Drought is always a concern in the high desert country of northern New Mexico, and the intermittent light sprinkles of rain or snow are welcome, though insufficient to fill the reservoir or make the Santa Fe River run. The City is renovating streets and sidewalks, and refurbishing parks with irrigated green belts. Water rights from the San Juan-Chama basin, made available from the Buckman diversion and treatment plant, augment the traditional sources of snowmelt and groundwater. Our water is not cheap, but we have a good supply.
Itís February and thereís a lull between cold spells. The Ski Basin opened before Christmas. After two long cold snaps the weather has warmed. Skiing was great yesterday at the cloud-shrouded Ski Basin. White mist obscured the view of the white terrain. With only a vague view of the snow, you focus attentively on the steady pull of gravity and trust your legs to respond to the textures beneath you. Experience helps you adjust your speed and direction, and handle the occasional surprise.
The autumn sun warms my shirt and as the morning chill lingers at my back, a reminder of the rolling seasons. And the market for the Santa Fe area has heated up home sales in the third quarter. The bouncy blue line on the Quarterly Residential Sales chart rose well above any period since mid-2007. The red trend line is more reluctant, but it too has risen above the wavy base line it traced for three years, fluctuating seasonally between 400 and 450 sales per quarter. It is hard to say whether the uncertainly of the election season has had much effect on home buying decisions.
The summer rains arrived exactly on time this year on the fourth of July. This is one of the reasons we live in Santa Fe... sunny mornings with puffy clouds, then occasional showers to cool the afternoons, and cool evenings. It's a good year for apricots, the first since 2006 that our tree has made fruit. And it made a lot. For two weeks we picked them up, cooked them a bit and froze bags full. Maybe a few years without fruit would be OK. Now the peaches are ripening. Thank God it's a dwarf tree.
Springtime in the Rockies is as capricious as ever with dazzling hedges of fragrant lilacs, and orchards blooming in sequence from apricot, cherry and plum, then pear and apple, each facing the threat of killer frosts that can drop suddenly. An early warm spell enticed our apricot tree to bud while we were still skiing at higher altitudes. Then temperatures dropped again below freezing for three consecutive nights, but the accompanying wet snow insulated the buds, and we hope for a good crop. Now in April the apple trees are in full color.
There are new signs of life in the Santa Fe home market. For the past 3 years, the red trend-line on the Average Home Sale Price chart has been just about $400,000. The number of homes sold has averaged about 425 sales per quarter. It appears that this is about to change. Jim O'Neill, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in a January interview with Charlie Rose that he expects the national housing market to bring a "pleasant surprise" this year. Many other respected advisors are also optimistic. Improved national home markets, coupled with low interest mortgage availability, will allow retiring baby boomers and others to go forward with their plans to move here.
Several new magazine polls rank Santa Fe as a top travel destination, with clean air and an excellent overall quality of living. U. S. News ranked Santa Fe as the best place to retire for recreation and culture. A Travel + Leisure poll of 44,000 readers put us in the top five destinations for shopping, museums, weather, cleanliness, and safety. And Outside Magazine's October issue highlights Santa Fe as a "Best Place to Live" praising our "New York City caliber" restaurants, the Opera, the Farmer's Market, clean air, hiking climbing, skiing, and our cultural depth evolving from 400 years of coexistence with disparate peoples. Wow!
As the second quarter drew to a close, high temperatures and the long drought spawned dozens of wildfires around New Mexico. Santa Fe's pristine skies were smudged with smoke, first from the Pacheco Canyon fire just northeast of Tesuque, and then the Las Conchas fire to the west in the Jemez. Los Alamos was evacuated for days while firefighters struggled to protect Bandelier, the labs, and Los Alamos from the Las Conchas, now the largest fire ever in the state.
The average price paid for homes in the Santa Fe area during the first 3 months of 2011 jumped up $50,000 from year's end to $443,000, the second largest quarterly increase ever. A closer look at the average sale price shows why. The big news was in the high end where one $10,000,000 sale skewed the average, just like we saw in the first quarter of 2008, when a single sale accounted for the highest ever increase in the average. If we exclude sales of over $1,000,000, the average price paid for houses remained steady at $335,000, and the median price rose only a bit to $295,500.
Turning back the tops of paper bags was the hardest part of setting out eight-dozen farolitos this year. On other Christmas Eves it's been different. The two scoops of sand that anchor the open bags have sometimes been damp and frozen, or the wind has made lighting the candles inside the paper bags a challenge, or it has been so cold the candles won't burn. This quiet Christmas tradition, simple and dear, set the tone for the season… a great time to be here enjoying the warmth of family or good friends, and the beauty of this special time and place. Certainly there was still stress, but the seasonal routines of renewal anchor our connection to each other, our commitment to our chosen pathway, and our confidence in the cycle of season. It's a world class tradition on an intimate scale.
As is our custom in Santa Fe during autumn, both residents and visitors enjoyed the colorful celebration of Fiestas. Indian market and the finale of the Opera season segued into new highlights: pianist Lang Lang gave an incredible performance and was enticed into three encores by ecstatic attendees at the opera patrons benefit. The preservation group Cornerstones, filled the LaFonda ballroom with a congenial and generous group of friends who maintain old adobe structures. The Wine and Chile festival drew record crowds, celebrating fine cuisine from our fantastic local eateries.
