How do you get a jump on your retirement lifestyle while still managing work operations from 1800 miles away? For recent Lamy transplant Jim Leipold, all it took was a pandemic and a steady barrage of New Mexico listings I sent him that he affectionately labeled “real estate porn.”
A long-time opera fan, for many years, Jim and his ex would visit the City Different during the summer to take in all five Santa Fe Opera productions in a week. “I’d always thought about Santa Fe as a place I’d like to retire,” Jim said. “I was flying out here in August of 2019 and when I landed in Albuquerque, I had had an epiphany. I realized that I wanted to move here now.”
But as executive director of a Washington, D.C.-based legal profession non-profit, he wasn’t certain how soon his dream could become reality. Time also wasn’t on his side. Although he had a lifelong friend from college living in Santa Fe, Jim felt that he “wanted to come here while I was young enough to make new friends.”
Little did he know at the time that the pandemic would change the way he and millions of Americans could conduct their businesses. “I realized I could work from anywhere.”
NOMAD BY NATURE
Unlike a lot of retirees-in-transition, the concept of packing up wasn’t foreign to Jim. “Originally, my family is from the Midwest, but because we moved so much during my childhood, I wasn’t deeply rooted in sense of place.”
A DC native, he spent his teen years living in Brussels. He returned to the States to go to college at Brown University in Rhode Island. After college, Jim crisscrossed the county first working as an English teacher in rural Alaska before returning to New England to work in admissions for the University of Vermont.
Jim’s next stop would be Philadelphia, where he got his law degree at Temple University, clerked for a judge, taught law, and was even assistant dean of the law school for a while before moving to DC to work as Executive Director for the National Association for Law Placement.
Jim and I were put in touch by his college friend who knew that I had a knack for helping a remote homebuyer like Jim find the perfect house. We got the ball rolling on his house hunt before the pandemic, but COVID ended up delaying matters a bit. Thankfully, we had the internet to help.
“Mark had been sending me real estate porn for a while online,” Jim laughs. The photos were great. But not enough. “I realized that I needed to sell my place in DC before buying.” Fast forward to 2021. Jim was ready to come to New Mexico for a marathon of property searching.
“I was here the week before Christmas in 2021,” Jim remembers. “And through the magic of Mark it worked out that I could look at 14-16 properties within one week. We did three days of jam-packed viewings and then I made an offer on this place out in Lamy.”
The Southwestern style home Jim chose sits on 4.5 acres with magnificent mountain views. “It kind of represented my idea of a Santa Fe house,” Jim boasts. “It has three kiva fireplaces inside and one outside; three bedrooms and a spectacular home office; high ceilings with vegas, and red brick floors throughout the house.”
Equally important: it has a tremendous amount of wall space for Jim’s large art collection, which he continues to build in Santa Fe’s thriving art markets and galleries, including Santa Fe artist Jennifer Cavan, a long-time friend from college. “She is the most prominent southwest artist that I collect, though I have bought a number of paintings over the years from a variety of artists represented on Canyon Road, including Marshall Noice,” he says.
For someone accustomed to living in a major metropolitan area for most of his life, Jim hasn’t felt a shock with the transition to rural life. “Surprisingly, I don’t feel isolated from the gay community out here. I have lovely neighbors. There are a number of gay couples living on our gravel road. We all walk and talk and have even joked that we’re going to have a Lamy pride parade.”
When not remotely managing the staff of his DC office or planning his next hike, Jim can be found these days enjoying his favorite new restaurant Legal Tender and looking forward to opera season. “I’m loving that I can attend throughout the summer and never miss the young artists showcases on Sunday nights.”