Rachel Dees has always loved outdoor activities such as mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and fly fishing. However, she didn’t like the three-hour drive into the mountains from her home outside of Seattle. So, waking up one morning and realizing that “you only have so many summers and days off before you’re middle-aged and fit enough to do fun stuff,” the 52-year-old sales director and her husband, Josh Dees, 49, decided move to Draper, Utah, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The couple purchased the 1.5-acre lot for $350,000, spent $1.2 million building their own 3,700-square-foot home carved into the hillside, and moved into their new home in July 2021. offering stunning views of the mountains surrounding the house. The room next to the garage is dedicated to storing their gear, including ropes, camping and climbing equipment, fishing rods, and more.

The property is adjacent to lands that are designated as open spaces, so the couple’s backyard is indeed made up of thousands of acres of community land.

“We don’t do fancy vacations,” Ms. Deese said. “I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.” In fact, when she got married 27 years ago, she did it without a wedding ring, and when many years later Mr. Dees offered to buy her a “real diamond” as an anniversary gift, she objected, saying, “You know how much rods I could buy for this?

The couple can now step out of their back door and hike to Lone Peak, an 11,000-foot mountain in the Wasatch Mountains with trails that are often covered in snow until midsummer. They can also access mountain biking trails from their garage.

“Not once, when we were walking, did my husband look at me and say:“ Baby, we are not on vacation. Look where we are. We didn’t have to fly here and rent a car to be in a place that’s straight out of a magazine.” ”

According to a survey published by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in October 2020, 76% of homeowners reported that they are taking more steps to improve their physical health than in the previous year, with an increasing focus on nature, fitness, sustainability and local food sources. .

“The importance of nature to consumers has skyrocketed,” says Jenny Nichols, director of DesignLens at John Burns. “And being able to work from home gives people the freedom to live where they love.”

The Hearth Amenity Center at The Groves in Houston features a resort-style pool and massive fireplace.

A photo:

AirLuxe Studios

Residents of The Groves, a community in northeast Houston designed by Ashlar Development, can relax and unwind in the wooded Hammock Zone along Madera Creek.

A photo:

AirLuxe Studios

The desire to be close to nature is pushing home prices higher as buyers flock to states like Montana, Utah and Colorado. According to Zillow,

The second and third most popular real estate markets in May 2022 were Kalispell, Montana and Summit Park, Utah, with 50.4% and 50.3% annual growth in home values, respectively. Naples, Florida topped the list of hottest markets with a 52.2% annual growth in home prices.

A study published last year by Outforia, a website offering information on nature, outdoor gear and destinations, used Zillow data to compare the cost of homes in close proximity to national parks with the average home price in those states. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming generated the highest price premium of any national park, according to the study. With an average price of $1.354 million, homes in Moose City, at the south entrance to the park, are 389.94% more expensive than the average Wyoming home.

Developers are reacting to the increased interest of potential homebuyers in nature. New home developers have in the past focused on family activities and resort lifestyle in their master plans, Ms Nichols said. But today, nature has become an integral element of many settlements that are in the process of development. “That’s a major convenience,” Ms Nichols said. “Being in nature is no longer just a pleasure. This is what homebuyers want now.”

The Yard, a neighborhood-style beer garden in The Groves, has a sprawling lawn, hammocks, lawn games, and a Root Beer Garden that serves floats for kids.

A photo:

AirLuxe Studios

Take The Groves, a carefully planned community in northeast Houston by Dallas-based Ashlar Development that is billed as a “nature corner.” The community includes 64 acres of preserved forest, nearly 5,000 planted trees, and 85 acres of open space, all advertised on the project’s website as amenities, as well as walking and biking trails.

“Onsite amenities are designed to support the community’s priority of bringing homeowners closer to nature,” said David Assid, Toll Brothers division president.,

which is building Select Collection, a gated community of 83 homes in The Groves.

Ashlar recently conducted a survey of its homeowners and found that 71% of recent buyers at The Groves cited nature and trail systems as the top reason they moved to the development.

Another new home community with a strong focus on nature is Arden, a 2,300-home community in Wellington, Florida that consists of 500 acres of open space, 175 acres of lakes, and 20 miles of trails. Billed as “agriculture,” Arden is a 5-acre farm that grows fruits, vegetables, and herbs that the residents share. Homeowners can also volunteer to work on the farm.

A range of newly built single-family homes in Arden, a 2,300-home community in Wellington, Florida that has a 5-acre working farm as amenities.

A photo:

Chet Frolich Photography


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Lynn Menard, 45, a former dental hygienist, recently moved with her husband John Menard and their four children from Toronto, Canada to a 4,400-square-foot home in Arden for which she paid $1.08 million.

“We really like to walk in the fresh air, and I prefer healthy food and organic products,” she said. “When the real estate agent took us to Arden and showed us the farm, it was a huge experience for us.”

Ms Menard said she was a member of a community-sponsored farm when she lived in Canada. She is happy that she can continue to support local agriculture and give her children the opportunity to learn where food comes from and about healthy eating. While the farm sharing program won’t launch until harvest season in November, she’s looking forward to receiving fresh radishes, pumpkins, cucumbers, okra, broccoli, and other vegetables as part of the Arden Homeowners Association’s monthly $279 valuation.

Melissa Musiker, 40, and her husband, Adam Tope, 41, decided to leave New York about a year ago in search of a more serene life with an improved work-life balance. Because of the pandemic, they were working out of their spacious two-bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park, paying $8,500 a month to walk their Jack Russell terrier mix, Midge, in the park every morning.

“The main advantage of this apartment was that it was close to Central Park,” said Ms. Musiker, senior vice president of biosciences and head of strategy for Mission North, a strategic communications agency. “We are big walkers. On the weekend we walked 10 miles and we loved the opportunity to get out of the apartment and no longer feel like we were in Midtown.”

Since they no longer needed to work locally in their New York offices, the couple realized they could live anywhere. “We wanted something more peaceful, more quiet, more serene,” Ms Musiker said. “We wanted to retire and experience the feeling of communion with nature, look out the windows and see nothing but trees.”

So they spent $350,000 to buy a 2,400-square-foot house on 2.5 acres in Ithaca, New York, the city where they met as undergraduate students at Cornell University. After spending more than $650,000 on renovations, Ms. Musiker and Mr. Top, a partner at law firm DLA Piper, moved into a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, two-home office home in August 2021.

“Only about one-third of the site has been cleared,” Ms Musiker said. “The rest is completely wild and covered in dense forest. The house stands on the edge of a very steep hill, and below there is a stream with waterfalls and rapids. You can hear it when you sit outside.”

Their way of life changed with the move. A walking trail across the street makes a morning walk with the dog convenient, and the house is surrounded by state protected land that will never be developed.

“There is something very comforting about looking out the window and seeing the trees and not the buildings when you are working,” Ms Musiker said. “We are calmer people. Life is less hectic. There is a rumble in the city, and you understand how quiet it is here.

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