Despite the naysayers of the world who express doubt about all things in vogue, there are some trends that we hope never go out of fashion. Take yoga for instance. Could there possibly be any harm to having more Santa Feans practicing yoga? It’s hard to imagine any downside with that scenario. Another emerging activity that is gaining popularity is backyard beekeeping. Once the exclusive domain of commercial honey producers and esoteric reclusive types, beekeeping is now gaining mainstream popularity especially here in Santa Fe. It may be a response to the shockingly abrupt decline of bees or simply a passing fad but backyard beekeeping is becoming very popular and yet little is known about this new craze.
Dramatic decreases in bee populations in the wild have been recorded for nearly half a century. Experts attribute this to a combination of loss of territory and an increase in pesticides. Few alarms were sounded, however, because commercial beekeepers were experiencing normal losses and stable bee populations. But between 2006 and 2007 a phenomenon referred to as Colony Collapse began to decimate commercial beekeepers resulting in losses of over 50% with European countries reporting similar losses. This is significant because worldwide agricultural crops are dependant on honeybee colonies for pollination. No bees, no crops.
Scientific and agricultural communities around the world mobilized to solve the problem and grassroots organizations took action as well and bee populations have been increasing. The secret methods of keeping bees are now widely disseminated over the web and among local beekeeping organizations like our own New Mexico Beekeepers Association. Bees and equipment can be purchased over the internet and delivered to the front door.
Benefits of backyard beekeeping are many. Beekeeping is a peaceful practice that promotes environmental benefits, especially pollination and produces health-promoting products like honey, pollen, and beeswax. The Santa Fe County Tax Assessor even grants an agricultural tax status to serious beekeepers. But, they are wise to those trying to exploit the tax code by simply placing a few hives on a property for the sole benefit of receiving tax relief.
Not everybody likes bees and backyard beekeeping is not without criticism. For people allergic to bees, they can be a frightening sight and a single sting can cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock for some. The Santa Fe City Counsel occasionally discusses regulating beekeepers with little result. In 2011 City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez was proposing regulations but received little to no support and the proposals were referred to as the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Santa Fe beekeepers are a well-organized and caring group who create public awareness about beekeeping and are readily available to help anyone who wants to become a backyard beekeeper.
With an increase in beekeeping, keeping Santa Fe’s bees free is a matter of common sense practices by city beekeepers. Before placing beehives on your property meet with the other area beekeepers for advice. Talk to your neighbors and find out if anyone in your area has bee allergies and make certain that you have enough space for your bees. It’s also important to have your own water source for bees, otherwise they may hang out at your neighbor’s Koi pond. With the final days of fall upon us, our local bees are busy harvesting the last stages of fall bloom. It’s clear that the world is better because of bees so it is important that our neighborhoods are better because of the safe practices of Santa Fe’s backyard beekeepers.
Check out our column in last Sunday’s Santa Fe New Mexican, Bon Appetit!
Here are some fun homes to look at in case you win the lottery tonight.
On April 15th, the Santa Fe Association of Realtors released the first quarter statistics of Santa Fe’s improving housing market. Along with the rest of the country, Santa Fe finally seems to be enjoying strong buyer interest and consistent appreciation in most neighborhoods. While the median price point overall in Santa Fe had a minute increase, the average sales price shifted upwards to $382,064 which indicates the gains made by Santa Fe’s luxury market. Pending sales were down over 18% from the same time last year, perhaps as choosy buyers wait for more selection sure to come with our spring and summer season. Inventory levels remain steady at 10 months but the average days on market has fallen by 10% to 171 days.
Location, location, location. The neighborhood with the biggest gains is the city limits Southeast including South Capital and the Eastside. With a 30% increase in units sold and a 22% increase in median sales price to $549,786, buyers shopping in this area know the frustration of finding a good deal. Northeast city limits experienced a surge in sales for the first quarter of 2014 with 30 homes sold versus 19 from this same time last year. The median sales price, however, is only up 2% to $645,000. Southwest city limits appears flat with 83 units sold down 2% from first quarter last year. The median sales price, too, dropped from $200,000 to $197,000.
