About Alan Ball

Over 30 years in real estate and related business in Santa Fe, NM.

Strong, stronger, strongest

We can cheer and smile just a bit as we continue to build on a strong year, the strongest in many years, and stronger than we have had the pleasure to brag about for some time… The unit sales numbers for Santa Fe residential real estate are running at or above a 10% increase over last years unit sales numbers. That’s some news you can smile about.

Various spreadsheets and charts are available for your review if you enjoy digging into the historical trends and current versus prior tallies. Look on the left margin and select the report(s) you are interested in. Try the Third Quarter chart and note the increases in the 1 Million plus price range, 2016 and then 2017. That is a 42% increase. The entire Quarter, including all homes in the sample, went up 13.6% this year compared to last year.

Inventory is actually pretty low in the more affordable price ranges, with barely over 4 months of product  (using my absorption rate formula), while the overall market inventory to be absorbed, using the current rate of sales, is only 7 months. That is within shouting distance of a “balanced market” and based on recorded history in Santa Fe residential real estate, it IS now a balanced market here. While we have lagged other cities in our part of the US, we are healthy and solid in our growth lines without wild fluctuations that later could result in another bubble bursting… I can almost make a prediction, but I will not because I am careful not to, that we will not see prices and home values going down anytime soon.

But will they go up? Now that we are in balance and not very many new homes are being built to meet the demand for the smell of fresh sawdust, we are likely to start seeing actual price appreciation by mid 2018. It could come sooner but we are entering the cooler months and our winter time sales are usually slower; not as robust as summer and fall. Are you looking for a promise that homes will go up in value next year? That’s what you want? Anyone who promises anything like that is certifiable crazy but it very well could happen. I would be delighted to see some consistent across the board appreciation finally.

Get your deals while it’s still 2017 if you know what I mean. Next year could see the sellers tighten up and be less flexible on price and terms, knowing their home is one of only a few available with the quality and location everyone wants. The beautiful adobe in the more distant hills may not notice the market changes as those homes are less compliant with popular buyer location desires. Sellers, plan now to begin your marketing for next year. Buyers, get your pencils sharpened for the deal you want before next spring brings highly optimistic sellers to the dance. Or just buy or sell when you are ready to pull the trigger. Deciding when to do something based on market trends is not always profitable. Better to do things that work for your lifestyle and schedule than following what the masses are trying to do.

The eyes have it

Just look at yourself and ask if you are the person you wanted to be when you got this age. Is this the paradise you wanted to live in, the rapture you thought you would achieve, the absolute happiness you planned for? What might be missing? Do you think its your health? Do you suspect its your bank account? What about your living conditions? Now that is something we can help with. If you are in a tired old flat with no view and 1960’s decor, you can change that in a matter of weeks.

Changing your health might take months and months, and changing your bank account might take years, but you can buy a home and get settled in about 6 weeks if you have good credit and some money to put down. There are even programs for those will little or no down payment, but the point is you can change that part of your world fairly quickly. Have you looked at what is available? Some say our inventory is low and its hurting sales. Take a look and see what you can find. If you can’t find a home that you would be comfortable in, maybe you are already in the right place.

Now that we have solid and consistent growth in sales units, it is inevitable that there may seem to be a shortage in what someone can buy. Some national and local builders are trying to fill the void with new spec homes and new build opportunities that will prove very attractive to some future home buyers. For most of the last 10 years it made more sense to remodel what you already had than to consider upgrading by moving to a home you would prefer for its size, location or quality. But things are changing and a person’s confidence in their own future can be the reason to move to a home they would be happier living in.

You can shop for almost everything (except happiness) online these days and that includes homes. If you find the one you like does not have good photos, ask for better photos, or make a call to a Realtor to arrange a viewing. Is the information that is published helpful in understanding what the home consists of? Are all the usual categories spelled out (type of heat, types of floor covering, number of interior steps, garage yes or no) so you can get a feel for what the home is like?

And how is your credit these days? Would you be able to qualify for a mortgage (if you require one) or do you need to work on that for another year or two? The usual categories apply: stability and length of time in the job you have now – level of income that can be verified – how reliable are you in paying your bills –  have you filed for bankruptcy in the last few years? Getting your act together is vital to making an offer on a home. If you need a mortgage, you should have already visited with a mortgage lender about what you can afford.

