Selling recreational land during the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been challenging, but sales are continuing to occur around the country. So what are we seeing in the marketplace this spring?
Even during the pandemic, we’ve seen interest from potential buyers remain steady, though sales could slow if the impacts of the pandemic persist for a long period. At the same time, we currently expect the potential for sales to rebound in the summer and fall, depending of course on when the nation’s economy is able to open back up.
And though there is understandable concern about how long the crisis will last, several factors point to a healthy recreational property sales market once the economy gets moving again.
One, gyrations in the stock market tend to lead more investors to consider investments like land and timber that have historically been less volatile. Two, there continues to be significant interest for urban residents to “get away from it all” and have a rural retreat. And three, no matter what happens in the economy, plenty of people still want to get outdoors to hunt, fish, hike or just relax with their family and friends.
Here are five trends we are seeing this spring as recreational land sellers and buyers adapt in this unprecedented time:
- Recreational property brokers have long been used to sending buying prospects extensive information about properties digitally, and are accustomed to giving prospects mapping information so they can tour properties themselves. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these activities have become even more important, as we see brokers adding more drone footage, photography, GIS downloads and detailed point-of-view virtual tours to their communications.
- Brokers and land managers are taking extensive precautions to do their part to keep buyers safe. For example, most sales offices have not been open to visitors to follow state “stay at home” orders. Still, working remotely with potential buyers by phone and video chat offers both safety and efficiency to the process.
- Sale closings are continuing to occur, with electronic signatures being used and virtual closing tables becoming more commonplace.
- The crisis is leading more urban residents to consider buying a place in the country. As one example, our brokers in Idaho are seeing high levels of interest in recreational land for sale from people in cities like Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Spurred by social distancing guidelines, we expect to see the trend to “recreationally distance” become even more popular.
- Video conferencing services like Zoom, Apple’s Facetime and Facebook’s Messenger are growing in use and are beneficial, both to help brokers establish personal relationships with buyer prospects, and to help sales teams stay connected. As an example, our PotlatchDeltic land managers in Minnesota land managers have held Zoom “happy hours” with members of the PotlatchDeltic Preferred Broker network.
As an example of how buyer interest in recreational property remains strong, March web traffic for information on PotlatchDeltic’s recreational properties was up significantly, with both total users and news users up about 25% vs. March 2019. Time spent by visitors on the site was up about 16% vs. a year ago, and we are also seeing quite a bit of interest from prospects we hadn’t heard from in a year or more.
The thing to watch for the rest of 2020 is buyer confidence. Will buyers have confidence that the economy will rebound, in turn helping their own financial situation? And will buyers have confidence they can go through the buying process safely?
As sellers, we certainly have no control over how quickly the economy comes back. But we have established protocols to make sales safely, so we know that as the pandemic eases, more buyers will be ready to acquire a high-quality property they can start using this fall and winter.