The areas around Tesuque enjoyed some good gains this past quarter over last year. Units sold increased from 8 to 11 and the median sales price is up from $456,000 to $486,000. The Northwest County also had a surge in sales for the first quarter, up almost 65% with 38 homes sold. The median sales price here also climbed to $743,399 from $710,000 in 2013. The Southeast County including Old Las Vegas Highway sold 12 more homes than first quarter 2013 however the median sales price slipped from $372,500 to $326,000. Southwest County experienced an 11% decline in sales and an 11% decline in median sales price now $282,089 from last year’s $318,000. The decline is due to the increase in new construction being offered by Rancho Viejo and La Pradera advertising new homes starting in the low $200’s. Eldorado was dead even in sales for this first quarter as compared to last year at 27 homes sold but the median price is down 19% from $358,000 in 2013 to $290,000.
Other residential sales enjoyed small gains including condominiums. Units within the city limits were up with 67 solds in the first quarter of 2014 from 58 last year and the median sales price is up 1% to $215,000. Some ease in financing for condos will aid this market segment. Land sales in the county were down slightly but not surprising when it’s cold outside. Look for land sales to increase next quarter while the overall median sales price for a lot in Santa Fe is up 10% to $107,500.
While there were dips in certain neighborhoods, all indicators point to a strong summer selling season ahead. Interest rates are still historically low and consumer confidence has improved greatly. Santa Fe’s affordability index was up only slightly and there are still some good deals to be had. Some sellers will certainly try to test the market with higher list prices and only time will tell if buyers will take the bait. All in all, 2014 appears to be on track to be a wonderfully good year in the Santa Fe real estate market.
Santa Fe Real Estate Market Report – Q1 – 2014
Twenty years of trout fishing can teach you a lot about selling real estate. That may sound odd but you learn that fish are always hungry and homes are always selling. And there’s a big difference between fishing and catching fish and listing your house and selling your house. Here are some field notes from the front lines of trout fishing and selling real estate in Santa Fe.
Regardless of whether you’re fishing or selling, you must first ask yourself if you are really serious. For sellers, do you want to sell your home or are you okay letting it sit on the market? If your home is just sitting on the market and not getting any showings it’s not that there are no buyers, you are simply not in the market where the buyers are. Like fishing, you can go crazy trying things you saw on a T.V. show, reading how-to-do-it books or using the latest technology, but in order to succeed you must know the tools of the trade and understand the fundamental equation.
In real estate the goal is to create demand by positioning your property at the top of a buyer’s desirability list with the right marketing. Success in marketing comes from the right story, told effectively, in the right media, to the best prospects. For the trout fisherman, you must be equally well positioned by knowing the river, the parts of the river, and where in the river is best. You see, trout may be in the pool of water just in front of you but you need to know where they are feeding; at the surface, in the column, or near the bottom. The right fly presented in the wrong place won’t catch a thing. Landing a buyer for your home is no different.
So now you’re standing in a stream full of hungry trout and you watch as your fly drifts by, cast after cast, without any response from the fish, and you begin to wonder what’s wrong. Home sellers get a similar feeling when they prepare time and time again for showings that come and go without hardly any feedback. At this stage of the game you need to adjust the variables of the equation. The skilled angler will adjust three variables, size of the fly, the pattern of the fly, then the color. The more knowledge they have, the better choices they make with theses variables. They keep changing them until, boom, they catch a fish. Home sellers need to do the same thing. For the seller, they have two variables: the price and the condition. If you are getting showings and no offers, it comes down to adjusting the price and improving the condition. These are the two variables that add up to value for buyers.
There is a ready pool of hungry buyers out there and as they watch the daily e-mails of properties that have come on the market they will very quickly decide which properties interest them most. You know that your marketing is working when you’re getting showings. You know that your sales equation is working when you’re getting offers. If you are getting showings and no offers work on your pricing and make certain your property shows the absolute best it can. Optimism will keep you on the river, but knowing the equation will catch fish. If you are not getting the results you hoped for, don’t let optimism turn to despair, you must simply adjust your equation until you get your house sold. Until then, happy fishing everyone.
