America, Land of the Bunkers? Homeowners Are Holing Up—Against an Election, Natural Disasters, and More (2024)

Carol Couchman‘stwo-bedroom mountaintop home outside Sacramento, CA, has plenty of amenities that would excite buyers. There are horse pens, a guest cottage, and more than 98 acres to spread out.

But the biggest selling point—for some people, at least? The on-site bunker.

“It’s kind of a quirky, interesting thing,” says Couchman, who works in database analysis.

The 15-foot-wide structure was there when she and her husband purchased the land in 2016.

“What we use it for is if there are fires up here,” she adds.

As the U.S. presidential election heats up, natural disasters pose a bigger threat, and conflicts abroad turn deadlier, more Americans are growing worried. And, to make things worse, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said his country is ready for a nuclear war if its existence, sovereignty, or independence is threatened.

With this laundry list of global and domestic concerns, more folks are reaching out to bunker and safe room companies about installing these features on their properties and in their homes. Officials from these companies say interest is up 30% to 50% this year alone.

(A bunker is generally considered to be a fortified, underground structure that will offer protection during an emergency or catastrophic event, according to the Prepper Life blog.)

America, Land of the Bunkers? Homeowners Are Holing Up—Against an Election, Natural Disasters, and More (1)

Even big-name billionaires such as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerbergare building their own luxury bunkers.

“You have people who feel unsafe, and the politics definitely play a huge role,” saysBill Fulton, co-author of “Survive and Thrive: How To Prepare for Any Disaster Without Ammo, Camo, or Eating Your Neighbor.” “People actually believe that if someone from the opposite party is elected, then life as they know it is over.”

‘It’s just a safe space’

Rising S Co., based in Murchison, TX, has seen a nearly 50% increase in interest in bunkers and safe rooms over the past few months. Its bunkers typically include a bed, kitchen, shower, composting toilet, and air filtration system.

They start around $80,000 and go up into the millions, says owner Brad Dancer.

Every year, his company installs about 40 to 50 bunkers across the country, including in the suburbs of New York City and upstate New York.

At Atlas Survival Shelters, models start at $20,000. The more expensive bunkers, which go for around $500,000, have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a mudroom, a generator room, a decontamination room, and bulletproof hatches. They also can come equipped with storage under the flooring, water tanks, escape tunnels, and hot and cold water.

Bunkers “have all the amenities of a house,” says Ron Hubbard, owner of Atlas Survival Shelters. “They’re just underground.”

Most of his clients are Republicans who support former President Donald Trump, and he’s helped a celebrity or two along the way.He even appeared on a 2021 episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” when Kim Kardashianwas shopping for a bunker.

An 88-year-old retired chemical company worker, who asked to remain anonymous, installed a bunker under his Central Texas property in 1998. He goes into the 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide bunker when there’s an impending tornado. It’s equipped with food, water, power—and his guns.

“It’s just a safe space,” he says. “In case of a storm, it would be handy to have.”

Penny Lind, a real estate broker associate in Rapid City, SD, has a listing with a bunker built into the property by the previous owner. The sellers, one of whom is ex-military, store their guns in the bunker so their children can’t access them. They also put their family photos there so they won’t get damaged. And they use it to protect themselves from natural disasters.

The entrance to the bunker is through their bedroom closet—with a mirror disguising the door to the roughly 8-by-10-foot concrete room in the basem*nt.

“It was more of a safe room for extreme thunderstorms, tornadoes, and their guns,” says Lind.

Many people who want bunkers can’t get them

Interest in bunkers and safe rooms has tripled over the past few months at Salt Lake City–based Ultimate Bunker, says co-owner Mike Peters.

However, most people who want a bunker can’t get one, says Peters. His company won’t even consider installing one of the underground structures unless the homeowner has at least an acre of property. The water table underground can’t be too high. And the homeowner must live somewhere where local building laws will permit construction.

Clients also need pretty deep pockets as his company’s models start at $150,000.

“It takes a lot of space to dig that big of a hole,” says Peters. “You have to have a little bit of land and some money, and then you can have a bunker.”

America, Land of the Bunkers? Homeowners Are Holing Up—Against an Election, Natural Disasters, and More (4)

Safe rooms are another popular option

For those who can’t have a bunker (for whatever reason), safe rooms are another option. They can be installed in walk-in closets, basem*nts, or other parts of the home.

Rising S sells models that start at $15,000, while Ultimate Bunker’s models begin at $40,000.

A safe room “offers some protection, just not nuclear or bomb protection,” says Peters, of Ultimate Bunker.

Many of his customers have sought safe rooms because they were robbed, often while on vacation.

“We can protect from people and tornadoes,” he adds.

Gaffco Ballistics, based in South Londonderry, VT, specializes in installing luxury, bullet-proof, concrete rooms that look like regular rooms. The company’s clients typically live in Manhattan; Greenwich, CT; the Hamptons; and Southern Florida, says president Tom Gaffney.

Unlike some, Gaffco Ballistics’ safe rooms can also offer protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. They’re stocked with food, water, medical supplies, outside air monitoring, and communications.

These rooms start at $150,000.

“These are 1 percenters,” Gaffney says of his clients.

Gaffney’s seen about a 30% uptick in interest compared with this time last year. And he attributes about a third of that to the upcoming presidential election and fears of civil unrest.

He’s not the only one—as the 2024 race heats up, many bunker and safe room companies expect to stay busy.

“The more the politicians talk, the better our business is,” says Dancer, of Rising S. “People are extremely nervous. It’s everybody. It’s not just one side or the other.”

America, Land of the Bunkers? Homeowners Are Holing Up—Against an Election, Natural Disasters, and More (2024)
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