Do you need to sell the home you are in now to buy another one? If yes, should you wait to look for a new home until you sell your old one? Not really because when that day comes you may not find the right home and only have a month or so to look. I would suggest better to be shopping for the new place and as soon as you are comfortable with the home inventory available, then put your current home on the market. You can do both the sale and the purchase at the same time, but do get professional help from a licensed Realtor who knows their way around the process for both transactions.

My Keller Williams website has a reliable and easy to use search site if you want to take a look. Look for the link in the red box in the top right margin and have some fun. I will be happy to help you with whatever you find.

The day of the week of the month of the year

The charts and spreadsheets available to you on this blog site are now updated to include sales and inventory as of the end of August 2017. Eight months into the 2017 books and we are running a nice and tidy 12.3% above last years numbers in unit sales for Santa Fe city and county. That is music to many ears. To finally have consistent growth and improvement in our market is a welcome milestone. Remember all real estate is local and each home and neighborhood have distinct characteristics.

Nobody said it would be easy and it has not been easy to climb out of the deep hole that the economic crisis put all of us into. But we have succeeded and are not planning to fall back in anytime soon. There was a place and time (maybe around 2009 and 2010) when I firmly believed that residential real estate could lead us out of the real estate downturn, the tremendous loss of personal financial wealth and “loss of savings in the form of home equity” that we experienced.

It would have taken a mea culpa from the big banks (the ones too big to fail) accepting the millions of bad loans they had on their books as truly bad loans. It would have taken them swallowing a huge pill of write-offs, effectively lowering the principal balance of millions of home loans by tens of thousands of dollars. And all for what? To be done with the depression years sooner? They got bailed out (at least the ones that did not close up shop) so what did they care? The personal health and well-being of the CEOs and stockholders of those big banks would have had to admit to stupidity and white-collar crime, but it would have gotten things upright in a much faster timeframe.

No it did not happen. They took the bailout terms and never admitted guilt. They foreclosed on millions of Americans who were lied to when they bought homes they could not afford. The big banks profited when the loans were made and got insurance on most of the loans that failed to payoff in full. Those consumers that were innocent and actually qualified for the home loans they took out still suffered because of all the other junk and debris around them. Homes were sold for $400K that were worth $325K. When the home buyer moved in, the appraiser said it was worth $400K. But after the 3rd year of fixed payments, when the monthly debt service doubled or tripled, then the owner had a home worth more like $300K or $325K so if they owed $350K, what were they supposed to do?

I know of many that lived through the storm and did not abandon their homes and declare bankruptcy and/or sign a deed in lieu of foreclosure. They kept paying every month and yes, sooner or later the balance came down enough that they no longer owed more than the home was worth. It took ten years or possibly longer. And the entire time they had no increase in net worth and spent every cent they made keeping the payments up and not taking vacations.

What is your recollection? Here is mine. I am a little bitter about the dishonesty at the top of the money pyramid, and also a bit proud that I did not cave in and deed my home to the bank when it was worth less than I owed against it. Now that its finally worth what I paid for it in 2001, I am selling it. Maybe the money I spent on a new roof, new stucco and other necessary things is offset by the deduction of mortgage interest? I sincerely doubt it, but will do the math if it will help me accept 16 years of ownership and upkeep just to have nothing to show for it now.

The lesson that a home is not an ATM is not that difficult to learn. I never treated my home like an ATM. I used equity to pay for roof and stucco and other things the property required. The tough love that homes do not always go up in value is something I still see people struggle with. They expect their home to be worth more in the years after they purchased it. But in Santa Fe residential real estate, is that a reasonable expectation? Ask your friendly Realtor to help you arrive at a market value. No rules apply evenly to all property.

Remembering the tragic events of Sept 11, 2001 brings humility and respect to front of mind. We only are handed this one life and we should live it to the fullest every day. With hurricanes bringing pain and suffering to so many millions, being thankful for what we have is an everyday event. And if we can help others we are better people for taking action. We all have so much to share.

Every dog has his day

…said someone, once upon a time. I am not going to research the origination of that saying, but it sounds like something Mark Twain or Will Rogers would have said. Or possibly Richard Nixon. And so we find ourselves in the third quarter of the year with continued improvement in sales results and still very reasonable interest rates. The town is heaving with visitors and activity, although most Realtors I know want more showings on their listings. I guess I do also, because homes need to be viewed before they will be purchased. Where to begin? When Amazon starts selling homes from their website, then we will know this dog had his day.

