Opera, a Hillside Hacienda and Destiny Brought Atlanta Couple to Santa Fe

Gay couple buys Santa Fe home with retirement in mind
Gay couple buys Santa Fe home with retirement in mind

Like many Santa Fe couples, John Haupert and Bryan Brooks divide their time between the Land of Enchantment and busy lives in another community.

For the past several years, they’ve been based in Atlanta. John is President/CEO of Grady Health Systems (which includes Grady Hospital). Bryan, a retired human resources officer, is an active volunteer with both the Grady Health Foundation Board and the High Museum of Art.

Whenever they can, Bryan and John get away to their beautiful Hacienda in the hills overlooking the Santa Fe Opera. Initially looking for a turnkey property, the couple did a 180 when they saw their now second home, located in the majestic Casas de San Juan neighborhood.

With help from local designer Chandler Prewitt, of Chandler Prewitt Design, Douglas Maahs, with D Maahs Construction (DMC), and landscaping by Catherine Clemens of Clemens & Associates, Inc., they’ve converted a property with a “mountain cabin” feel to a Southwest showpiece that’s been featured in a number of publications, including the August/September 2018 issue of the Santa Fean. (See page 128.) They also give a shout out to Lotus Home Management, LLC, which maintains the property throughout the year. “As remote owners, we could never do this without them,” says Bryan.

From Atlanta, Bryan shared highlights of their inspiring personal story as well as how they came to choose Santa Fe as the location for a second home, where they’ll retire in several years.

He also described the ways in which Mark Banham has become not only their Realtor, but a close friend and guide to Santa Fe’s arts, culture and LGBTQ scenes.

So how did you guys meet and get together?

We first met in Dallas, Texas. We both had partners who passed away from AIDS and we actually met in a grief recovery group.

Neither of us was looking for someone new, but one thing led to another and we’ve been together since 1996. We got married in Cape Cod.

How did you discover Santa Fe?

We grew up visiting New Mexico and Colorado, from the time we were small children. We later learned that both of our families had even visited the Singing River Ranch in Colorado at separate  times. When we got together, almost on our first date, we agreed we’d eventually like to move to the New Mexico area.

We visited often and always knew we’d be together in Santa Fe at some point. We’d even visit the Parade of Homes almost every year knowing that someday soon we would be looking.

Two questions: When did you agree to take the next step and purchase property in Santa Fe? And How did you choose Mark to help you find your dream home?

About six years ago we decided we were going to fly into Santa Fe and would find a Realtor long distance. We were determined to choose one we wanted to work with before we got here. We did our research online, narrowed it down to three realtors and then chose Mark.

John is the researcher, more than me. We sorted through hundreds of homes, narrowed it down to about a dozen and sent the list to Mark, letting him know we were flying in for a weekend and wanted to spend a full day looking at houses. Based on our criteria and his knowledge of the market, Mark eliminated a few and then added a couple more.

So we flew in and met Mark at Barker Realty, where he took us down to his office. He’d done all his research.

It was so cute. He said, ‘I’ve got yall on a tight schedule and I’m going to keep you on it all day long. He’s even packed snacks for the car, so we wouldn’t have to stop for lunch. And off we go. John and I both thought, ‘That’s exactly our kind of guy.’

What was this one-day process like?

As we’re heading out, Mark is orienting us. He said, ‘I want to keep you balanced and in-touch with yourselves about this. I’ve worked with people who have a major desire and a similar history to yours. However, it may not be your time (to buy here) yet.

Another interesting point is that after years of renovating homes, we were adamant. We told Mark “No redo’s.” We want it move-in ready. That was an absolute.

But then we visited an old Spanish Colonial Hacienda. It had a lot of charm, but it was going to need some help because the owners had transformed it into a mountain cabin, right down to a large chandelier made from antlers.

Mark did a great job of picking properties that met our criteria and by the end of the day we had narrowed it down to two properties. Sunday at the airport we called Mark and made an offer on the hacienda (the one that needed the most work). We’ve never regretted it.

How did he make home-buying – and transition to Santa Fe’s gay community – easier?

Mark is well invested in relationships. He’s an extraordinary guy and we became fast friends. He opens himself, his heart and his home. You’re immediately embraced in Mark’s world and that includes his adorable golden retriever Maddie.”

He’s not just there to sell you a property and move on. His investment is that the community is either going to embrace you or that it might not be the right time for you to move to Santa Fe. Either way, he’s going to make sure it is the best possible experience for you.

His inclusion factor of invitations to events and introductions to exciting people has been so valuable to our experience integrating into the community.

From his work with Friends of Dorothy to going to his home to meet new people, Mark is an all-in guy. Plus, he’s always matchmaking between friends and making sure you’re integrated into the community and know about the latest place that’s opened or the next big event. You always know you can use Mark as a resource. 

(Note from Mark: I happily promote Friends of Dorothy events to our community, however Ian Johnson deserves all the credit for organizing the events.)

Rather than just move here when you both retire, why did you purchase a home in Santa Fe when you’re still based in Atlanta?

One reason we wanted to have a home here now so that we would make real friends before retirement.

So even though we’re only here for short visits every three to six weeks, we’ve already moved our church membership to Santa Fe at Holy Faith Episcopal, which has such an inclusive church family. We’re also actively involved with the opera, where John is on the board. We helped sponsor this year’s production of Candide and we also sponsored an opening night dinner for Madame Butterfly.

We consider Santa Fe magical. It doesn’t stop with the terrain, but applies to the people too. We see this when we invite friends and family here. Even those who just stay for a few days are amazed by the people and culture.

Do you have any long-term friends or family in the area?

We both have older sisters and we’re also having family visit when we’re here. My sister Brenda is gay and has been with her partner Judy for about 35 years.

I had the chance to marry them at our hacienda! And now they’ve relocated here full time from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. They love it as much as we do and its wonderful to know they’ll be here when John and I move here full-time.


Thinking about purchasing a vacation home or relocating to Santa Fe? Reach out to Barker Realty Broker Mark Banham to learn more about real estate opportunities in the Santa Fe Area as well as the cultural and social opportunities available in this unique, welcoming community.