Summer in Santa Fe means an ever-changing menu of festivals, art shows, musical events and the weather. The heat of June and early July is an almost-fond memory now that the monsoon rains have arrived to drench and cool the afternoons. Santa Feans know that in early July the best shopping at the folk art market is in the morning before the 15,000 other shoppers have picked over the goods, and before the intense high altitude sun heats the pavement and dries the air. Morning is the time to shop at Spanish market later in July as well. The selection is best then, and the air is cool. By mid-day there may well be torrential rains and lightning or hail. The surprises of summerís weather can be loathed or loved, but it is always the way to start a conversation with the vendors, tourists, neighbors and friends. All the leaks have by now been patched in our dear flat roofs, and TPO is the latest and greatest new material. Roof leaks take a close second place to the weather in conversation openers with locals.
Spring arrived this year in Santa Fe nearly indisinguishable from winter… cold and wet, with new snow falling weekly through Easter and beyond. The number of home sales was up 21.5% above the dismal first quarter of 2009, with more sales in the month of March than any month since 2007. Sales pending at the end of the quarter numbered 279, up 18% from December 31st. On the street, many Realtors feel that buyers are more serious and sense an up-tick in acivity. The more volaile monthly Santa Fe home sales chart shows an increasing trend line, but the quarterly sales trend line is sill somewhat flat.
Mother nature cooperated this year, painting the eaves of our adobe buildings with icicles and providing a perfect starry night for the Christmas eve Farolito walk. There is enough snow to keep outdoor enthusiasts happy, and sunny days make skiing, boarding and snowshoeing a gorgeous way to enjoy the outdoors. Santa Fe has been called a trophy hometown, but it’s so much be ter than that. As 2009 ended, comparisons focused on “the worst year since…”. In real estate, as elsewhere, we are looking back and wondering what’s ahead.
October kicked off with cool, wet weather — unusual for Santa Fe — while there were the usual Balloon Fiesta crowds that were not disappointed by events surrounding the event. Santa Fe once again enjoyed some of the overflow from Balloon Fiesta as visitors from all over the world trickled in to enjoy our shopping and restaurants. The burning of the giant effigy, Zozobra, was more symbolic than ever before, with this past year’s glooms going with him in a billow of smoke and fire, as the Caballeros de Vargas re-enacted Santa Fe’s founding. Inaugurating the celebration of Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary, the Crown Prince Felipe de Borbon y Grecia of Spain and his wife Princess of Asturias Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano honored our city with their presence, and attended mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi on October 6. The farmers market is brimming with fresh local produce, meats, herbs, flowers, baked goods and chiles in bright red wreaths and ristras.
The second quarter was history by the time Natalie Dessay’s ribald incarnation of Violeta at the Santa Fe Operaís production of “La Traviata” romped onto the stage and won our hearts with her strong, precise, and nuanced voice. Record heat followed a cool wet June, and opera-goers could forego the wraps. Conde Nast and Travel + Leisure once again ranked Santa Fe among the top travel destinations, and over 5700 passengers rode the Railrunner from Albuquerque to the Folk Art Market on Saturday.
Winter’s last snowstorm dumped over a foot of new snow at higher altitudes just before Easter and winter sport enthusiasts were jazzed. There was a scant inch in town. The snowpack in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains was about normal this year and now, in May, the runoff has filled the reservoir and energizes the Santa Fe River on its run through the City. It’s a beautiful year for the lilacs. Glorious blue hedges adorn historic neighborhoods and punctuate the scenery in mountain villages making indelible colorful memories. The apricot buds came early and were nipped off in a late spring freeze, but the apple, pear, cherry and plum blossoms were so nice that we are grateful to Bishop Lamy who brought them to us.
SANTA FE, with its pristine environment, its colorful local traditions, profusion of art and music, quaint shops and indigenous cuisine provides a unique lifestyle within a vacation-destination community. Our citizens enjoy all the usual amenities and activities, but it is the deep connection of the Hispanic and Native American people to this place, and their tenacious preservation of their cultures which offer a depth of human experience that is unique in North America. Perhaps more than anywhere else, those who are attracted to Santa Fe can find no alternatives.
As we move into the Fourth Quarter of the year, Santa Fe embraces the harvest season with fresh chile ristras, apples, and multicolored corn decorating our homes and pleasing our palates. Fall is the season that many Northern New Mexicans say is the most lovely. An early winter storm kicked up last week, leaving the Sangre de Cristos glistening with snow.
The summer season in Santa Fe is in full swing with the opera, the Desert Chorale and Site Santa Fe opening to rave reviews, and the International Folk Art Festival sales surpassing last year by 17%.
The first quarter of the year was punctuated by glistening ski slopes set against our azure blue sky and a decline in home sales - and the average price for homes sold has finally been affected by the national downturn.
The high altitude winds that grounded the 700 hot air balloons during the first Saturday of the 2007 Balloon Fiesta, was perhaps symbolic for 4th quarter real estate sales. Forces beyond the borders of our fair city are finally impacting our market as sales are stalled in feeder markets.
Trends tend to impact real estate markets at a different pace, although other markets can and do affect the behavior of home buyers. We are certainly witnessing this now, as the volatility of banking and the stock market affects decisions to invest in property.
Home sales did achieve their anticipated bounce this quarter, rising 25% above the low point reached last quarter and terminating a three quarter drop of 40%.
Worries about a reversal in the long upward trend in real estate sales and prices were validated during the first quarter of the year, but not for the expected reasons, and not across the board.