Bandelier National Monument: What You Need to Know

This 33,677-acre preserve encompasses some of the most dramatic volcanic landscapes and archaeological ruins in New Mexico. The former home of ancestral Pueblo people, the area was occupied from AD 1150 to 1600. The remains of the area include structures like masonry walls and dwellings, all of which are carved from the volcanic rock. Petroglyphs pepper the walls and work to illustrate Pueblo culture and daily life. Located near Los Alamos, this monument is a big draw for people living in the area. 
 
Bandelier was designated by President Woodrow Wilson as a National Monument in 1916. The park infrastructure was further developed in the 1930s by crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps. While not a designated National Park, the National Park Service cooperates with surrounding Pueblos, other federal agencies, and state agencies to manage the 50-square-mile area. Most of the pueblo structures are around 3,500 years old, and the monument preserves the homes and territory of Ancestral Puebloans.  
 
Over 70 percent of Bandelier National Monument is wilderness. It comprises a large portion of the Pajarito Plateau and has over one mile of elevation change, creating a wide range of life zones and wildlife habitats. There are three miles of road and more than 70 miles of hiking trails. Frijoles Canyon contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas, rock paintings, and petroglyphsTyuonyia circular pueblo site that once stood 1-3 stories tall, is of particular archaeological interest. Most sites date from the Pueblo III Era to the Pueblo IV Era. 
 
Bandelier National Monument is not, however, just a spot for history lovers. The park has an educational museum, hiking trails, and campsites, all of which are perfect for getting out and exploring the strangely beautiful New Mexican wilderness. Wildlife is locally abundant, and both deer and Abert’s squirrels are frequently encountered in the canyon. A substantial herd of elk are present during the winter months, and backcountry hikers have been known to encounter both black bear and mountain lions.  

White Sands National Monument: What You Need to Know

New Mexico is full of some pretty spectacular national wonders, but White Sands National Monument is one of the most beloved by both tourists and locals. This is one of the most stunning landscapes in the state, and it’s just a half and hour’s drive southwest of Alamogordo. Situated in the Tularosa Basin, a northern offshoot of the Chihuahua Desert, and surrounded by rugged mountain on all sides, White Sands National Monument is full of gleaming white gypsum sand.

These sands comprise some 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live there. The monument was established in 1933, and it is completely surrounded by military installations. This creates an interesting tension; the monument and nearby military professionals have a difficult relationship, as errant missiles would often fall on the monument. In the past, they have even destroyed visitor areas. However, an accident has not occurred in several decade.

White Sands National Monument also has an interesting relationship with the U.S. government. In January of 2008, two New Mexico Senators wrote letters of support for the site’s application to become a World Heritage Site. This, however, generated a lot of controversy in the area; if White Sands Monument receives the designation, there is likely to be outside pressure to halt the nearby military operations. Similarly, in May of 2018, another Senator introduced a bill to designate White Sands as a national park. The bill is widely supported, but several Otero County commissioners oppose the bill because it will increase area regulation.

Regardless of White Sands National Monument’s history as a point of tension, it is part of what makes New Mexico such an interesting state. Gypsum rarely occurs as sand because it is water-soluble; rain often dissolves gypsum, and rivers then carry it to the sea. However, the Tularosa Basin has no outlet to the sea, so it traps rain that dissolves gypsum. The rainwater sinks into the ground, which forms shallow pools that subsequently dry out. Over time, this process has created dunes as high as sixty feet. If you’re visiting or considering moving to the state, White Sands National Monument is a must-see natural wonder.  

 

Santa Fe Named 4th Top City in the United States

Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Santa Fe the 4th Top City in the United States for 2018, making this the third year in a row in which the city has appeared in the Top 5. The awards are based on a survey of the magazine’s 300,000 readers, who represent people who love to travel. The top five cities this year, including our own state capital, included Charleston, South Carolina, New Orleans, Louisiana, Savannah, Georgia, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New York City.

Santa Fe consistently ranks high in the annual voting as a top destination for travelers. Travel + Leisure did the survey in conjunction with M&RR, a national research firm. Magazine readers were invited to fill out a survey online, the answers of which were tallied into a final score based on reader experiences related to things like sights and landmarks, culture, food, value, shopping, and friendliness. This year’s survey took place between November 6, 2017 and March 5, 2018. All award winners, including Santa Fe, will appear in the August 2018 print edition of the magazine.

