If you’re looking for a house in Santa Fe, your choices today are relatively limited. There are about 740 houses on the market in the entire Santa Fe area. That’s only about a quarter of what was available before the recession.
But one subdivision that is consistently building houses is Rancho Viejo, south of the city of Santa Fe.
“For the last few years, we’ve built 35 to 50 homes annually,” said Peter Kempf, director of sales and marketing for Rancho Viejo Properties. “We have about 10 houses under construction right now.”
New homes in the large, master-planned subdivision range from 1,440 square feet to almost 2,900 square feet. All are single-story houses. Prices start at about $325,000, and the larger models are a little more than $600,000.
Home shoppers can get a look at a brand-new house beginning in mid-September, when Kempf moves his office into the new Rancho Viejo model home. It’s a three-bedroom house with 21/2 bathrooms and a den, with a three-car garage.
Granite countertops are standard in Rancho Viejo kitchens and bathrooms. So are a stainless-steel kitchen sink with a pullout faucet; ceramic tile tub/shower surrounds; lever-style door hardware; tile floors in the entry, kitchen and bathrooms; and carpeting in the other rooms.
“We do 95 percent efficient furnaces,” said project manager Cass Thompson. “All our houses come with air conditioning, and we have a HERS [Home Energy Rating System] score in the mid-60s.”
That score means a new Rancho Viejo house is 35 percent more energy efficient than the typical new American house.
Thompson said Rancho Viejo Properties just received approval from Santa Fe County to build another 24 lots in La Entrada, the most recent community to be developed in the 21-year-old subdivision.
Thompson is the grandson of Leland Thompson, who with three other families bought 23,000 acres of ranchland from the Jarrott family in 1982. Sixteen years later, the first model homes opened. The price range then was $120,000 to $270,000.
Rancho Viejo signed on as one of the first customers of the county water utility and paid $2.1 million for a share of the system.
The subdivision built its own waste-treatment plant; all of its parks and common areas are irrigated with greywater.
Today there are about 1,350 houses in Rancho Viejo, supporting a population of 3,000 or so.
Buildout will be about 2,500 houses on the 2,500 acres, according to the current master plan.
The concept always has been to cluster houses in compact neighborhoods and preserve much of the property in natural areas.
“We have an option on another 10,000 acres in the community college district, toward Eldorado, so total buildout would be around 10,000,” Thompson said.
Parent company Univest Rancho Viejo is based in Santa Fe, but its accounting office is in Arizona. URV owns Rancho Viejo Properties, the sales company. The builder, Estancia Homes, and the sewer company, Ranchland Utility, are all part of the fold.
“We do it all in-house,” Thompson said.
Many of Rancho Viejo’s homeowners have come from Colorado, though many customers also have come from Chicago, Kempf said. Californians are coming as well.
“We also get local, younger people,” he said. “The elementary school is really good. So it’s a nice mix.”
The original Rancho Viejo partnership donated more than 150 acres that now holds the campuses of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe Community College, Amy Biehl Community School and Santa Niño Regional Catholic School.
Kempf said people also are attracted to Rancho Viejo because it has more than 12 miles of paved hiking/biking trails. “People also like that we’re a night sky community,” he said. “All the utilities are underground and there are no lights at night.”
He said the market for resale homes in Rancho Viejo is outstanding.
“When a house comes on the market, it’s gone in two or three weeks. If a rental comes on the market, it’s gone in a day. But we’re not very transient, and for a community this size, that’s interesting.”
Demographics play a role in the stability of the area.
“About 75 percent of our buyers are 55 and older: downsizing, retiring, coming from somewhere else,” Kempf said.
“Santa Fe is a hot market for retirees now rather than going to Sun City, Ariz., and people can get all of that big-city stuff in a small area,” he added. “You still get a dose of the four seasons, and you have great cultural amenities and great restaurants. The word is spreading.”