With an international arts scene and top-notch shopping and restaurants, Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a small city with a sophisticated feel. But it’s the weather and the unique landscape that often draw people to the historic town.
“It’s a true four-season climate,” said Ray Rush of Sotheby’s International Realty, who has lived in the New Mexico capital for more than 30 years. “We have more than 300 days of sunshine a year.”
The city’s Historic Eastside, which includes one of the town’s most famous streets, Canyon Road, is among the most desirable places to live in Santa Fe. These addresses are close to shops, galleries and restaurants but still offer great views and privacy.
The Historic Eastside is bordered by Hillside Avenue to the north, Camino Cabra to the east, Old Santa Fe Trail to the south and Paseo De Peralta to the west.
The median price for a home in this area is about $750,000, compared to about $388,000 in the rest of the city, according to the Santa Fe Association of Realtors
“Luxury buyers are looking for space and incredible views,” said Kevin Bobolsky of the Kevin Bobolsky Group, who also has lived in Santa Fe for more than 30 years. “Many want to be right downtown or near Canyon Road, which has restaurants and galleries, as well as privacy. Canyon Road has some of the most expensive housing in the area.”
Mr. Bobolsky said, in general, luxury homes in Santa Fe range from $1 million to $5 million, although he has one listing in the area—the Cerro Pelon Ranch, which is about 30 minutes south from the Historic Eastside and was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando for fashion designer Tom Ford—on the market for $75 million.
Mr. Rush and his business partner, Tim Van Camp, said $2 million was the bottom floor of the luxury market. One of their most expensive listings is a 10-bedroom, 12-bathroom home on Acequia Madre, in the Historic Eastside, for $9.95 million.The ancient Pueblo architecture inspired estate is currently asking for $9.95 million.
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Nothing is very tall in Santa Fe, lest the views be compromised. And there are city-mandated height limitations to keep it that way, Mr. Rush said.
The Historic Eastside is full of Pueblo traditional architecture, Mr. Rush said. These low-slung, earth-colored homes, sometimes called “old Santa Fe style,” were inspired by the Pueblo tribe, and were traditionally made with adobe. Now, many homes use stucco as a less expensive, less labor-intensive alternative.
“True adobe is still sought after, but it’s more expensive,” Mr. Rush said. Part of the reason for the higher price tag is the labor involved, as adobe homes are hand built.
Much like the rest of the real-estate world, there’s been a recent push for more contemporary architecture in Santa Fe. Here, that translates into opening up the interiors to let in the great outdoors, Mr. Bobolsky said.
There’s also a new trend toward “universal living,” according to Mr. Bobolsky, which is “luxury living, but all on one level.” This kind of housing appeals to older residents who may have mobility issues, but still want high-end accommodations.
In the Historic District, homes on or near Canyon Road are very desirable, said Mr. Van Camp. Acequia Madre, Camino del Monte Sol and Palace Avenue are other well-known addresses.
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For more space, some might buy “up in the hills” near Circle Drive. “Many of those homes have 360-degree vistas,” according to Mr. Bobolsky.
What makes it unique
Santa Fe is “at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains,” Mr. Bobolsky said, “so you get the sunshine of the southwest and the beauty of the Rockies.”
“For what’s a relatively small town, it’s fairly sophisticated,” Mr. Van Camp said. “We have fabulous restaurants, world-class arts and a lot of interesting people who live here.”
That part of the Rockies is called the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and, along with the Sandia and Jemez ranges, there are views of the mountains from almost anywhere in town. New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is known for its dazzling sunsets, which can also be seen from many vistas in town.
The city also has great shopping—think Western wear and turquoise jewelry—as well as art galleries. Santa Fe’s art market is the third-largest in the U.S., and there are more than 250 galleries in town, according the city’s website.
“Some people compare Santa Fe to San Francisco because of all the culture,” Mr. Bobolsky said. “But it still has a small-town feel. And there’s no traffic.”
There’s a lot to do in Santa Fe, from gallery hopping to hiking through an arroyo, and the Historic Eastside is at the heart of it all.
The Gerald Peters Gallery, at the base of Canyon Road, is one of the best known in Santa Fe and showcases American art from the 1800s through today. The Zaplin Lampert Gallery, on Canyon Road itself, traditionally carries the work of Santa Fe’s own Gustave Baumann (1881-1971), known for his woodcuts of the area.This historic two-bedroom home in the heart of Canyon Road is currently listed for $2.9 million.
