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Jodi Morris stands in her living room surrounded by travel mementos Thursday afternoon. Morris, founder and CEO of Connecting Growth Globally, moved to Santa Fe from San Francisco in September.

Winter is the new summer for home sales in Santa Fe.

For the first time, Santa Fe County saw as many homes sold in October, November and December as in the prime home buying months of July, August and September, according to the Santa Fe Association of Realtors.

The 557 homes sold in the fourth quarter nearly matched the 558 homes sold in the third quarter, and fourth-quarter sales were 31 percent higher than during the same period in 2019, association data shows.

The fourth quarter usually has the fewest homes sold.

No more.

“The seasonal factor has been stripped away,” said Roger Carson, association president and an associate broker at Keller Williams Realty Santa Fe. “When May rolled around [after a steep drop in sales because of COVID-19 restrictions in March and April], things just took off, and it’s been nonstop ever since.”

Homebuyers were willing to pay top dollar as the median sales price in the fourth quarter hit an all-time high of $537,764, a 19.5 percent increase from the same period in 2019.

The median price was $480,000 in the city of Santa Fe and $606,500 outside the city, according to the association.

The lowest-priced sector — west of St. Francis Drive between Alameda Street and Interstate 25 — saw an 11.6 percent increase in median price, from $313,750 in 2019 to $350,300 in 2020. That area was also where the most homes were sold.

In the fourth quarter, there were only 228 homes for sale, the smallest inventory on record. That translates to a 1½-month supply of homes. In a balanced market, there is a five- to seven-month supply.

Houses can have a half-dozen offers and sell in a couple of days.

“It became a whole different world for brokers,” Carson said of the exceptionally tight housing supply. “There is a lot of chaos. There is a lot of anxiety. How do you properly advise your buyer?”

Texans and Coloradans remain the big buyers, but people from the East Coast and California also are flooding the market, experts said.

“We had terrible fires,” said Bay Area transplant Julia Sze, who moved into the Casa Solana neighborhood in April. “We had smoke for months on end. It’s clear this was going to be the new normal. I didn’t need to be in the Bay Area anymore.”

Sze said she briefly considered Berkeley, Calif., (way too expensive), then Boulder, Colo., (not very diverse) and Ashland, Ore. (rather isolated) before being won over by the adobe-style house Barker Realty associate broker Stephanie Duran found for her.

Sze is a financial consultant and adjunct faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Sze decided on Santa Fe in the months preceding the coronavirus pandemic, but many other Californians have discovered Santa Fe mid-pandemic.

“It’s the COVID effect,” Duran said. “People have been realizing they don’t need to be at the office. They can live anywhere. At the same time, they are fleeing higher density. Instead of just retiring to Santa Fe, they can live in Santa Fe now instead of having a multidecade dream of living here.”

Carson said plenty of Californians are coming to Santa Fe while working remotely at their California jobs.

“You’re going to see a new class moving in,” Carson said. “Telecommuting for jobs in San Francisco and New York, that is going to grow. People are finally realizing Santa Fe is the best place to live any time, especially in a pandemic.”

Sze’s San Francisco friends Jodi and Bob Morris visited her for Memorial Day. Sze lined them up with Duran. Two days later, after not at all expecting to move to Santa Fe, the Morrises found a house to buy near Bishop’s Lodge.

“Memorial Day weekend we found the house, and Labor Day weekend we moved in,” Jodi Morris said. “We didn’t have a plan.”

The Morrises had lived in San Francisco for 22 years, but growing crime and homelessness disenchanted them. Like many during the pandemic, the Morrises came to realize they didn’t need to be in the Bay Area for her to operate her global travel company, Connecting Growth Globally, or for his job at Charles Schwab.

“We needed to leave the Bay Area,” she said. “It wasn’t working for us anymore.”

Carson said Texans find Santa Fe exotic, but Californians find Santa Fe has plenty of similarities to much of California in terms of culture, terrain and sophistication.

“It’s like California on a smaller scale with no drama,” Morris said. “It’s been super easy to meet people.”

Carson said the buying spree in Santa Fe is fueled by near-record mortgage rates around 2.8 percent or lower and the relatively low housing prices compared to the West Coast.

Sze sold a 1,600-square-foot condo with a tiny yard in Mill Valley north of San Francisco for $1.1 million and bought a 1,800-square-foot house with a large yard in Santa Fe for $420,000.

“I love being here,” she said. “The outdoors are even more amazing than I realized. It’s much more culturally and historically rich than I realized.”