Look at the numbers in the spreadsheets available on the left side of these pages. In all price ranges, the average months to sell has dropped from 9.68 to 7.38 in just the last year. In the popular one half to one million range, the drop was more dramatic, going from 15.46 months on average a year ago to 10.56 months on average now. The absorption rate, which is what we call that calculation, is faster when inventory is lower and sales are up; both of which have happened just since last year. This is a trend line that I have consistently been tracking since we found ourselves in the gutter after the bubble burst. You know that bubble? The bubble that had many believing homes never go down in value and often go up by double digits every year. Everyone was wrong. Competition existed on who saw the crash coming first, but nobody escaped without serious damage. Some are still in recovery. Just now we can say we have almost reached the level of activity we saw prior to the crash and that bursting bubble. Only this time we are on a solid foundation as to value instead of seeing high appreciation unsupported by the large majority of sales. If you spend $750,000 on a home today, it is not likely to go down in value in the near future, unless we are in a nuclear war with seas rising a foot a year and anarchy is the law of the streets. Will it go up in value? Maybe someday, but that depends on you the owner.

Fears of overspending on a home should be all but erased, although it’s still possible to pay too much. No question there are plenty of homes listed for sale where the asking price exceeds the likely final sales price. But buyers have become extremely price aware that price has to be resolved first, then the other issues (location, condition, style) can fall quickly into place. All the sayings about there being a home for every buyer and a seat for every butt will be tested as we move forward with less inventory and a fairly strong influx of buyers. Some buyers become disenchanted once they examine our metropolis and others feel the prices are not justified. But some just have to have it as their own. And we can accommodate those newcomers. Changes happen slowly in an area with such long history. Affordable housing has been a headline seeking a response since I came here in the early 1980s. And likely before that. We still have that problem; witness all the manufactured and mobile homes in every rural quadrant of Santa Fe County and beyond. Last I heard, about 50% of all homes in New Mexico were not site built, but were moved onto the site on a trailer.

This market is healthy, wealthy and wise, to coin another phrase. Or like an old boss of mine (while I lived in Denver) said of himself, “fat, dumb and happy”. Those are things one could aspire to, I suppose.

Get your house while you can, while there is an inventory to choose from. The builders we need to build homes are trying hard to risk speculative home starts and I hope they are amply rewarded. We need more of those in all price ranges. In the meantime, learn your dog some new tricks.

The cat wearing the hat

Your time spent online is yours alone, taking advantage of all the sources and distractions available. This can include reading current news stories, fake or otherwise. It could be sports scores or it could be health advice and new developments in human happiness. A cure for insomnia and relief for those with ingrown toe nails is out there also. Shopping can make you feel better sometimes. You might have to dig for a while or drill deeper than you thought at first, but sooner or later you can find almost anything you want to find on the WWW. Have dinner shipped to your doorstep. I will come by to dine with you.

If you have children and a spouse, and/or friends you connect with daily, its possible your online addiction could limit how much you have to give to those relationships. Maybe they are supporting your habit until you wise up and start participating in life with them again. Online addiction might be only surpassed by opioid addictions. Possibly the others are just as addicted and have not yet realized it; too distracted in their own way to notice your absence and fried brain and bloodshot eyes.

At times, I don’t want to look at the screen, but am willing to listen to the audio of an interview from a TV show, or a TED talk or podcast that dips into a subject of interest to me. Closing ones eyes can feel so liberating in a time of device screen paralysis. Unplugging from the short term pleasure of the skimpy rewards that being online gives you is not easy. I dropped off of Facebook months ago, after many more months of almost no activity or visits. Too many posts of kittens? Yes and too many nonsensical rants about Amurica and who has the right to believe what. I admit to getting news briefs from Twitter, in bites I can digest and at a time I want to take them in.

If I were a video or digital picture artist there are more venues than there are grains of sand. I could post a shot of each piece of toast I consume, with butter or not. I could post pix of my drive to my office, my walk from the parking lot to the office building, and my coworkers standing in my office door complaining about their current state of affairs. It might be fun to share photos of places I have been if only I were a more accomplished artist with a camera. I have photos of beautiful sandy beaches, castles on hilltops, amazing historic ruins only recently excavated, a beach wedding service, a farmers market in a foreign city, plus the selfies with me in all manner of dress and mood. How much fun can a person have?