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The Northern New Mexican cuisine makes ample use of the red and green chiles that grow in the state, especially from Hatch, which is well-known for its green chiles. Local chefs put an emphasis on creativity and eclectic flavor-combinations. The Historic Eastside has many good options, like Geronimo, which serves seasonal new American fare, and the Compound, which offers upscale Southwestern dining in an old adobe home, both on Canyon Road.
The nearby Plaza also has great restaurant options, and it’s an easy walk. Coyote Cafe offers both high-end dining and and a cantina for more casual meals. There are also delicious meals to be found at low-key spots that are farther out, like tacos at El Parasol or burritos smothered in green chile at Horseman’s Haven.
The Plaza and Canyon Road both have numerous shops, offering Native American art and artifacts and statement jewelry, like Ortegas on the Plaza, Peyote Bird Designs and Keshi: The Zuni Collection. The Original Trading Post is said to date back to 1603, according to the city’s website, and offers cowboy (or cowgirl) garb, among other things. Doodlet’s offers unique cards and pocket shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The city also hosts several art markets throughout the summer, including the Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival, Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and the well-known Santa Fe Indian Market, which brings a big crowd to town every year.
In addition to its many galleries, Santa Fe is also home to several museums, like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the contemporary SITE Santa Fe and the Museum of New Mexico, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The Santa Fe National Forest is just a 20-minute drive from the Historic Eastside, and offers hiking, skiing, biking, fishing and other activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Santa Fe has several options for schools, including Desert Montessori School, just off Canyon Road and Acequia Madre Elementary School, both serving students from preschool to 6th grade. Santa Fe Prep, of which Tom Ford is an alum, starts in middle school. A Waldorf school serving kindergarten through 12th grade. St. John’s College, a private liberal arts college, also has a campus there.
Who lives there
The population of Santa Fe, about 69,000, according to 2010 Census data, is “tri-cultural,” said Mr. Rush, noting the Hispanic, Native American and Anglo residents. The Historic Eastside reflects this diversity.
Many people start with second homes in Santa Fe, and then, often, settle or retire here, he added.
“Our market is driven by second-home buyers,” said Mr. Rush. “There’s no industry here except tourism and the state capital.”
Mr. Van Camp said many part-time Santa Fe residents hail from Texas, California and New York, among other places.
Homebuyers may also be looking for a change of lifestyle, or even retiring, which seems to drive up the average age of Santa Fe residents. But, as workers become increasingly mobile, Mr. Bobolsky said more and more millennials are also settling in Santa Fe.
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Artists have long been known to find inspiration in Santa Fe. Georgia O’Keeffe lived in the area for decades and painted numerous landscapes of it. Many photographers in her circle—like Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz—are also known for their work there, as is fellow painter Marsden Hartley.
Celebrities aren’t uncommon in Santa Fe, Mr. Bobolsky said. “But this is a retreat,” he added. “There’s not a scene here.”
Current residents include actress Shirley MacLaine, novelist Armistead Maupin and George R.R. Martin, whose work inspired “Game of Thrones” and who also owns the Jean Cocteau Cinema in town. Historically, Carol Burnett, Val Kilmer and fashion photographer Herb Ritts also made homes in Santa Fe, he added.
Homes in the Historic Eastside continue to be some of the most desirable because of its traditional architecture, convenient location and beautiful surroundings.
But the market was “severely hit” in 2008 and 2009, according to Mr. Rush and Mr. Van Kamp, and lost as much of 30% of its value. The Eastside has kept its cache, however, and the agents said this year has been “significantly better than the last few” in terms of sales.
That’s true across Santa Fe, as well, and the agents think that the “terrific quality and great inventory” of homes in Santa Fe is a big draw. They say sales continue to rise, and they have “very high prospects for the future.”This $2.9 million home in Historic Eastside, Santa Fe, features tiled countertops and custom cabinetry in the kitchen.
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“Santa Fe is consistently in the national news as one of the top destinations in the world,” Mr. Rush said. “The quality of the air and of the environment is really high.”
Mr. Bobolsky also sees the outlook in Santa Fe as “very positive,” although for a slightly different reason.
“This is a head-for-the-hills destination,” he said. “If things get crazy, for whatever reason, we’re the hills.”
Those reasons could just be a desire to detach from city life but still have some of the culture that people have come to expect. Santa Fe is a refuge for many, where art, food and nature are happily combined.
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