On this outstanding achievement, Randy Randall, the Executive Director of TOURISM Santa Fe, said, “We’re honored to be recognized year after year by the travel-savvy readers of Travel + Leisure, and feel that it reflects Santa Fe’s commitment to provide a truly authentic experience for people interested in culture, history, the arts, cuisine, one-of-a-kind shopping, the outdoors, rejuvenation, and wellness.” He continued, stating that “the Santa Fe community works incredibly hard every day to make this a reality.”

So, there you have it. Not only is New Mexico an excellent place to live, but our capital city is one of the best in the nation. Santa Fe is also one of the Top 10 Cities for Historic Preservation and has an excellent livability ranking. If this isn’t enough to convince you to check this place out, we’re not sure what is.

 

Balloon Fiesta: What You Need to Know

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, known colloquially as “Balloon Fiesta,” is one of our favorite state festivals. This is a yearly hot air balloon event that takes place during early October—just after peak tourist season and just before the cold weather kicks in. This is a must-see event for anybody with even a casual interest in our beautiful state.

Balloon Fiesta began as a small gathering of 13 hot air balloons in 1972. Since then, it has grown to become the largest balloon event in the world, now attracting almost 600 balloons and over 1,000 pilots. The first gathering was held in the parking lot of Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque, but the event quickly caught national attention; the following year, thirteen countries took part in the “First World Hot Air Balloon Championship,” which was held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Just four years after the event’s inception, the city of Albuquerque hosted 273 balloon entries. In 2000, Balloon Fiesta organizers registered over 1,000 balloons.

Hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world visit Balloon Fiesta each year. In addition to offering spectacular views of hot air balloons dotted across the Albuquerque horizon, the event now offers several unique events. The festival offers a car show, the AIBF Chainsaw Carving Invitational and Demonstrations, Laser Light Shows, live music, fireworks displays, and several panels and Q&A sessions.

If you visit New Mexico for Balloon Fiesta, book your flights and hotels (or Air Bnbs!) in advance—though the event takes place outside of peak tourism season, it still draws a massive crowd. Once you’re settled, be sure to catch a Mass Ascension (they happen every morning) and the Nigh Magic Glow, where each balloon is illuminated against the diminishing sunset. Tickets are surprisingly affordable—General Admission is just $10 per session. Music Fiesta tickets cost a bit more, and you will have to pay to access dining areas. In all, this inexpensive annual event is a necessary visit for any fan of our beautiful state.

 

How Non-Disclosure Laws are Propping Up Real Estate Commissions

More and more people are learning about the real estate industry in general as well as the particulars of their properties. And as home prices creep up—especially in Santa Fe, Taos, and highly desirable neighborhoods throughout the state—real estate commissions are going up right along with them. These two things combined are landing a lot of people to wonder about ways of reducing their realtor fees and preserve more of the equity they’ve accrued. In New Mexico, we’re arguably behind the curve in retaining the traditional 6% rate across the board. Part of this has to do with the size and idiosyncrasies of our housing market. But another, more tangible factor is the increased difficulty and opaqueness in evaluating local housing prices due to non-disclosure laws.

What are Non-Disclosure Laws?

In New Mexico, non-disclosure laws mean that the sales price of a home or other real property is not available to the general public. It doesn’t mean that there’s some kind of blanket gag order. The buyer, seller, realtors, and other people who learn the information as members of the public are free to discuss and publish the information. However, you can’t make a public records request at the county tax/assessor’s office, much less go to a website and find the sales price history of a home going back decades (more on this in a moment).

Note: Don’t get confused between disclosure requirements and non-disclosure laws. In real estate lingo, disclosure requirements refer to what the seller must disclose to the buyer about the condition of the property. You can find a guide to New Mexico’s disclosure requirements here.

What’s the Point of Non-Disclosure Laws?

It depends who you ask. Certainly, the case can be made that the sales price of someone’s home is personal information that deserves some measure of privacy. In Denver, Colorado, for example, you might have a colleague, neighbor, or acquaintance over for a party and they know how much you bought your new home for because they looked it up on the county assessor’s website. They gossip to other guests about how much your house is worth and then suddenly it dominates the conversation when you’d much rather be talking about sports, business, personal hobbies, rather than trying to react to guests’ judgment and/or envy. Alternately, there may also be some fear, though no evidence we’ve seen, that would-be burglars might use the public information to case specific properties for theft. At least, these are some of theories we’ve heard through the grapevine.

I think most people would tell you that the biggest effect these laws have is to create barriers for buyers/sellers and online resources to accurately estimate a home’s value. And while, again, you can make an argument that this only encourages people to get into trouble by dismissing realtors altogether, we’ve long thought that the truth is closer to the idea that these laws prop up traditional real estate agents and their commissions.