In words it is left to the reader to paint the picture with a push and a tug from the writer. I write about real estate in this blog, touching on social issues that affect real property directly or indirectly. I occasionally rant about the things I see going on, but also realize if I rant then you are ranting too. Send me yours if it will balance things out between us. Words and numbers are the primary focus of my blog and I hope those numbers are easy to understand and useful to you. They continue to improve just a little bit each month and our residential real estate market in Santa Fe has solid footing and is almost completely finished clearing out the deadwood of foreclosures and short sales. The days of the super bargain are probably gone, even though those were not really bargains after all.

How many calls have I gotten from someone who sees a pretty photo of the front of a home that is listed at $220.000 with over 2000 square feet and 4 bedrooms plus a garage? Why is it so cheap? Well, the actual condition of the property is why. When you see a home in our MLS database that looks too good to be true, it has probably already been picked over by many people with similar ideas. How can I buy this and fix it up a little and flip it for a quick profit? An example where there was enough profit for two buyers went as follows:  First buyer purchased out of foreclosure around $120K and did minor touch up and painting. Sold it for $150K in a couple of months. Then Second buyer did more work to the home, leased it out for a couple of years and then sold it for $215K. Two parties made a few dollars on that one property. Today it is likely worth $250K and might be sold for that if the current owners wanted to sell.

So the cat with the hat is fun and entertaining. So are the Epic Fail clips. Reading Paul Krugman opinion columns online can be educational. Observing the White House roller coaster would be a hoot if it was not so disturbing. Seeing how your stocks are doing is fun as can be lately as the stock market breaks new ground almost daily. And seeing what your neighbor’s house is selling for is also interesting. Focus on what sells, not what is for sale. A for sale home priced at $500K does not inform you nearly as much as the home down the street that sold last month for $445K. Or the one around the corner that sold in May for $467K. Asking price is a suggestion. No more no less. The owner suggests your written offer to purchase should match the asking price or come as close to that number as possible in order for them to respond to the offer in a meaningful way. Ignoring an offer is also meaningful but in a different way.

Santa Fe sellers still collectively hold out a candle of hope that their home will sell quickly and for full price. But history, recent history being the only type that matters here, shows only the lower end price range homes in and around Santa Fe sell quickly and for full or almost full price. Why do other markets do things differently? In a recent referral of a listing ($280K range) in a Phoenix suburb, the broker I contacted did extensive market research and had the sellers do some work to the home before marketing it. Then the first day it was for sale was an advertised open house and 30 people came. Four offers came out of those visits and the one that won the bidding war paid about $11,000 more than asking price. The home closed on time and everyone was happy.

What is the difference between that market and ours? Here the seller and listing broker will price the home somewhere between 3% and 12% above what it will likely sell for. Then they battle to get people in the home and interested in the property. Time goes by and the broker and seller discuss a price reduction. When that hits the internet there is a flurry of activity on the home; some showings and some phone calls with questions about details of the home. But no offer comes and so after a few more months, another price reduction is entered into the system and another flurry of activity starts. Each time the new price is entered, a new group of prospects shows up online or in person. Once the asking price gets really close to the eventual sales price, then negotiations begin and serious contract preparation commences. A meeting of the minds occurs and escrow begins. Once all issues are resolved the closing can occur. And everyone is happy we hope. But maybe the seller waiting say nine months to sell and could have received the same net proceeds in two months had the first asking price been closer to the actual value. And we know that the actual value is what someone will pay for it, not what the seller has invested in it or what they hope to get. I hope to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower someday but I am OK if it does not happen. Sellers maybe should find a way to be OK with a faster sale instead of the same results after many months of anxious waiting and blaming the listing broker. It takes an honest assessment of the market and a Realtor willing to tell the truth to the seller.

Some sellers are not in a rush. Those people have alternative motivations and timelines. They might have $1,200,000 into a property and have already bitten several bullets to get the asking price down to $950K, while in everyone’s heart the final sold price will be closer to $850K. Is this normal for our market? Yes it is. Many examples are out there that are similar to the above recap. A buyer’s task is to separate out the highly motivated sellers from the ones that are just testing the market. Like the wolf going after the slow and slightly lost calf in Yellowstone, buyers will find the seller that wants to make a deal today and is not willing to wait 6 months. If you want to be that seller, that buyers surround and attack, price is your primary weapon. Price it to sell or price it to sit and look pretty. You can find your place in a magazine and wish they used different photos or you can be at the Bank depositing your sale proceeds.

