Magazine article Insight on the News

Y2K Creates Boomtowns

Magazine article Insight on the News

Y2K Creates Boomtowns

Article excerpt

Many Americans are buying rural homes, according to an analyst with the National Association of Realtors. Baby boomers are buying second homes ... as well as Y2K sanctuaries.

Real-estate agent Harold Kelley describes Pagosa Springs as a "fabulous Y2K town." The community in southwestern Colorado (pop. 1,900) is primed for whatever the millennium may bring: It uses underground natural gas for cooking and heating, enjoys 300 days of "crystal-blue" skies (think solar power) and boasts forests of pine trees (think wood-burning stoves and privacy).

Millennium fear has turned into economic cheer for small town U.S.A. In eastern Washington state, for example, Stevens County has become a haven for the year-2000-minded. Some 20 families from the Tree of Life Christian Church have descended on the region. "You can't call Stevens County a town," says church elder Duane Hodges. "You can't even call it a commune. Most of the residents drive to the Colville Wal-Mart for what they need" about 40 miles away. The survivalists have planted a 50-by-100-foot organic garden and harnessed a stream for energy.

Rural real-estate agents everywhere are cashing in on the Y2K bonanza. Thomas Plonk, an agent in Columbia, S.C., has seen his business double because of year-2000 buyers. Isolated cabins have become a particularly hot commodity. "Buyers seem to be happy if it is 10 miles out from the metropolitan area," he says. Ideal Y2K homes are a half-mile distant from the nearest home, at the end of driveways at least 100 yards long, so buyers "feel like they can defend it better come any problems."

Mitzi Gosnell, a real-estate agent from Medford, Ore., says she has conducted a tremendous amount of business during the last two years with Y2K buyers. "Right now, it seems like there is a high demand for rural properties, but nobody's talking about why" she says. "I wonder if people are being quiet about it because of all the publicity of being called `doomsdayers.'" Lately, her customers have been asking about generators and water-storage capabilities.

Home owners latching onto the year-2000 real-estate trend include the Rev. Joseph Pyott of Ore City, Texas, who has marketed his three houses as "Y2K properties." It helps that they are next to a lake; one comes with a tornado shelter reinforced with 6 inches of concrete. Time magazine reports that Harrison, Ark. (pop. 11,611) is becoming a mecca for Americans apprehensive about the computer bug. Up to 700 residents, including representatives from local utility companies and banks, attend twice-monthly meetings of a group called Y2K Watch. …

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