This Texas region explodes with sales amid pandemic land rush

It’s a sure sign that city dwellers are hunting for quieter, more isolated environments during the coronavirus pandemic: The region encompassing Austin, the Hill Country, and Waco represented 28 percent of the dollar value of the state’s rural land sales last year.

A report released March 30 by Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Research Center shows that of Texas’ nearly $1.7 billion in rural land sales in 2020, the region including Austin, the Hill Country, and Waco accounted for $473.8 million of the total. That was the highest dollar volume among the six regions outlined in the report and was 26 percent above the region’s dollar volume registered in 2019.

Charles Gilliland, research economist at the Texas Real Estate Research Center, says in a news release that rural land sales in the combined areas of Austin, the Hill Country, and Waco “exploded” in the second half of 2020.

In the third quarter of last year, sales of small rural properties (10 to 50 acres) in that territory reached 1,103, marking the first time the region ever recorded more than 1,000 of those sales in a single quarter. The third-quarter figure in 2020 jumped 85.1 percent compared with the same period in 2019. The fourth-quarter figure dipped to 978, but that still resulted in a 70.7 percent rise versus the same period in 2019.

For all of 2020, the region comprising Austin, the Hill Country, and Waco racked up 2,394 sales of rural land, up 39 percent from the previous year. Those sales added up to 113,784 acres, a total that was 25 percent above the same level in 2019. The typical rural property sold last year in the region measured 209 acres and sold for $4,164 per acre.

Statewide, the nearly $1.7 billion in rural land sales set a record for dollar volume, with 7,684 deals sealed and 552,707 acres snapped up.

Gilliland and his colleagues at the Texas Real Estate Center attribute the recent “flight to the countryside” to:

  • Social-distancing measures forcing the closure of restaurants and entertainment venues, “making city life much less attractive.”

  • Social-distancing practices making urban living more challenging.

  • Social unrest in major cities prompting many people “to seek more remote settings.”

“Taken together, the third and fourth quarter results signal an active and rising market with strong demand for land in most areas of Texas,” Gilliland says. “Currently, market professionals report a flood of interest in land purchases.”

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