“Buy land. They ain’t makin’ any more of the stuff.”
Those scheming a citybreak would do well to acquire their land soon. Diminishing supply and increasing demand are pumping up prices of desirable country property. While stratospheric city prices max out their markets, rural prices are often refreshingly low–but are escalating, especially in areas near cities.
In country-chic places prices are moving like leaves in a storm. Ron Powers, in Far From Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns, shows how dollar-burdened buyers such as Henry Kissinger have disfranchised natives from Kent, a small town in northwestern Connecticut.
Wily Will’s wry observation quoted above was made more than sixty years ago. (Many of Will’s observations were wry. Some were pure corn. Few were whole wheat.) Not only is there a finite amount of land, but the most desirable rural land is being gobbled up like ice cream at an August picnic. Cropland, pastures, woods, and civil war battlefields have been targeted for or are already becoming roads, shopping centers, office buildings, factories, airports and theme parks. Penturbia replaced suburbia as the home choice of Americans in the 1970s and as we move into the new millenium the migration is growing stronger.
Demand for rural homes is accelerating due to both urban conditions and rural opportunities. The quest for ideal life in the information overload age finds many Americans desperate for basic peace and safety. Natural and manmade disasters are reported ad nauseum by mainstream media. Each earthquake, fire, riot, bombing, murder or rape heads more moving vans to the hills.
Gold fever has been replaced by green fever. Baby boomers are rejecting corporate servitude and “incityous” frenzy for country home businesses in scenic vistas. Burned-out corporate climbers of all ages are planting themselves in small towns and small acreages. For many, the current consciousness is: phooey on big incomes with high price tags–let’s live better on less where the financial and psychological costs are sane. Property beyond the sidewalks is increasingly seen as a superior scene.
Many inconveniences of rural life have been overcome. The interstate highway system is finished. Electric and telephone services reach into the boondocks. Beyond the power poles, affordable independent home energy systems, cell telephones and satellite receivers make even mountaintops habitable and those living there in touch with the world. Communication clouds have evaporated. This is being written in a wild Ozarks hollow and can zip through phone wires to a New York editor’s computer days far faster than snail mail–unless a thunderstorm threatens to zap the fax/modem, in which case I will unplug, read a book, and transmit tomorrow.
Boards of directors have moved factories and corporate headquarters to rural settings where land prices, taxes, regulations and wages favor profits. And that’s where CEOs, managers, workers and their families increasingly want to live.
Celebrities are often trendsetters. High-profile country property owners include Robert Redford, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey, Paul Newman. Robert James Waller made enough on The Bridges of Madison County to live anywhere he likes–he chose a thousand acres in West Texas. Of star-grazers, only Barbra seems stymied–Manhattan refuses to sell Central Park and large acreage is tough to find in Yonkers.
For many rural wannabes the dilemma is financial timing–when to sell the rancher for gold and buy a cabin for copper. In some regions, city prices have become so high they are unaffordable for most. It is certain that such city prices will plateau and fall while adjacent rural prices will rise. Local economic and social conditions create price movement. Have some fun. Call a real estate agent and ask if it’s a good time to sell. Have a friend call the same agent and ask if it’s a good time to buy.
Is your house more important to you as an investment or as a home? Urban refugees typically judge money less important than clean air and water, safety, community, low stress levels and freedom.
One plan is to buy a second home in the country now and ride out city conditions as long as you can. Buy now, make payments, and move after your property is paid for or when city prices appear to have peaked. City pay averages about twenty percent higher than rural income, so land payments are less strain with city bucks.
The message here is: identify your ideal place and buy land as soon as you can. They ain’t makin’ any more of the stuff–and city conditions ain’t gettin’ any better.