The real estate boom has reached rural areas.

Houses in regions that are more than ninety minutes' drive from the nearest major city have risen by an average of 40 percent over the past four years.

Even in districts from which you drive more than two hours to the next big city, prices have increased by more than 30 percent.

This was the result of a current analysis by the Empirica research institute.

Judith Lembke

Editor in the economy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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    Birgit Ochs

    Responsible editor for "Wohnen" of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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      Anne-Christin Sievers

      Editor in business.

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        This development is surprising.

        For years it was believed that metropolitan areas were growing and becoming more expensive, while rural areas were struggling with emigration, vacancies and falling prices.

        But land is now scarce not only in the metropolises themselves, but also in their so-called fat belts.

        In the Berlin area, land prices have tripled since 2012, which is why more and more buyers are moving to remote villages and small towns.

        While a used house in Frankfurt often costs more than one million euros, it is offered for an average of 160,000 euros in the Vogelsbergkreis and for 220,000 euros in the Spessart.

        "The country primarily attracts families who are fulfilling their dream of a house with a garden there," says real estate economist Harald Simons.

        Rural areas are growing again

        This is also shown by the migration balances: while the young are still moving away from the rural areas, the thirty to fifty-year-olds flock there with their children. Even in remote regions such as the Prignitz in Brandenburg or the Vulkaneifel in Rhineland-Palatinate, the population has recently been growing again. Berlin, on the other hand, shrank last year for the first time in fifteen years. But it's not just families who are increasingly drawn to the countryside. For some years now there has been a trend towards second homes beyond the tourist centers by the sea and in the mountains. In addition, rural areas are increasingly attracting city dwellers who want to live and work together in large properties - projects that have so far mainly existed in the city.

        It's not just the low prices that attract the countryside.

        It is also the low interest rates and the associated lack of attractive investment opportunities that are fueling the real estate boom.

        In addition, the space, the open spaces and the closeness to nature are attracting more and more people - a development that has once again gained momentum due to the pandemic, but which could also be observed beforehand, as experts say.

        “In a digitized world that is perceived as unsafe, many people long for specific processes such as chopping wood and growing vegetables,” says Martina Doehler-Behzadi, managing director of the International Building Exhibition in Thuringia, which aims to revitalize rural areas.

        Conflicts are inevitable

        The new interest in houses in rural areas is not without conflict.

        In particular, brokers describe the months since the beginning of the Corona crisis as "completely crazy".

        "Since March 2020, the demand has eclipsed everything that we have ever seen here," says Sabine Schwiemann, broker in the Vulkaneifel.

        "Even the most remote corners are in demand, the main thing is train connections and the Internet," reports broker Johannes Dietrich from the Upper Black Forest.

        Other of his colleagues report forty inquiries within an hour for unrenovated farms, bidding competitions and an increasingly aggressive mood if someone does not get a chance.

        “The townspeople compete with the locals and are willing to pay higher prices,” says Schwiemann.

        Oliver Langner, who brokers in Holstein Switzerland north of Hamburg, also reports a “very mixed picture”: “The Schleswig-Holsteiners don't buy here anymore, it's too expensive for them.” Instead, the buyers come from Hamburg, Cologne and even Munich and paid lovers prices. “It's still cheap for them.” The locals are not enthusiastic about the development, because it is not only driving prices higher and higher. A house that is used as a second home is also empty most of the year. The great demand meets a short supply. In anticipation of further price increases, sellers are holding back at the moment.

        The experts are divided on whether the new interest is a real trend reversal in favor of rural areas. While real estate economist Simons is convinced of this, urban planner Doehler-Behzadi does not believe in a turnaround. “Nothing is changing about the big trend towards urbanization. The rural area is only shrinking more slowly. "