Keith Samples and Jessica Cherry are among the growing number of Californians fleeing for Santa Fe, eager to escape wildfires, earthquakes, expensive living and a lifestyle that demands a blueprint for even the simplest everyday tasks.

“You don’t run and do something,” said Samples. “You have to plan it.”

Fatigued by the grind in the Golden State, Cherry, a lifelong Californian, and Samples, a television writer and director, moved to Santa Fe in August. And they are not alone.

Homebuying is white hot in Santa Fe and across the country, evidently undeterred by the coronavirus pandemic.

The median sales price for a home in Santa Fe County for the summer months was $536,995 — a 19 percent jump over the third quarter of 2019 and a record-high median. It is the first time the median has crossed the half-million dollar threshold.

The median price in the city of Santa Fe in the third quarter wasn’t all that far behind at $461,500, a 16.4 percent jump from 2019. Many Santa Feans consider such prices sky high, but they are on par for states in the West, which saw median home prices in August rise 11.8 percent to $456,100, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“My feeling is every property has four or five offers,” said Jama Fontaine, general manager of Keller Williams International for New Mexico and team leader for the Santa Fe office. “If there was more inventory, I can’t even imagine what our market would look like.”

The third quarter saw 558 single-family homes sold in Santa Fe County, the most in any quarter since 2005, according to Santa Fe Association of Realtors statistics.

“I would bet 900 or even close to 1,000 homes could sell if we had the inventory,” Fontaine said.

Texans are the traditional drivetrain for Santa Fe home sales, but agents said there is now a surge of Californians, driven to a large extent by the wildfires that have burned more than 4 million acres this year.

“I get a call almost every day from somebody in California,” Fontaine said.

Cherry and Samples made their move in August, spurred by a road trip last year that took them through Sedona and Flagstaff, Ariz., on the way to Oklahoma. On their way back, they stayed in Santa Fe for four days.

The most recent round of devastating California wildfires did not drive them away, but the phenomena was certainly on the checklist to consider. Samples and Cherry evacuated four years ago because of a fire when they lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.

“The fires have become a part of California living that are not a positive,” said Samples, who said smoke has come into play five or six times in the last 10 years. “When it does happen, the smoke and ash is nasty.”

Though home prices in the western U.S. are rising quickly, the entire country saw double digit-increases in August. Eight of the 10 fastest-growing states in population are in the West, though New Mexico is not among them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For Samples and Cherry, their house in Las Campanas was cheap in comparison to the home they had in Sherman Oaks.

“This property [in Santa Fe] was in the mid-six figures less than the one in Sherman Oaks,” Samples said, adding insurance, taxes and utilities are “40 percent less than Sherman Oaks.”

The inventory of homes available in Santa Fe has long been drifting downward — from more than 2,000 in 2008 to 349 in the third quarter of 2020, the lowest since Santa Fe County had a much smaller population decades ago. Inventory plummeted 45 percent from the previous year, according to Realtors association statistics.

Santa Fe County had only a 2.3-month inventory of homes in the third quarter, the lowest on record. Roughly four to six months is considered a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

The housing shortage is a combination of not enough new homes being built and homeowners reluctant to sell for a number of reasons, including concerns about being able to find another home to buy.

Fontaine said quite a few people are selling their homes directly to others without listing them on the market. These homes don’t count in the inventory.

“People who said they are going to move here are now doing it,” Fontaine said.

The pandemic also is triggering an onslaught of people wanting to leave the big city for smaller places with spacious properties somewhere in the mountain states.

Santa Fe, of course, fits that bill.

“Santa Fe is a gorgeous place to live,” said Susan Orth, president of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors. “People all over the country know that. They say: ‘I’ve been wanting to live in New Mexico and Santa Fe, and now is the time.’ ”

Samples and Cherry put their California home on the market around the end of February — and took it off the market a few weeks later after the coronavirus locked down the country.

But a real estate agent called six weeks later with an offer and the buyer wanted to move in 30 days.

“We got the offer on Sunday and were in Santa Fe looking for a house on Tuesday,” Samples said. “It’s a significant lifestyle change and change of scenery for us. We like the climate. It’s not harsh seasons. It was an attractive housing market for us.”

(19) comments

Donato Velasco

nothing new its been going on since new mexico was take from mexico and people have been pushed out,,, more to come

Khal Spencer

Just wait till they bring their Californication values with them as well as pricing locals out of the housing market. We are not the city different because values don't walk the talk. Money does.

Daniel Valdez

It's not the spanish invading... It's the rich white democrats moving in from out of state and driving out the natives. Higher home prices, higher taxes, higher food prices, and the list goes on and on. Keep voting democrat NM. Reap what you sow!!!

Stefanie Beninato

Your ignorance is showing. Where did it identify any of these people as Democrats? Just another xenophobic comment like your great leader the Liar/Denier/Slayer/Spreader in Chief

Khal Spencer

Seriously, Stefanie? Clinton beat Trump by 2:1 in the 2016 election, 8.8 million to 4.5 million votes, giving HRC her "national majority" in the popular vote. Its overwhelmingly Democratic. Therefore, it is likely, although not confirmed, that the folks moving here from the DPRC are statistically, likely to be registered Dems.

Would be nice to get actual numbers, though.

Khal Spencer

DPRC = Democratic People's Republic of California.

Jim Klukkert

Kinda beneath you Khal.

