From the Emerald City to the City Different: There’s No Place Like (NEW) Home

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor visiting relations (you get the idea) can keep a dedicated realtor and self-appointed Santa Fe cheerleader from helping people buy a home. So, last year when recent Seattle transplants Brian Balmert and Jay Slagle spotted their dream home while I had relatives in town, my family understood that I had to duck out for a few hours to help my new friends. It’s all part of a job I love.

For some couples the decision to move to another city to start a new chapter is a long process. For others, it’s a quick decision. With Brian and Jay, it was both.


“Over the years Seattle had grown dramatically,” Brian explains. “As we got older, we weren’t enjoying the density of the population, the traffic and noise.” For Jay, who runs a home-based consulting business, this wasn’t as much of an issue. However, as a buyer and seller of antiques and collectibles, Brian was spending four to six hours a day driving to various clients and consignment shops for work. “I love Seattle, but I was stressed out all the time. The benefits became outweighed by the negatives.”

So, with the tough choice made to leave Seattle after living there for over two decades, the next big decision was where to go.

“We spent a few years looking at various places in the Pacific Northwest, from the Canadian border down through Oregon,” Jay recalls. “We considered many lovely locations, but none of them felt quite right.” That all changed in January 2021.

Jay, whose family lived in Albuquerque when he was a young boy, remembers, “We were watching a YouTube video about a couple fixing up a home in Santa Fe. It was a light bulb moment. We both grabbed our tablets and started looking at Santa Fe real estate.” Brian, who had never been to New Mexico before March of 2021, was quickly sold on the lifestyle change the Land of Enchantment offered.

“We were both like ‘yep,’ this has everything we could want,” Brian says. “Santa Fe is just the right size. It has all the amenities we were looking for, even a Trader Joe’s.”


Because the Santa Fe housing market was moving so quickly, Jay and Brian decided to sell their house in Seattle and move to New Mexico to get their boots on the ground.

“We lived for two months at an Airbnb in Albuquerque while house-hunting,’ Jay recalls. “One evening after I came back from a stroll, Brian told me, ‘I found our home.’ The listing had just hit the Internet. Scrolling through the pictures and description, I couldn’t believe how perfect it was for us. I didn’t expect to find a house with such a contemporary sensibility in a semi-rural setting.”

As timing would have it, this occurred during a week in which I was taking time off while my family was in town. “We wouldn’t have pestered you if we didn’t know in our bones that this house was ‘the one,’” Jay told me.

Jay was right. The distinctive house was designed by architect E.J. Jennings, who has been building homes in the Santa Fe area for over thirty years. Inspired by the high desert landscape of New Mexico, the home has a clean, open, contemporary style reflecting the integrity of the materials used—all overseen by Jennings (also a renowned artist), who maintains a hands-on approach to every stage of the project from drawings to turnkey.

Luckily for everyone, Santa Fe is a great place to keep your family entertained while you’re out working. I was able to get Brian and Jay in to see the place quickly. Four days after the house was listed, we had a deal.


Since they’ve been settled into their new home for a few months, Brian and Jay are discovering all that The City Different has to offer.

“Santa Fe offers so much to do,” Jay told me. “Our house is between Eldorado and Galisteo Basin, both of which provide great venues for hiking and biking. There is huge amount of northern New Mexico that we have yet to explore. We arrived too late for the 2021 opera season, but we have our tickets for 2022, and with restaurants, I don’t recall a single bad meal we’ve had while dining out.”

Brian, who still spends time behind the wheel for work, loves the closer distances and easier access to thrift stores, consignment shops, and estate sales where he does business. He’s also enjoying the social scene here.

“I’ve been surprised about how easy it has been to meet people,” Brian says. “Even though I’ve lived most of my adult life in Seattle, it got harder and harder to meet new people. Since I’ve been here, I’m surprised at how available people are to connect. It’s been really lovely.”

Mark Banham

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