West Virginia real estate attractive – to out-of-staters

Since the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic reshaped the world, an estimated 900,000 people have fled the largest metropolitan areas in the country, cities which had seen rising population trends in the decade that preceded the pandemic.

However, fear of the infection wasn’t the only, or even primary, concern for the vast numbers of people fleeing the urban landscape.

According to the Brookings Institute, the cities with the largest absolute numerical loss in population size were New York with 327,955 people leaving, Los Angeles with 175,913, San Francisco with 116,385 and Chicago with 91,671 people fleeing their metropolitan lifestyle. All of this migration occurred during the pandemic in 2020-2021.

While some of these trends were already taking shape years before the pandemic, the rate of out-migration more than tripled. The list of reasons for this change is long and as varied as the people who have fled.

According to Tim Berry, a licensed real estate agent located in Beckley, these national trends will have a dramatic impact in the composition of local communities.

“We’re seeing an uptick in out-of-state buyers,” Berry said. “Some are purchasing to live here, some are investing, there’s different variables as to why they’re moving here.”

Brian Brown of EXP Realty echoed something Berry also mentioned, that West Virginia has the seventh lowest annual real estate tax rate in the country. With the rise of remote work becoming normalized, a rise in crime rates in the inner cities and the effects of inflation hitting the cities hardest, the urban exodus is a trend that will likely see continuation.

“I asked one of my clients from Maryland, ‘Why are you guys moving here?’ They said the commercials they saw talked about our state and they wanted to be a part of it,” said Kary England, a Realtor with Tim Berry Real Estate Company.

“The tourism, the hiking trails, we have a lot more here than people want to say,” England said.

“We have so much beauty,” she said. “People want to be a part of that; they want calmness in their life and we have that here.”

Not only are the problems of the inner city contributing to the decline in absolute population, the open country and freedom of a largely rural West Virginia are driving factors behind the in-migration of people, England said.

To some, West Virginia is desirable, amplified recently by the designation of the New River Gorge as a national park and preserve.

David Sibray, publisher of the West Virginia Explorer magazine and Realtor specializing in high-value properties, told The Register-Herald that almost everyone he’s helped relocate to southern West Virginia is from out of state.

“If you were to imagine a million new people coming into the state, who would you want them to be?” Sibray said. “They’re bringing jobs and don’t need jobs; they are interested in preserving historic structures, in developing recreational venues, in building educational institutions. It really is a new world,” Sibray elaborated.

While the housing market has been hot nationwide, West Virginia’s rurality is now a major selling point for first-time homebuyers, vacation home purchases or even investment properties. There are certainly many reasons why people may be withdrawing from the urban sprawl, but there are likely just as many reasons why they would want to choose southern West Virginia for their relocation.

Despite West Virginia’s population declining in the last decade by 3.2 percent, the housing market continues to see price growth of 3.4 percent.

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