REPORT: Demand for Underground “Doomsday” Bunkers Surging

According to a new report from the NY Times, demand for underground bunkers is surging amid unrest and a global pandemic.

From the NY Times:

The first tenant for one of Frank Woodworth’s underground bunkers wasn’t a human; it was a seed.

“A couple of hippies called me up and asked me to build them a vault for their heirloom seeds,” he said.

A reserved man with Downeast stoicism, Woodworth is the owner of Northeast Bunkers, a company in Pittsfield, Maine, that specializes in the design and construction of underground bunkers. It was 18 years ago that Woodworth outfitted that first steel vault while working as a general contractor, and he has since changed direction, pivoting his business model to focus solely on designing, installing and updating underground shelters.

He stresses that these are not “luxury bunkers” for the top 1%, and only a small part of the calls are coming from Doomsday preppers or Cold War-era holdovers. Rather, about two-thirds of his business comes from consumers who pay approximately $25,000 for an underground livable dwelling. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Woodworth said he has been unable to keep up with the demand.

Buyers of these kinds of underground dwellings say that they simply want to protect their families from an increasingly turbulent world. For many, the decision to build a bunker was made before the coronavirus pandemic surfaced, but they say that they now feel prepared for the next local or global crisis.

Aaron, who spoke on the condition that his full name not be used to protect his privacy, said he bought a bunker three years ago to keep his family in the Washington, D.C. area safe in a variety of situations.

“If something happens, I can put the family in there, or if I’m gone, my wife can lock the family in there,” he said. “Not just the coronavirus, or civil unrest. Even in environmental things” — like earthquakes and tornadoes — “my family is protected.”

Aaron, who has three teenagers and is in his mid-40s, said he is currently using his 1,100-square-foot bunker as an office.

“Parts of the bunker are off-limits to all my children, like any of the security rooms, the weapons room, the food and storage room, the pantry,” he said.

Other amenities include a food and storage room, as well as an aboveground “safe room” that is used “if you need to quickly get away from something immediately. Basically, a panic room.”

He bought his bunker from a company called Hardened Structures based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, one of the many bunker builders across the country.

Some buyers go through a bunker broker to find a shelter that fits their needs. Jonathan Rawles is the owner and manager of Survival Realty Brokerage Services, a national company based in Idaho that works with agents and brokers specializing in remote, off-grid bunker-type property.

“There is continual demand for people that are looking to find more of a sustainable future for themselves, for their families,” Rawles said. “A lot of real estate markets only focus on housing in the urban areas, suburban areas, exurbs, and there is very much a missed opportunity for people who are looking to live off-grid, wanting to live remote, or actually looking to secure a property, whether that’s a bunker or a more secure and sustainable home.”

Rawles pairs his clients with U.S. bunker-building companies and says his company has a wide range of clients.

“This market and desire for security cuts across all levels of society — social, political, racial, religious,” he said. “People are looking for the opportunity to secure the family’s future, to have a more sustainable future, and part of that may be having a bunker.”

Woodworth, at Northeast Bunkers, said that recent inquiries have come from across the United States, and worldwide. The furthest installation he’s ever done? The Caribbean.

“That one went by truck then by barge then by truck,” he said.

The basic model at Northeast Bunkers is a cylindrical steel vessel 8 feet in diameter, in 13- or 20-foot lengths, welded from quarter-inch plate steel and equipped with an entrance hatch on top. Standard features include rust-resistant exterior paint, cedar plank flooring, zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) interior finishes, two vent ports, floor hatches for storage and an emergency exit hatch.

Optional features include power connections (your choice of 12-volt or 120-volt), potable water system, septic system, bathroom, kitchen, bunks and a blast door.

“All depending on what you order, and all materials are made in America,” Woodworth said. “We try to get people as safe as possible within a reasonable budget.”

The company’s bunkers range from $25,000 to $35,000.

Read more here.