When I get a cat I am going to get him a hat. Until then thanks for stopping by this blog site and feel free to use the statistics with proper attribution. You can disagree or you can do what many others do, use this information as if its your own. Then get a good nights sleep. And turn off your phone.

Where are you going?

Predictions are risky and can be very embarrassing if you are wildly incorrect. But they are free to all comers. Anyone can predict the sky will fall or who will win the next election. There is not really a penalty for being wrong, is there? I will tell you where we are going if you promise not to remind me when later it is determined that I was wrong in my predictions. We have a deal?

Santa Fe real estate will continue to be a fairly good bargain when compared with many resort and historically significant cities in the Southwestern US. While Santa Fe residential real estate might be considered expensive compared to other NM cities, it is not at all like other NM cities, so direct comparison is not always helpful.

We will continue to have a shortage of newly built quality homes for sale while the dance of fiscally healthy home builders and construction lenders keeps spec home building artificially low. There may be barely enough inventory under $500K to keep abreast of demand, but so few new homes are being built in the upper price ranges that the choices for a buyer are limited to someone else’s idea of luxurious living. Or a ‘new to Santa Fe’ buyer could choose to build what they want, as many do after looking at the choices.

Water will still be a precious commodity for all of us anywhere near Santa Fe. This is true of the entire Colorado Plateau and east to Texas. We will experience ongoing drought conditions and water conservation will be more important than ever, as newcomers try to find their place in the City Different. Alternative energy sources will increase in usage and homes will increasingly be powered by sunlight. Geothermal and wind generated energy should also prosper. While our public electric utility tries to limit the acceptance of solar energy to replace their coal burning contracts, the public will demand it both for cost and the demonstrable effect on our climate.

This area will continue to struggle to convince its young people to stick around as the bling and glitter of big cities will still be a strong lure. Until we have free city-wide high-speed internet and more affordable housing for young adults, we will have a net loss of census numbers in our population of residents between 20 and 40. The effect of  the aging of our population will make the gap between the haves and the have-nots even wider. Born here all my life citizens will see more and more money flow into the community for the sole use of the wealthy second home buyers and residents that dip their toes in the water but do not become immersed in Santa Fe. They will bring it but not really spend it here. We will always have good choices for fine dining and luxury lodging for visitors yet Santa Feans with jobs will have to pay for parking and fail to get decent health care from most employers. Being the land of manana means it will not likely turn into a major conflict here, but the divide will be felt acutely by those getting by with less.

Your wait person at the next restaurant you dine at will still have a higher university degree and will continue to ask you if you are still working on that while you have your fork in your hand and a mouthful of food. There will be a public outcry about wait staff refilling water glasses without asking. Why don’t we just start paying 10 cents a glass, or maybe a quarter. No free refills.

Santa Fe will become a regional center for the admiration and worship of the Siberian Elm tree, a truly invasive weed/tree that sucks more water out of the earth than all the pinion and juniper combined. The shade these weeds provide will once again come up short when compared to the cost of loss of water in the ground and root damage to plumbing and pavement. The last person to agree to cut down such a tree on their property will also be the first person to call for the lowering of property taxes and better schools for youngsters. Confusion will reign as education about the value and importance of types of trees becomes mandatory for property owners. Flat roofs will continue to leak.

Our state will put a Democrat into the Governor’s office next time around. We are in a cycle and the current Gov, a Republican, is wrapping up her 2nd term so its time to change again. No matter who gets in, that person will get a second four-year term unless it is discovered that they hired immediate family members for important positions, who failed to disclose meetings with Texans in their paperwork.

The Aamodt (water rights) lawsuit will be settled someday, much to the distaste of everyone involved. Nobody will be happy about the terms and conditions of said settlement, yet life will go on and water restrictions will remain.

On a wider perspective, the EU seems to be in a pickle as its various member nations go through troublesome and confusing times. Many want isolation while others realize there is power and safety in alliances. It seems a macho/bully sort of demand for going it alone – making Bosnia great again – while denigrating every other country and ally. The soft/sensitive side of national leaders admit we cannot do it as islands; we need our connections and our friends to make everything great again. And what is the definition of great again exactly? A time when the old white guys had unlimited power and commanded everyone else’s life, or a time when we were all innocent and desperate standing in soup lines in the 1930s? What decade do you wish we could return to? In the 1950s I was young and naive. Life was good and I had a bicycle and rode it everywhere in a 10 mile radius of home. I knew where the candy counter was too.

