By Mark Banham
With large sections of the country still living through a COVID-19 surge, Santa Fe looks especially great by comparison. Infections remain low and communities statewide are complying with the Governor’s strict-but-fair guidelines, while our neighboring states are in crisis.
Meanwhile, Santa Fe real estate sales are booming! Clients are telling me that the quality-of-life perks that make Santa Fe appealing in good times look even better with our country turned upside down.
In this current environment, who is making a major life decision to pack up and move to our high-desert paradise? It’s an interesting mix of the expected and unexpected, including:
· The type of buyers we were attracting before the Pandemic—retirees from Texas and both coasts looking to relocate, along with those in higher income brackets interested in second or third homes.
· Folks who were planning to retire 3, 5, or even 10 years down the road who’re realizing life’s just too short to wait indefinitely. So they’re pulling the plugs on their old lives and making the move now.
· Professionals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who’ve realized they can work remotely just as easily in the Land of Enchantment as they could in California, New York, Florida, etc.
· Those who’ve realized quality-of-life is more important than six- or seven-figure incomes.
· Prospective LGBTQ buyers who no longer feel like safe, accepted members of their communities.
I’m also noticing that buyers are making decisions faster than before. For a few decades, I saw people visiting Santa Fe as first-time tourists who then began coming back every year, often for extended stays. After years of acclimating to all the natural beauty and cultural options available, they would visit Barker Realty to begin looking at second homes or their next permanent residence.
In 2020, the buying curve is much shorter. While international travel is at a standstill, U.S. tourists are driving in from California, Arizona and Texas, exploring for a few days and then making up their minds to move here. Bam!
My long-time friend Eric Sofield, Information Specialist with the city’s TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Services Department, has noticed a similar trend.
He’s seen a tourism bump in July, mostly from out-of-state drivers. “Even though we had to cancel the opera, The Folk Art Market and many other attractions, there’s been a big uptick in drivers from Texas, Arizona and the four corners area,” he says.
Though two of the city’s three visitor centers are closed right now, Eric has been working out of the one that remains open, a few doors down from The Five & Dime in the Paseo de Luz (formerly the Plaza Galleria) on the Plaza.
After about a week of reluctant compliance, tourists now are wearing their masks and practicing social distancing, he says. And, as a public service, The Visitors Center has handed out over 36,000 masks, not only to tourists, but to hotels, restaurants, and shops. “The hotels will come by and pick up a case of masks.”
We’re Moving Here!
Eric’s also fielding a lot of calls from prospective tourists, asking about activities that are still available and the COVID-based challenges they’ll face once they’re here.
“While there were problems with compliance in the first 10 days, people started to get with the program. Gigantic neon signs saying that masks are required.”
Once they arrive, their concerns fall away and their eyes light up, Eric says. “With the mountains, the desert, the architecture, the culture, and especially the people, the city sells itself.”
Lately, he’s noticed first-time visitors morphing into prospective home buyers almost immediately. “People come into the Visitor Center and ask for highly detailed maps to help find the neighborhood they want to live in,” he explains. “Right after they say that, we’ll ask where they’re visiting from. They’ll say, ‘We’re from Florida, but we’re moving here.’”
I’m seeing it too. The incubation period between visiting Santa Fe, falling in love, and making the decision to relocate is shrinking fast.
The reasons are literally all across the map, from fires and high taxes in California to unendurable winters in the northeast, to the heat and humidity of Florida to the cultural and political climate in a lot of places, especially our neighbors Arizona and Texas.
Acceptance and Generous Spirits
LGBTQ people are moving to Santa Fe in greater numbers to escape ignorance, a rise in hate crimes, and the tension of culture wars they’re seeing in red states, while some will simply say they want to be around smarter people who understand science!
As I mentioned above, I’ve had conversations with gay and lesbian couples who’re saying they’ve lived in their communities for 30 years or more, but no longer feel safe. The surge in hate crimes and lynchings is happening too close to home.
Also, across all demographic sectors, the people who’re calling me feel this pandemic has been a wake-up call. It’s made them realize that life is short, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and they want to be somewhere where they can enjoy the rest of their lives.
Santa Fe is a place where we respect the law, science, and each other.
The housing market in Santa Fe is always competitive, but between owners looking to sell and the continuation of new construction that began a few years ago, there are exciting options in most price ranges. Take a look at the properties on our website or give me a call at (505) 577-5273.