Virus playing part in booming ranch sales in US West

Some buyers drawn to rural areas are motivated by a “get me out of here” kind of mentality.

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — The coronavirus is one of the likely factors fueling a boom in large ranch sales in the U.S. West, real estate industry professionals said.

Real estate brokers are experiencing high demand for ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and Washington, The Billings Gazette reports.

“It’s the craziest year I’ve ever seen,” said Jim Taylor, director and real estate partner for Hall and Hall, which has offices in Montana and other Western states.

Taylor said buying a ranch is not always a compelling investment because the rate of return can be low. But he is working with buyers who see fewer stable alternatives.

“People look at them as an investment even though the ranching business isn’t good,” Taylor said.

Andy Rahn of Montana Land Source, a website tracking land listings and sales in the state, said factors driving buyers to rural areas can include a “get me out of here kind of mentality” concerning the pandemic.

That mindset may be propelled by fear of social unrest as well as mask and social distancing mandates with which buyers disagree.

Some in the industry theorize buyers believe rural areas are safer from COVID-19, while others said people who already planned to buy property in the future were spurred to action by the pandemic.

Executives now have the ability to work from home with greater ease and a higher level of social acceptance, reducing the need to be present in offices or travel to business meetings, Taylor said.

“That whole world is definitely changing,” Taylor said. “Now they can spend more time on their ranches.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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