There have been many articles written about the state of our Santa Fe real estate market. Rather than comment on these articles, we thought it would be best to publish the data recently released by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors on January 16th. The quarterly statistics are the best indicators of our unique market. While the real estate market around the nation continued to improve by leaps and bounds, let’s see how Santa Fe fared.
In broader aspects the city’s total closed sale were up marginally from 187 sales in 2012 to 189 sales in the final 4th quarter of 2013. The median sales price for the city was almost even from $279,990 in the final months of 2012 to $280,100 in the 4th quarter of 2013. The county saw a slight dip in closed sales in the 4th quarter from 162 in 2012 to 158 in 2013. The median price in the county, however, slipped in the 4th quarter from $440,000 in 2012 to $379,000 in 2013. Overall inventory increased in 2013 from 3408 homes for sale at the end of 2012 to 3882 at the end of 2013.
By neighborhood, the northeast city limits had big gains in median sales price for the final 4th quarter. From $569,500 to $717,500, this 26% increase reflects more sales of million dollars homes than in the previous year but closed sales dipped year to date by 9%. Northwest city limits had a modest increase in the median sales price for the quarter from $322,400 in 2012 to $327,500 but closed sales increased by over 18%. The southeast city limits had an overall decline in sales from the previous year of 7% and a decline in median sales price from $545,000 to $475,000. The southwest city limits had a 20% increase in closed sales over the previous year and the median sales price here jumped to $229,250 from $195,000 in 2012.
The north county of Santa Fe had a busy 4th quarter with a 16% increase in sales. Overall, however, sales in this area declined almost 40% from the previous year and it is no wonder that the median sales price also declined by 30% from $635,000 to $443,750. The northwest county was also down overall for the year in closed sales by 7% but the median sales price did increase modestly from $675,000 in the 4th quarter of 2012 to $695,000 in 2013. The southeast county was also down for the year in closed sales by 8% and the median sales price dropped from $383,250 in 4th quarter 2012 to $353,750 in 2013. The southwest county saw a huge increase with closed sales almost doubling from the previous year. The median sales price, however, did decline from $320,000 in the 4th quarter of 2012 to $274,000. Eldorado, which is typically a more consistent market, had a rocky 2013 with a 30% decline of overall sales. Median sales price, however, stayed relatively even at $339,000 from $338,425 the previous year.
So, in a nutshell what does all of this mean? We believe that the positive factors outweigh the declines and that 2014 should continue to be an improving market. We do not believe huge appreciation overall is likely this year nor next year but if we continue to gain 3% every year, the market will recover its equilibrium.
Last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced it would begin gradually paring back on its purchase of non-traditional assets aimed at stimulating growth. Beginning in January the Fed will reduce it’s monthly purchase of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities by $10 Billion, from $85 to $75 billion. The statement also outlined forward guidance for the Federal Reserve’s primary policy instrument, short term interest rates.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivered remarks Wednesday in Washington, at his final planned news conference before he steps down.
Chairman Bernanke made it clear that the Fed’s easy money policy would continue beyond the previously indicated threshold of 6.5 percent unemployment. He also announced that that rates would not increase until 2015 at the earliest – a consensus among the committee’s voting members.
Our KW Research Department decoded the decision to find out what it could mean for you and your clients.
Because of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities it’s likely that mortgage rates will continue to rise, though it may not be a dramatic increase given the modest reduction in the purchase of these assets. Nevertheless, sellers who need to move to a new school district or into a larger home, should consider listing sooner.And buyers who are on the fence would be wise to whittle down their list and make an offer, especially those who want to purchase in areas where prices are spiking.
The decision could also encourage cash-rich onlookers to come out and buy – at least those who can afford it. Several industry experts from the National Association of REALTORS and RealtyTrac were quoted in an article on MarketWatch, stating their belief that despite the motivation, these cash-only deals are unsustainable in the long-term.
Overall, the Feds increased clarity coupled with the expectation of continued monetary accommodation and low, short-term interest rates should keep the economy growing. This was well-illustrated last week when markets responded favorably putting the Dow Jones up nearly 300 points (1.8 percent).
