fewer than 10,000 people, views climbed 76%, a sizable increase from the prior year but a deceleration from the 170% rise a month before.

Meanwhile, homes in urban metro areas with at least 1 million people saw a 16% rise in pageviews during the week ending May 1. That marks a reversal from the 13% decline Redfin saw a month prior, but still represents a much slower increase than small towns and rural areas are experiencing.

"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," said Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr. "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."

The draw to small towns and rural areas is not only evident in home-browsing habits; it's showing up in actual sales. While pending homes sales are down across the board, less-populous areas aren't being hit quite as hard as large cities are. Pending sales plummeted 39% in urban metro areas during the week ending May 1, compared with a drop of around just 25% in both small towns and rural areas. That gap is wider than the one Redfin saw during the week ending April 1, when urban metro areas had experienced a 28% decline in pending sales, compared with a decrease of 20% in rural areas.

While cities and remote areas are dealing with different levels of fallout fueled by the coronavirus, sales overall have shown signs of recovery. There were 40,952 homes under contract to be sold nationwide during the week ending May 1, a 35% decrease from the same period the prior year. That's an improvement from the 41.7% drop that occurred when pending sales bottomed in mid-April.