(8) comments

Tom Ribe

I welcome new people to town. They will pay taxes, buy in our stores, hire people and hopefully they will join our non profits, help with homelessness, help in the schools and lift our region up. I urge new people to tune in and be sensitive to our local cultures. This place is totally unique and we must honor the older cultures here and insure their survival.

I also worry a great deal about water. Climate warming is reducing our snowpack, river levels, and ground water. We are already pushing the limits of our water supply. Government and business want ever more building. At some point grown-ups need to call a halt to Santa Fe's expansion so we don't have a water crisis. Much easier to ignore this issue.

Last, we need young people in Santa Fe. We need the vitality of young people and we need them to help our non profits and start businesses. The trend the article talks about indicates younger people are moving here. This is great news.

Lee DiFiore

The folks in CA as well as OR, WA, NY have ruined their locales by voting in and for "progressive" policies. Now that those chickens have come home to roost, they want to move somewhere else. I get that but what I don't get is why they want to bring those same policies to their new homes. If you want what you have in CA, OR, WA, NY, et al, stay where you are.

Paul Davis

Maybe yhou think of those locales as "ruined", but the people who live there do not all share your opinion. You also make two huge assumptions: firstly that most people in such places voted for any given policies - low voting rates in the USA make this often not the case. Secondly, you assume that these policies (which you call "progressive") are responsible for whatever the current conditions are.

Neither of your assumptions really hold up to close inspection. CA certainly caused itself large problems with a number of propositions starting in the 1980s, but the worst of these have been propositions representing the interests of wealthy republican voters, not progressives (Prop 13 is likely the best example).

WA state, the western half at least, hasn't been changed by progressive policies but by the incredible economic success and growth of the tech sector there, combined with NIMBY-eseque policies restricting new housing development to accomodate new population and limit insane property price growth. Those polices are not "progressive".

NY ... not sure what you think the new "progressive" policies are there, or the new problems. NYC remains the most vital city in the nation, despite crazy cost of living, something that started under Republican administrations some decades ago. The state itself continues to have a wierd mixture of falling-apart-rural, just-so-rural and wealthy-rural, often intermingling with each other.

I've never come across anyone who wants "a state". People pick and choose particular aspects of a state, and are likely more focused on specific aspects of a city or landscape. I certainly hope that your family roots in NM go back at least 500 years if you're going to tell other people to stay where they are.

Claudia Chavez

Congratulations on the large sale of your San Francisco home. Congratulations on your contribution to gentrification and cultural appropriation. Congratulations to your remote jobs - who collects your State and City income taxes?

Paul Davis

I'm self-employed but effectively work remotely and have done for the last 20 years, I moved to NM a couple of years ago (from Philadelphia), and all of my taxes go to NM. I can't see how it would be any different for anyone else, unless they work for an organization in a jurisdiction that levies taxes based solely on employment (Philadelphia does this for example - you will pay city taxes if you work there even if you live elsewhere). I don't believe that any of the communities in the SF Bay Area do this, but I could be wrong.

Kathy Fish

How nice for the nation's wealthy, finding relatively affordable prices in our city and environs. But what of the regular New Mexicans seeking housing? Who among us can afford the median home price of 500K earning the incomes available within the state? Capitalism at its best, indeed. Would have liked to see the complexities - and inequities - of the California/Texas buy-up addressed a bit more attentively here.

Emily Koyama

Oh, Kathy, I'm sure people at the paper feel the same way you do, but they also know which side their bread is buttered on, esp. when it comes to the real estate companies, builders, and other businesses advertising in their paper, not to mention future subscribers.

Remember, it's ALWAYS about money.

Paul Davis

Perhaps expand on any ideas you have about how this should work ...

As far as I can tell, most Americans are keen to avoid governmental regulation of house sale prices, so if more people want to move here, prices are likely to rise unless more housing is constructed to enable supply to keep up (roughly) with demand.

There seem to be a lot of long-time Santa Fe residents who are opposed to further housing development. So what is the proposal? Somehow enact restrictions on who can live here? On what legal authority would that be based? And if things go belly up here for you in Santa Fe, do you really want to be told that you cannot move to some other city or state?

What you're seeing here is one of the several dark sides of the capitalism that so many people continue to embrace. Money has ended up in the hands of people who want to now move here, and guess what? The lack of any coherent social policy about how freedom, personal attachments, and the power of money should interact means that the rich get to do what they want. If you don't like this, I think you're going to need to recognize that the only way to avoid it would be adopt other things that I suspect from your other comments at the SFNM are also not really your preferences.

But perhaps you have some other ideas?

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