Survival realty reportedly experienced a boom prior to the predicted Mayan Apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012. But what happens to the market after each failed "apocalypse"? Though it's easy to assume that demand for survival shelters and underground Doomsday bunkers would plummet, Realtors say that's not the case. In fact, Realtors insist that the survival real estate market remains steady -- and predict that it will remain strong in the future.
According to Realtor James Kozlik, who specializes in selling survival real estate in Emigrant, Mont., the market was never dependent on theories of impending apocalypse to begin with: In fact, survival bunkers have been built and sold for decades in anticipation of world war, the threat of thermonuclear weapons, Y2K and other potential cataclysms. His thoughts are echoed by Michael White, a survival property Realtor in northern Idaho, who adds that as long as the fear of war, global financial collapse and government distrust exist, survival real estate will always be in demand.
"Most [potential buyers] are much more motivated by political unrest, fear of the government turning against the people, the government coming for their guns, and complete world financial collapse than an apocalypse. If anything, President Obama being re-elected has increased business since Dec. 21, 2012," White told AOL Real Estate. "Currently, around 60 to 70 percent of my buyers are survival-type buyers."
Kozlik added that in this still-struggling economy, people have become increasingly interested in investing in survival properties and off-grid tracts of land "just in case" anything might go wrong. Kozlik himself was part of a group who built an underground shelter in 1990, and today lives in a different survival-style, off-grid shelter, where he raised his children.
"People just want reassurance that their family or loved ones will be protected from 'whatever,' " Kozlik told AOL Real Estate. "Then, of course, there are some others who just think living in a bunker underground is a cool way to live!"
It's important to note that there are currently no hard-and-fast statistics on survival real estate, nor is there an MLS category for "survivalist properties." (Although White says that he observed survival-type property sales at their peak during 2005 to 2008, which he credits to the real estate boom). White says the lack of solid information on survival real estate sales can also be attributed to privacy factors: Many "survivalists" still prefer to be kept anonymous.
'Just Regular People'
Though White admitted that he did have buyers who purchased property solely for the Mayan Apocalypse -- groups widely known as "Doomsday preppers" -- he conceded that these types of buyers were a mere handful and that their quantity was insignificant compared to buyers motivated by other factors. (White told AOL Real Estate that in one of these cases, the group of preppers ended up selling the bunker after Dec. 21, and "fell apart" entirely.) He said that generally the interest comes from regular people of varied backgrounds -- though usually moneyed.
"I have sold survival or self-sustainable properties to a very nice, upper income couple with small children. I've sold to a young 20-something with a huge trust account," White said. "I've sold survival properties to a married ex-military officer from Florida. I've sold to two sisters who were teachers, and their retired father. I've sold to upper-income conservative Republican types, to right-wing political radicals, and also to libertarians and hippie, New Age types. All types of people."
This widespread interest across varied social groups could be possibly explained by a general desire for escape: Kozlik said that survival-style, off-grid remote living has many perks that city living, say, does not. "Howling winds," for example, become inaudible. The structures are earthquake resistant and solid, and owners are able to be entirely self-sufficient, independent from mainstream utility grid systems. Survival shelters are also usually surrounded by acres and acres of pristine, untouched natural environment. It's a lifestyle, he said, that is not just smart and forward-thinking, but can also be rewarding.
"All our children learned to hunt, grow veggies, forge for wild edibles, build houses with recycled materials," Kozlik told AOL Real Estate. "Really, it was all about a lifestyle choice for us, and still is, as we create survival into the 21st century, in the midst of global economic and political shifts."
A growing breed of homebuyers may share Kozlik's sentiments: Vivos, a company specializing in luxury survival shelters, has released a line of "economy class" bunkers that will only set buyers back $9,950, reports CNN Money. It also quotes Vivos as claiming that after every natural disaster, reservations for these no-frills survival bunkers skyrocket by 1,000 percent, and that there is a growing interest from "regular people" in doomsday bunkers that are designed to appear like a home from the exterior, but boast the ability to be completely closed off from catastrophe.
For those who are able to drop serious bankroll on a luxury survival bunker, there are some more impressive options. A 32-by-10-foot corrugated steel shelter (see gallery above) designed to be buried 20 feet underground can purportedly withstand bomb blasts, as well as nuclear, chemical and biological disasters. The shelter, which is being sold for $59,900, can accommodate three to four people and comes equipped with blast doors, an air filtration system and under-floor storage. Think that's crazy? In Kansas, there are plans to build a multimillion dollar underground missile shaft-style bunker that features an indoor farm, pool, movie theater, a stockpile of five years worth of dry food, and space for a medical center and school.
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