Real estate experts don’t know for sure—the data in the coming months and years will tell the tale. In the meantime, though, there are indications of increased interest.

Jim Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, says land brokers received a lot of calls in late April about the exurbs, the less densely populated areas outside of a city’s suburbs.

“Callers are thinking, ‘If I can telecommute, I would much rather live in a bucolic area. If I have to shelter in place, I’d rather be here,’” he says. “So we’re anticipating a wave of interest in these kinds of properties.”

The calls are unusual for the rural land market. Callers are asking about primary residences on smaller five- to 10-acre lots; the rural land market typically deals in 1,000- to 10,000-acre properties for second homes. Changes in personal income and oil prices are usually the main causes for fluctuations in the rural land market.

As the Texas economy continues to reopen and people become more comfortable leaving their homes, the next few months will be critical to see if these calls turn into a buying trend, Gaines says. Even if a trend emerges, these smaller properties may not appear in rural land sale datasets. Gaines suggests watching the inventories, median prices, and sales volumes in more rural MLSs for clues.

Charles Gilliland, research economist at the Real Estate Center, said it will take six months to a year to identify a trend, and the best way to measure it would be total dollar volume in the market.

It is also difficult to gauge how long a trend away from urban centers and densely populated areas may last. Gaines notes that even the real estate markets in areas hit by natural disasters rebuild within a few years of major events.

Gilliland expects any trend will be most noticeable near urban areas and be temporary unless the pandemic continues for a long time.