On January 10, 2014 another aspect of the Qualified Residential Mortgage Rule passed by our friends in Congress as part of the Frank-Dodd Legislation from 2010 will go into effect. Designed to protect consumers against mortgage fraud, the question remains if it will improve or hinder our local housing recovery.
The essence of the Qualified Residential Mortgage is to ensure the ability of the borrower to repay the mortgage through extensive investigation by the mortgage lenders into credit worthiness and income evaluations. Certain considerations made by lenders will include:
(1) current or reasonably expected income and assets, (2)current employment, (3) monthly payments on covered transaction, (4) monthly payments on simultaneous loans, (5) monthly payments for mortgage related obligations, (6)current debt obligations, alimony and child support, (7) monthly debt-to-income ratios or residual income and (8) credit history.
While the previously proposed required down payment rule was aborted, the QRM does have a debt ratio guideline that might affect buyers. The debt to income ratio can not exceed 43% so if you are thinking of purchasing a home, you might want to put off buying that new car. This one aspect is the most troubling for all the consumer protections it touts. Mortgage experts state that 20% of loans presently originated have higher than 43% consumer debt ratio, so to take a potential 20% of buyers out of the housing market may certainly impact our recovery.
The benefits to the consumer can be seen in the prohibition of negative amortization and interest only payments. Also, mortgage loans can not exceed thirty year repayment period. And the QRM does have a limitation on points and fees that can be charged which is generally about 3% of the loan amount. For borrowers, predatory lending has been curtailed and the likelihood of overselling and becoming “house-poor” will be a notion of the past.
For mortgage companies the changes have little effect on how they have been doing business since they tend to be risk adverse anyway. After all, making certain that the borrower can repay a loan is the cornerstone of that industry. But now with the threat of having to buy back a bad loan, the mortgage companies will be more diligent in their scrutiny of every hopeful borrower.
For anyone who has been around the sun a few times, you know that if it was made by Congress you can bet that they made it with loopholes and the QRM is no exception. There are guidelines for loans that exceed the debt to income ratio to create more flexibility. Just who will fall into these guidelines is a mystery. Fortunately, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have an exemption to the 43% debt to income ratio which may still be discretionary, but at least there is hope. Not all qualified borrowers with a higher debt to income will be excluded from the market.
For loans originating after January 10th, it may seem as though an IRS audit would be easier to deal with then qualifying for a mortgage but if it results in stability in the housing market and protection of homeowner wealth, we are all for it. We applaud the prevention of predatory lending practices and the aim to prevent another recession by easy access to money. Getting rid of mortgages that borrowers can only afford for the first year is a good thing. And saying goodbye to those get rich quick seminars that promise real estate investors quick return with no money down and no qualifying is also a good thing. However the reality is that every borrower is a risk and we don’t want to see Congress enacting over-stringent guidelines that will squeeze out the hard working individual who is trying to achieve the very essence of the American Dream and that is home ownership.
This beautiful building site is still available, but maybe for not much longer. It could be yours!
Update on closings and new contracts for October 2013:
We celebrated the arrival of two new families to Las Melodias de Las Campanas this month. The beautiful single level Mezzo model at 2 Camino de Colores (lot 23) was completed and closed and the owners have now moved in. And just last week the spectacular single level Soprano model at 28 Camino de Colores (lot 9) was completed. You will easily recognize it by the Andalusian style stone work that graces the front of the home.
New contacts for October include the sale of Lot 16 which is on the golf course and has amazing views of both the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountain ranges as well some of the best views of the golf course. The model selected for this lot is the a single level Mezzo which will bring those views right into the home. Also going under contract this month is Lot 12. This lot now sells out our “Island” and the new buyers are planning on building a two story Contralto model. This will be the first Contralto and it will be a perfect fit for the “Island” as it will take advantage of views of both the water feature on the 14th fairway of the Sunset Course and views of the 7th fairway of the Sunset Course.
The best building sights are selling fast but we still have some exciting golf course and view lots for you to choose from. If you are thinking about buying a new home come on out and see us.
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