Donald Apodaca

Daniel Valdez you are correct. Text me your contact information and I will send you a $50 Whole Foods gift card. My mobile number is (202) 705-5610. You may be able to buy yourself diner with the $50. PREPARE! Inflation is about to hit the roof.

Carolyn DM

LMAO!! Are you so obsessed with Democrats that you just throw it into every conversation you have? But since you're at it, please provide your links to those, "higher home prices, higher taxes, higher food prices", and your list that, "goes on and on". We'll wait... It seems that big ole chip on your shoulder is really weighing you down. You might want to unload a little at some point.

Jim Klukkert

Daniel Valdez- " rich white democrats moving in" I think we can call that Provincial Racism. Good going Danny Boy.

Reminds me of an old story. One of the Tewa elders of many years ago, who on a bad day, complained of "rich Hispanic Royalists moving in."

Biden-Harris 2020!

Daniel Werwath

Those of us who work in affordable housing have been raising alarms about this for years. Bottom line is we weren't developing enough housing to keep up with population growth and not investing enough in creating income restricted affordable housing for locals. Census data says we lost about 500 low income families from our community in both 2017 and 2018 (most recent data available). Two friends who are small business owners in midtown told me they're moving to Abq/Rio Rancho this week. Looks like the pandemic will finally push us over the waterfall, sad to think what this town will be in 20 years.

Claudia Chavez

These housing prices are disgusting and offensive to the working class. My parent’s neighborhood goes for $700,000-$900,000. Our families built their homes by hand. These Adobe homes are our connection to the earth, we have farmed and cultivated the land. Now you have to be a millionaire to live in Barrio Guadalupe. This market is destroying our culture. GENTRIFICATION. Where are families going to go? What do you have to offer for school teachers, City & State employees, artists, nurses. An “attractive housing market” for some is devastation for others.

janelle sanchez

I believe that change is important and good; however, change that resembles cultural terrorism is not good. I have lived on the outskirts of Santa Fe for some time now. Whenever I go into town, I see an influx of people dressed in "desert chic" hipster Halloween costumes, with carefully designed arrow tattoos and license plates from California and elsewhere.

There's a certain mythical romanticism that draws lost people to the area. Yes, people should be free to move wherever they please, but not at the cost of destroying a rich cultural heritage that has been resilient for centuries.

New Mexico has a violent past, but people have learned to coexist and create culture from the trauma. Just look at our food. It's a combination of native and spanish foods. Horses were also from Spain, and have now become an integral part of some of our pueblo celebrations. These combinations came from trauma; however, they have married in a way that have created what New Mexico is today. When you move to the area, and completely ignore the history and culture, you are spreading a new form of colonization, though masked with bumper stickers, vegan foods, and giant black hats that look as though they are from a stylized Jodorowsky film. Santa Fe is not a hipster Halloween convention.

I have noticed that people moving here have no respect for the culture that exists. They wish to turn Santa Fe into Ojai California, and smudge sage and build tipis on their properties, believing they have come into touch with some sort of mythology the believe is of native people.

Santa Fe is surrounded by pueblos and spanish villages. People do very little to respect this. Rather, they build giant, voyeuristic mansions overlooking pueblos, but do little to respect and preserve the cultural heritage here.

Stefanie Beninato

Thanks for your comments. The biggest difference I can see is that people who came here say 40-80 years ago generally embraced the cultures here--building their own homes, roasting chile, gathering firewood, appreciating the food and honoring the celebrations/ceremonies dating back centuries etc

Donato Velasco

get ready for some new taxes on all these rich people buying up the houses and being sold by locals who cant afford the taxes and moving out of town.. new segregation in the works

Moses Townsend

This is why it’s harder to buy homes for actual residents. Wealthy and bougie Californians flock here and buy up property because it’s a “great deal” in their eyes. But that leaves less opportunity for actual locals.

I can’t blame Californians for wanting to escape the state, but my hope is that people from there make an effort to embrace the culture here and don’t try to “Californicate” Santa Fe like they did in Austin, Denver, etc. I’ve already noticed many properties being bought up by Californians and immediately put up on Airbnb. No wonder we have a housing shortage. We can’t let this place turn into a cesspool of millionaire West Coasters to gallivant around in their smug self importance.

Red Eagle


Barry Rabkin

"Can't let" ?????? People can buy homes anywhere they want to in the US. It doesn't matter if they're from California or anywhere else in the US (or other parts of the world, for that matter). No person living in Santa Fe (or any other town, city, or State) can stop people from buying homes in their town, city, or State. If the people moving to Santa Fe want to "gallivant around" there is absolutely nothing that you or any one else can do about it. Absolutely nothing! (And no, I'm not from California.)

Moses Townsend

I'm not suggesting or implying we literally stop it from happening. It's more about trying to preserve the culture that already exists.

People move from state to state and country to country all of the time, I'm aware of that. The issue exists when people move somewhere and don't attempt to learn about and embrace the existing culture (assimilate, to an extent).

I don't blame Californians for wanting to move out of state, but many have been notorious for changing cultural landscapes and wanting things to be the same as it was back home for them. I know other state residents have done such, but California is the subject of this article.

To add to that, when you think of a lot of cliche/stereotypical California attributes such as "flashy, smug, self-righteous, etc", it seems almost the opposite of the cliche/stereotypical New Mexican attributes of "humility, low-key, friendly".

I know not all Californians display those attitudes, but the ones that flock here usually have money and from my experience are more likely to display such.

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