In the 50 states, turmoil is the rule right now. Elected officials are getting hell from their constituents when they talk about voting for a health care bill that takes away care from many. The concept of national health care seems impossible yet it is carried out successfully in many countries with fewer resources. Bipartisan and fair for all; then figure it out. If controls on Pharma and the medical world are necessary, that is the price to pay to cover everyone. Or if you believe that those that cannot afford health care should do without, please track a suffering person without care and add up how the emergency room and numerous public services actually spend money caring for that person. Preventative work is almost always better than treating the sickness once it takes hold. And there is more…

The average American may or may not agree if we should stay in the Paris Accord (climate change fears) and carry the burden of moving swiftly and completely into a sustainable style of living. Yet we have strong evidence that a refocus on alternate energy and reusable materials can be economically viable. If Big Oil has power, we will utterly fail to take action until the best we can do is stay alive with filters and masks and be afraid to step out in public lest the lepers and zombies get close to us. Each person needs to ethically figure it out for themselves. If some are waiting for a voice to guide them, that voice is not yet on the scene. It will probably be someone who is only 9 years old today. When did you realize you are using more than your fair share? And why is that OK with the rest of us?

Caring for those in need is not mandatory in our current world. Yet choosing not to care for people who desperately need assistance is basically telling them to get lost; go off and die somewhere far away. I don’t think we are in a postapocalyptic world in which we need to be heavily armed against invaders who want to raid our food storage and steal our clean water. Are you hoarding gold? Will that feed your children? What fuels the paranoia dominating those that have plenty over those going without? What are they afraid of? The revolution that some fear will be much messier if it is made up of starving people fighting for food instead of those with full bellies that just want better education and free mass transit. Pick your battles, I suppose. Are some afraid that if everyone had plenty to eat and access to health care then the world would be out of balance?

In the future, blogs will be blogs and real estate will be real estate. You might own real property, build a shelter and stock it with two years worth of food and water. But then what cable channel will you watch when the two coasts are obliterated and the less populated states have the survivors? Wyoming and Montana have lots of empty spaces where bombs will not fall and disease and armed insurgents will never capture territory. And yet…    Who is going to do your yard work? Will you need to dry clean anything? Is Blue Apron still around? What do I do with my golf membership?

Predictions are risky and since no large wager of money is on the line, I can handle being wrong if it turns out that way. But I prefer to be right. Maybe you do also. It’s probably human nature to desire and hope that things turn out the way you want them to. What some people seem to want just scares the hell out of me. Should I get over it or speak up?

A success story

The Santa Fe residential real estate market has come through some difficult times (no kidding!) and survived with a bright future and a solid foundation for growth and prosperity. Overall the market is somewhat balanced, with the usual strong and weak pockets. One who wishes to sell a home should find enough of a pool of buyers to make a deal. Prospects who are considering our area will have a reasonable amount of inventory to shop.

As always, the monthly statistics will be posted by the 10th of the following month, so May 2017 and year to date results will be available by June 10th. If you choose to follow this blog you will get an email when I post them, or just come back around the 10th for the good news; things are looking good!

Thank you

The Saga of Elk Mountain

Once upon a time, the lands around here were explored by people from other parts of the world, including from parts of Europe where they have to put names on everything. And many times explorers and adventurers, representing the King or Queen or POTUS of their homelands would attach the name of that royal personage or their own name on a large piece of land or body of water. Lake Louise, Mount Ranier, Bering Straits, Jamestown, Queens and even a little burg (larger back then) known as Elizabethtown in the Romero Valley of New Mexico.

Well, as luck would have it, the Europeans coming into what would become New Mexico gave some names to some of the mountains around here such as Wheeler Peak but the use of proper names was not so strong as many others were named for existing conditions, such as Trampas, Vallecito and Truchas. I mean, those are connected to things and events and beliefs, but not so much proper names. Then the mountain east of the Pecos River Canyon a low and massive hump of land with a barely discernible peak from below, but long deep snow cover in the winter, came to be called Elk Mountain. Now I am not a betting man but I believe at least 31 states of our 50 have a hill or mountain by that name. And that’s fine because names of things are used over and over in different areas and locations. Imagine my surprise when as a young boy I found out that the Broadway I lived on in Fremont Nebraska was not the biggest well-known Broadway around.