What’s Happening in States without Non-Disclosure Laws?

It’s no coincidence that in neighboring Colorado, we also see aggressive start-up companies angling to dominate the new market for flat-fee real estate commissions. Another driving force in this new market is the average home value in major metropolitan areas in the western U.S. especially. With the average cost of a home in Seattle around $750-800k and the average cost of a home in San Francisco around $1.25-$1.5 million, realtors can find plenty of clients and still take home hefty commissions while undercutting the competition still charging 6%.

Even with the added barriers and comparatively modest home prices in New Mexico, flat-fee real estate companies are starting to take hold. Like other flat-free realtors we’ve seen, this New Mexico real estate company offers a number of listing packages and real estate services with flat fee rates that sellers can choose from.

New Mexico Tourism and the Best Times to Visit

If you’re thinking about investing in New Mexico real estate, you should spend a few days getting to know our beautiful state. If you don’t have plans to live here, well, you should still visit—this gorgeous, unique place has something to offer everybody. However, if you’re planning a trip, you should aim to visit during certain parts of the year.

Each year, the New Mexico Department of Tourism releases its annual survey of visits to the state. 2016 saw one million more visits than 2015, bringing the total annual visitation to 24.4 million (up 3% from 2015). This growth was twice the national average and is likely due to increased knowledge about the state’s attractions, New Mexico residents traveling more within the state, and a greater desire to vacation “off the beaten track.” That year, White Sands National Monument’s visitation rate increased by 12%, and the Chaco Culture National Historical Park saw an increase of 39%.

All of this is to say: tourism is healthy in New Mexico. A lot of people want to visit, and they often come to see similar sights. As a result, you may want to plan your trip around when these tourists will not be here; if you’re flirting with the idea of moving here, you’ll want to experience the state “as a local”–not as part of a socks-and-sandals-clad throng.

New Mexico’s tourist season peaks in the summer—when temperatures are the highest. Summer temperatures rest between the high 50s and the high 80s, making this an excellent time to experience the desert. However, this swell in interest makes hotel rates high and availability low, and you are unlikely to see expensive rooms, a lack of discounts, and, well, few New Mexican people out on the town.

Autumn is the best time to visit New Mexico—specifically between September and November. Temperatures are still warm (often between the high 30s and high 70s), tourism season has ended, and you’ll be able to grasp what it means to live in New Mexico. This is also peak festival season, and exploring events like Balloon Fiesta is something every native and non-native New Mexican has to experience.

Winter is also an excellent time to visit the state, especially if you’re here to ski. Don’t be fooled—winter temperatures reach highs in the mid-40s, so remember to dress appropriately. To that end, no matter when you visit, always remember to bring sunscreen; the sun can be very intense, even in the winter months. If you have any questions about visiting New Mexico, let us know! We’d be happy to help.

What You Need to Know About the New Mexico Real Estate Market

The purpose of this site is to highlight the incredible experience of living in New Mexico. Though this often includes certain cultural touchstones and visiting information, we are, first and foremost, a group of realtors, investors, and homeowners. If you’re thinking about having a relationship with New Mexico in any long-term or permanent capacity, you’ll eventually need to understand our state’s real estate market. We can help you out.

In the past few years, New Mexico home values have increased dramatically—8.6% from 2017 to 2018. Though the state’s home value growth often sits just below the national average, the Realtors Association of New Mexico is confident in the market’s health; a press release from April, 2018 reported 40% more sales in the April of 2018 and in April of 2017. The median home value sits at around $187,300, the median price of homes currently listed is $220,000, and the median rent price is $1,200.

This unprecedented growth comes in the wake of a mass exodus by New Mexico residents. Between 2010 and 2016, more than 53,000 people moved out of New Mexico than moved in. Of those who moved into the state, most were between the ages of 25 and 29 or 60 and older—likely Millennials looking for inexpensive housing and Baby Boomers retiring to the beautiful countryside. Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico, cited a stagnant economy and lack of job opportunities as potential reasons for the migration.

However, prior to this six-year period, New Mexico was the nation’s fastest-growing state by population, increasing its population by 13% between 2000 and 2010. As a result, tracking New Mexico real estate trends can be difficult; periods of extreme demand and extreme rarity make the state—its popular suburbs, in particular—difficult to predict. We can say now, however, that New Mexico currently has a buyer’s market. There are more residents selling than those buying, and you’re likely to get a better deal on a home.