Santa Fe home sales sputtering back in 2010

Home sales bounced a bit in the first quarter of 2010, with sale volumes increasing across all sectors of the Santa Fe market, according to several measures.

The Santa Fe Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that the total volume of city-county detached home sales increased 16 percent from a year ago to 205. While the median sales price in the unincorporated area fell, prices of homes sold inside the city were up some 50 percent to $464,000.

The numbers are year-over-year comparisons, and 2009 was the worst year for home sales in at least a decade. The number of sales in the first quarter is still down more than half from its peak in 2006.

But considering Santa Fe’s cold, snowy weather in January, February and March and that overall prices lifted, the statistics show the market has come off the 2009 bottom.

“All segments of the market at moving,” association president Lois Sury said. “It seems to be across the board.”

Like elsewhere in the United States, the federal government’s homebuyer tax credit — up to $8,000 for new buyers and $6,500 for current owners buying again — helped first-quarter sales, though it will be months before anyone knows the number of buyers in each state who have claimed the money.

Homes must be under contract by April 30 to qualify for the tax break — and that sent March sales up 34 percent in Albuquerque and 54 percent in Rio Rancho, according to the New Mexico Business Weekly. In Santa Fe, the quarter was more even, with volume increases all three months.

In Santa Fe, the incentive has helped many empty-nest couples who may have wanted to sell a larger home and move into a smaller house, condo or townhome, said Sury, as sales of those units more than doubled from a year ago.

“I’ve helped families like that,” said Sury. “They want something small here. We’ve seen those buyers come back into the market.”

Alan Ball said the March sales numbers in Santa Fe are “kind of a big deal” because the 2010 number beat both the 2009 and 2008 sales numbers. He also said the high-end market showed momentum for the first time in two years, with 18 sales over $1 million.

Some of it is the homebuyer tax credit, said Ball, who publishes a monthly newsletter on the Santa Fe real estate market, but it’s also a sign the market is righting itself.

“What some people wanted last summer (in asking price) is now even lower,” Ball said. “That’s what buyers are seeing and acting on.”

There were some wide fluctuations in the county’s median prices. Some of that is because the new homes in Rancho Viejo are being targeted to first-time buyers, with some selling for under $200,000, to take advantage of the tax credit.

The other big decline is Las Campanas, where luxury home prices have reset.

Sellers are more realistic, said Kay Sutt, a real estate appraiser. “The closer to balance our market comes, the quicker we’ll recover,” she said.

The fact that sales volume was strong despite terrible weather is another plus, Sutt said about the first quarter.

She is not seeing a “a magical healing” of Santa Fe’s market from the federal tax credit, but a lot of things going on are positive, including low interest rates, cheaper land and labor costs.

On that point, Donna Reynolds, chief executive of the Realtors Association, said the number of inquiries coming into the association office were the highest they’d ever been after The New York Times published a travel story about Santa Fe style reinventing itself and a large image of the new Railyard Park.

Sill, longer-term numbers compiled by the Realtors indicate how far sales tumbled from earlier years.

The number of single-family homes sold countywide in 2009, for instance, was 966, which was less than the 1,437 sold in the year 2000 and half the 1,996 sold at the 2005 market peak.

Likewise, the total sales volume in 2009 was $540 million, slightly higher than the start of the decade, but a huge decline from the $1.2 billion in 2006.

Median sales prices started the decade at $235,000, peaked at $425,000 in 2007 and stood at $356,000 at the end of 2009.

New single-family home permits in the city of Santa Fe were flat in the first quarter, 48 in the period, up from 44 a year ago, said city planner Reed Liming. Eighteen of the 2010 permits were for multifamily attached homes, he added, with six of those going to a new complex at Paseo de Peralta near Washington Avenue.

Contact Bruce Krasnow at 986-3034 or



• City of Santa Fe: Sales totaled 110 single-family homes in first quarter, up from 95 a year ago. Median sold price $464,000, up from $308,000.

• Unincorporated area: Sales of 95 single-family homes in first quarter, up from 82. Median sold price $318,224, down from $440,000.

• Condo/townhome sales: 62 in first quarter, up from 27. Median price $286,500, up from $248,000 a year ago.

• Total sales volume for homes stood at $92.1 million in the first quarter of 2010, up from $81.6 million last year.

 Bruce Krasnow | The New Mexican