Median home prices across Santa Fe County ended 2019 at the same spot as in the fourth quarter of 2018 — $460,000, the highest median sales price the Santa Fe Association of Realtors could find on record.
If only the Santa Fe real estate landscape were so simple.
“It is not flat at all,” said Susan Orth, the Realtor association’s 2020 president and a qualifying broker at City Different Realty.
Within Santa Fe city limits, home prices slid 5.2 percent, to a median of $384,000, in the fourth quarter of 2019 from $405,000 in same period in 2018. But median prices in other areas of the county jumped 11.7 percent, to $565,000 from $505,995 .
The same dynamic was in play in the third and fourth quarters this year: city prices down, county up; median price nearly flat in the city and county combined, trickling down to $460,000 in the fall from $462,000 in the summer.
Prices can vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood in the city and county.
“It comes down to quality of property,” said Tom Trujillo, a qualifying broker at Keller Williams Santa Fe. “Buyers want turnkey. They can fix it up.”
The lowest median prices are in the midtown and south-side areas bounded by St. Francis Drive, Cerrillos Road as it heads toward Interstate 25, Alameda Street and Lopez Lane just west of the intersection of Cerrillos and Airport roads. The median price there rose 5.4 percent year over year, to $315,000 from $299,000 , according to statistics from the Santa Fe Association of Realtors.
The Housing Affordability Index for Santa Fe was 56 in the fourth quarter, meaning the median household income is only 56 percent of what is necessary to qualify for a median-priced home.
To purchase a median-priced home at $460,000, for instance, a buyer would have to earn $60,000 a year and have a 10 percent down payment, said Gregg Antonsen, senior vice president of Sotheby’s International Realty in Santa Fe. “If you are a single person moving here and working in the service industry, forget it,” Antonsen said.
Santa Fe County had 405 homes on the market in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 2.7 months worth of housing inventory, both the lowest in at least 15 years, according to the Santa Fe Association of Realtors. Four to six months of inventory is considered a balanced market.
“It’s all about inventory,” Trujillo said. “When you don’t have inventory, you are not going to have sales.”
The number of home sales was down 14.6 percent in the city and county combined, with a 7.2 percent decline in the city and 23.3 percent drop in the county.
“The inventory is now so low people have no choice to buy this home or that,” Orth said. “Since the recession, people have decided not to put their home on the market as they did before.”
Trujillo believes the fourth-quarter price surge happens because lower-priced homes are all sold by then, and the bulk of the market is higher-priced homes. Homes in even the most affordable parts of town now exceed $300,000.
Retirees are moving to Santa Fe from all over, and they impact home sales in several ways.
“A lot of homeowners are 55 and over and are not going to sell,” Antonsen said.
Retirees also are players in the area’s booming condo market. Condo unit sales were up 8.2 percent over the end of 2018, and condo median prices inched down 1.4 percent from $284,000 to 280,000. “Condo sales went up quite a bit,” Orth said. “Those are some really affordable properties. Buyers who can’t buy homes buy condos.”
Many of the homebuyers in the Santa Fe real estate scene are coming from California. Antonsen said Californians have outnumbered Texas homebuyers the past two years. “People are leaving places that are growing so much,” Antonsen said. “Santa Fe is still considered one of the best buying opportunities for destinations markets like Aspen, Vail and Lake Tahoe.”
Still, a shortage of lower-cost homes in Santa Fe bothers Trujillo. “I do believe we need affordability in this community,” he said. “[Lack of affordable homes] creates what we see in larger cities. We all need to take a closer look on how we are going to create affordability in Santa Fe.”