July 2021

Exurbia

In 2008, when Sotheby’s International Realty invited Wood and my company, Cullasaja Realty, to be associated with their worldwide network of top-producing real estate firms, we had to choose a moniker in front of Sotheby’s International Realty. We chose “Exurbia” based on a book by David Brooks, a political journalist who writes for The New York Times and National Public Radio, called “Bobos in Paradise.”


After spending over four years abroad, Brooks returned in 2000 to an America that seemed confusing to him. The difference between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture were blended. The bourgeoisie were the square, practical ones who worked for corporate America living in the suburbs and attended church. The bohemians were the free spirits who flouted convention and were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980s. Brooks observed that the bohemians and the bourgeoisie were integrated. Hippies had become capitalists. He noted that it was impossible to tell an expresso-sipping artist from a cappuccino-gulping banker. As part of this new culture, he noted that there was a national trend to move out of the suburbs to high-quality small towns such as our local resort area referred to as “The Plateau.” This trend he dubbed “Exurbia.”


In 2008, we saw a trickle of these educated folks who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and success moving to this area. Over the years, a few couples with whom we worked moved to this area full-time. They had retired at an early age and wanted a small town with cultural opportunities and nature as a playground to settle down in. The majority of our residential sales were still for second home buyers. Because most people could not pronounce and did not appreciate the cerebral meaning of “Exurbia,” we succumbed to an easier moniker by changing our name to Highlands Sotheby’s International Realty a few years later.
Fast forward to 2020. What David Brooks described in 2000 burst forth during COVID. The intangible world of ideas merging with the material world of money caught fire and created a stampede to “Exurbia.” With the ability to now work from home, the two worlds of work life and home focus became one. Concentrating and contemplating what matters most in life, buyers came in droves to purchase homes in this idyllic area. In addition to the desire for an area less populated, the desire for security and safety became paramount to buyers flocking from the cities. The recalibration of values in this area is definitely here to stay.


The uncertainty and fear that we saw in 2008 with the financial crisis is the same uncertainty and fear that we saw during COVID. Both events created an introspection about priorities in life. We were grateful in both times to be part of the stalwart Sotheby’s International Brand as consumers naturally gravitated to quality brands with a solid reputation and track record during difficult times. Referrals in our Sotheby’s network rose by 42% last year as people shuffled their locations.To those of us who figured out Exurbia decades ago to new citizens of this area, let us give thanks for such a spectacular place on the planet with a group of kind, thoughtful residents who care more about each other and nature than worrying about crime in the streets. Have a healthy, safe, fun season here on our piece of Exurbia.

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