Now begins the saga as Elk Mountain has been properly named for many a year, but then politics sometimes gets in the middle of things and ruins them completely. Or improves them if you are of a certain ethnic or gender based group that depends on laws (borne out of political angst) to get to live your life in our bent out of shape country. Just last night I heard a guy say, on TV (a hallowed soap box from which to spread rumors and lies), that we are not a nation of immigrants but we are a WHITE nation. Wow, what box did that guy crawl out of? And what about Elephant Butte?

So the people sitting in Washington said one day that they had a compunction to honor some of their favorite sons-in-law (Kushner?) and sons of the Third Wife (Barron?) so the renaming began in earnest. Lake-of-the-Woods became Flynn Pond. Georgia was retitled Jaredland. The Smoky Mountains became Ivanka’s Ridge and so on and so on. Then they started seeing things named after animals and old Native American names, which they knew they could ignore because no descendants held any power over the 45 Regime and they would have little resistance. So Lake Peak, just above little Santa Fe, became Pence Mountain and Elk Mountain became Davidduke Hill. After several years of this renaming process the people were so confused and left in the dark that some of the information did not get circulated on a timely basis and National Park maps, for which there was no budget, started coming out with the new names. It was a tedious process to pore over those maps to find out what had been changed. There was an element of disbelief when many landmarks and lakes and streams and mountains and cities and states all of a sudden were named something else.

And who pray tell would represent the Elks, except maybe that old group of beer drinking guys that have clubs all over the country (Elks Lodges, each with a distinct charter and number) and all of the actual elk that live and propagate on those same mountains (except where they have been hunted out completely). Well, as fate would dictate, the Elks Lodge guys were not well enough organized to make a difference but the elk animals were very upset. They started dodging bullets and arrows with abandon and refusing to be shot for antler trophies and meat. The cost to the people who hunt elk was tremendous and the lack of meat on the table was a big wakeup call to all. And the elk, without the process of elimination that comes from being hunted, grew in population to where they were asking about homesteading on new lands and setting up new elk villages all over the place, even near Tucson and El Paso and areas where they were not expected.

This situation became a huge news item and of course many were confused because they thought it might be fake news and all. But it was the real deal. The story got even more weird when all the bald guys in American go up in arms because of all the mountains with Baldy in the name (and there were quite a few) that were renamed after 45’s various resorts and golf courses around the globe. Bald guys are not the type to offend and slight, let me tell you. So stay tuned for the Baldy Saga coming to a movie house near you.

Whats good for the goose

The story behind our fair and historic city is a long and romantic one. It is also filled with assorted groups claiming Northern New Mexico with swords and knives and later being overthrown. The dirt we grow our roses in has been governed by several nations and has been subject to differing methods of land ownership verification over the last 400 plus years. Today one gets a title insurance policy when one buys real property, most of the time. On occasion a family transfer occurs and title is not researched and insurance is not purchased because there is a presumption of clear title on behalf of the family’s elders.

You can trust anyone you want, but it is usually a good idea to verify what they are telling you; check on what they are selling you. While there are rarely title insurance claims filed, probably because the title companies do excellent research, there are too often bad feelings and threats of lawsuits after a simple real estate transaction. Many times that has to do with someones perception of what a Realtor is supposed to do or say, or what the seller did or did not disclose. A leaky roof is a very bad thing to discover in your new (to you) home, but it happens to the best of us. As we rarely get rain and or snow to test the integrity of our roofing systems, months can go by without a drop of moisture while the tar or foam or aluminum flashing holding out the moisture is failing slowly but surely. Then when we get a big wet late April snow storm, it may feel as if the seller was dishonest in not disclosing a roof leak. But did it ever leak before? That is a difficult question to answer with 100% accuracy. Some sellers might not be honest but I would submit to you that most are.

So buy a home and ask lots of questions, get lots of inspections, order and read lots of reports so when you walk in the door for the first time as the owner, there won’t be surprises and disappointments. Buying a home is not the time to save a couple hundred by choosing not to investigate the quality of the construction of your new dwelling.

Some roof leaks, canale leaks, skylight leaks and other places water can get inside are only wet for a few hours, plenty of time for them to dry while we are at work or in Albuquerque shopping at Costco. Go away for a week and who knows what is going on inside your home. I have seen homes so large that I doubt the owners can physically see every inch of their home on the inside to even know if a leak exists. Vigilance is a good thing when you are fighting leaks, and other unwanted invasions.

