This article is featured in the Summer 2022 issue of LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the admonition, “Go West, young man,” became the catch phrase of the time. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, young men, young women, young families, established families and retirees are now taking that time-tested advice to heart.
COVID and its attendant lockdown prompted Americans to reassess and reimagine their lives. After being confined within four walls, people began to crave elbow room, freedom, and a connection to their neighbors and Mother Nature. They, like generations before them, looked to the West.
Frankly, living in the West has always been a bit of a dream—large spaces, friendly faces, and a limitless outdoor recreational lifestyle— but the realities of COVID prompted people to quit dreaming and act. Those of us living in more remote areas of the Mountain West have dubbed the uptick in demand for land in our neck of the woods as “the COVID discovery.”
According to RLI’s 2021 Land Market Survey, Colorado, as one example, accounted for four-point-one percent of the land sales in the nation. Across the country, including the Mountain West, demand for rural land is outstripping supply. Brokers are struggling to keep inventory. Experts predict that even with the projected rise in interest rates, demand will remain strong through 2022.
By pushing telecommuting from the fringes into the mainstream, the restrictions of COVID, ironically enough, opened the door to rural relocation across the country. Now people can live where they want instead of being bound to their work area.
Thanks to technology, people can be productive professionally while enjoying the unmatched quality of life provided by the majestic mix of small towns, lakes, streams, ski runs, mountain bike trails, rivers, and peaks full of wildlife that define western living. Advances such as satellites, mobile phones, and efficient solar panels keep people connected even in the heart of the biggest tracts. Like those of us who have lived here longer, the newcomers can enjoy quieter lives with bigger adventures. While these opportunities have always been available, people now have the time and flexibility to enjoy them.
Unlike early prospectors who chased riches of silver and gold, today’s pioneers are seeking the riches of community. When plants put down deep, intertwined roots, the plants are stronger and more resilient. People are the same. Out here, being neighborly has never gone out of style.
Traditional values like honesty, integrity, and respect are still in vogue here, too. We believe in the power of a handshake and the significance of character. Here, unlike in the big city, there’s not much to distract people from what is truly important. For families, the opportunity to teach their children right from wrong and instill personal responsibility without being drowned out by the incessant noise of the 21st century is one more reason to head West.
Whether it is intentional or not, all of these people are creating their own unique legacies built on the land. From here on out, they will have a tangible asset that generates a host of intangible benefits, ranging from quality of life to treasured memories. For those who live life well, their legacy is a well-lived life.
Dan Murphy, ALC
M4 Ranch Group, Broker/Owner
RLI Colorado Chapter President