The wisdom of owning a home usually is greater than leasing, but when your home requires a bunch of work just to bring it back to normal, it may feel like you are not doing the right thing to own a home. If you were leasing you could just call the landlord, right? Let’s hope you have a good landlord; most are good in my experience. But the money required to maintain a home is not somewhere to skimp and save. The true savings in home maintenance seem to be when the owner can do much of the work herself without having to call a professional. Painting, tile and grout, cleaning, re-sealing wood surfaces, are all known to be projects an owner can take on with confidence. Electrical and plumbing maybe require more journeyman help than Uncle Jimmy who is handy with a hammer. You must keep the home in good condition if you want it to maintain value. If you want it to increase in value, consider adding on with a quality addition, or remodeling key areas of your home, such as the kitchen.

If you were not up to speed on our particular market characteristics, appreciation of home values is still a story we will hope to write in the future. If you find a home that has grown in value over the last 5-7 years, either it was bought for a song and is now fixed up or the owner make improvements that added value. Just running the vacuum and washing windows will not make your home worth more money.

Funny how I can show a home to a couple that says they rarely cook and yet they are quick to criticize a home with an outdated or small kitchen. If I ask them why they care, they are slow to admit it makes an impression, good or bad, on their visitors and house guests. Hope springs eternal for the day when a homeowner stops trying to keep up with the Joneses and just lives a simple and happy life. Then there is the shock when they find out their home seems to be a mid-century modern with a certain panache that makes it “unique”. Speaking of styles what exactly is soft contemporary? Is that something you can define or put your finger on? Does it mean contemporary but that some of the hard and straight lines have curves in them? Someday I will catch up on the jargon. Still my fave is 5 minutes to the Plaza. The most fun a person can have when they live south of St. Michaels Drive and try to get to the Plaza from home in 5 minutes or less.

Take a gander at this: home sales continue to climb, with April sales for the month well above last year’s April. I will let you look it up in the attached spreadsheets so you can have that moment of joy when you see the numbers.

So now an important question for you. Please vote by your site visits over the next month. I have been contemplating making this website more about marketing my listings, if I happen to have any, than just dry and hard to understand numbers. What do you think? Would you still come by and visit if you had to look at some banner ads with my listings? Many have told me I should charge admission for access to the information herein. I would settle for an occasional commission check from selling one of my listings from a feature post with photos right here. If you are not happy with the changeover to a more “retail” appearance, then make me an offer and you can buy this very blog with its history and first page of Google pedigree. Is it for sale? Show me something that is not for sale and then I want it. Speaking of the goose, I want to visit the Bosque soon and see what birds are hanging out there. I hear January is the busiest month.

Enjoy the spring and coming summer as we live in a wonderful part of the world with little to distract us from the beauty of nature and the mixing bowl of the people of Santa Fe.

I like it like that

Three months in the books and 2017 looks promising indeed. One month (March) of homes sold was well above last year, and the first three months of the last several years show a steady positive trend line. The first quarter of 2015 and 2016 produced 395 home sales while this year same period shows us with 458, a healthy 16% increase. Will that continue? If it does continue, we will soon have that shortage of inventory that the rest of the country seems to be experiencing. That inventory shortage is not something to strive for; in fact we need new construction and some spec homes soon or we will suffer from the shortage that would result. Buyers will be hurt the worst as they will have less to choose from and prices will reflect the sellers market that would take over Santa Fe. Note I said would, because it is not here yet.

In some price ranges, the recent results show good strength and a continued improvement. I have been moaning about the fact that we are still in our “recovery” mode, but maybe just maybe this will be the year we truly get beyond the pain and loss of the last 10 years. Take a look at the latest rolling 12 month unit sales totals in most any price range… (the spreadsheets are on the left margin) …you will see the most recent number in unit sales is the highest in about 10 years. While we have not yet regained the ground we held from 2003 to 2006, we are fast approaching those levels of unit sales. There were times when a full recovery seemed a dream, but it might just come true. Keep pushing my friend!

After years of scraping the bottom, bouncing along the bottom, calling the bottom, fearing there may be no bottom to the real estate crisis, burst-bubble and final markdowns/meltdowns, it is exhilarating to now be able to report some positive news about Santa Fe area residential real estate. I like it like that.