Saturday, February 4, 2017

Impressions Before and After our Trip

Here are my impressions:

Space, Amenities and Location
Before we went to Santa Fe, I imagined we might live in a small (1,200 sq. ft. to 1,400 sq. ft.) casa or condo in the city, with a walled shady patio for a lot, walkability to the center, and authentic touches -- kiva fireplace, viga beams, Talavera tile. No garage necessary, but off street parking would be nice.

After touring many different properties, I know we need more space. And a garage. And more of a living neighborhood outside the city.

The small condos we saw were really cute but way too small. It snowed, an icy windshield-covering snow that had to be scraped, and now we know we need a garage in Santa Fe, as well as more room than I had first thought.

Cute, quirky, small and central. But not a good choice for full time living.

The in-city properties were beautifully decorated, but urban zoning was mixed, so some nice places we saw were next door to less attractive places. Some were awkwardly laid out, one casita we saw shared a laundry with the unit next door.

The cutest and most upscale of the urban casitas in our price range were mostly places that investors buy for tourist rentals. Adorable, just what I wanted, but we would not be in a neighborhood. We'd be surrounded by short term renters, vacationers, and lots of turnover.

Conclusion: We need to focus our search on larger places outside the central city, beyond the tourist areas. Walkability to the center is not going to work.

Air BnB Home
Before we visited, I thought the Air BnB home we booked was the perfect home for us, and it was for sale.

After staying there, I know it isn't for us.

Loved the Air BnB we stayed at,
but there were issues.
The size (1,600 sq. ft.) was perfect, the location was central and right off an urban walking trail, the gardens were tiny and lovely, the decor was fun, but there were problems. Doors and windows all needed replacing, the floors were canted to either side of a central ridge (structural problem?) and some of the rehabbed finishes were a problem (the fancy upgraded master bath was awkward).

And the neighborhood was too gritty -- several homes on the street had been done over, but were close in with other distressed and ugly properties. The street had kind of a college housing vibe.

And the price was too high for the issues that came with it.

I did fall in love with the patios and portal and landscaping, but even then, the porch tiles were loose, the landscaping was mainly non-native wisteria, roses and lilacs, even a patch of grass, which seems like a garden back east, and not very New Mexican.

Conclusion: this house was utterly charming, walkable to so much, and really cozy, but we won't be buying it.

Style of Home
Before we toured neighborhoods, I knew I did not want to duplicate what we have now: a newer home in a planned development in the suburbs. I wanted that old authentic adobe looking house, either a town house or a ranch.

After seeing a range of homes, it's clear we are most comfortable duplicating what we have now after all. We really liked the homes in a development about 6 miles out of town -- not far, but not in the city.

We like the cluster housing, with a consistent look and feel, and close neighbors, but walled private gardens and open walking trails in the common landscape all around. Not authentic or old style, but at least the architecture hews to the stucco and flat roof aesthetic. But new, in a homeowners association.

Newer finishes, high ceilings, planned development, outside the city.
Everything I thought I didn't want, but we really liked it.

I thought I'd like the Stamm homes that are a feature of mid century building in Santa Fe. They are low stucco ranches with nice touches (hardwood floors, kiva fireplaces, small footprints). Many have been rehabbed with upscale decor and I just loved the small, iconic looking homes.

Stamm homes are very distinctive, with a real 1950s look and feel.

But after seeing them in real life, it's clear that even with enough square footage, the layouts are just too cramped. And the neighborhoods don't look the way I thought, although the pictures show such cute exteriors. To me a street of Stamm homes looks like 1950s bomb shelter housing, even with upgrades and nice landscaping. The style just didn't suit me the way I thought it would. It's almost too frozen in time, evoking the 1950s too literally.

Conclusion: Stamm-built homes are off our search list. Newer homes with nice finishes in the suburbs are on the search list.

We got a good feel for the distinct areas of the city and the flavor of each. The realtor spent all day with us, from 10 in the morning until 5:30 in the afternoon showing us 10 properties in very different locations. The next day we went to look at rentals, but the townhouse we had an appointment to see inside had just been leased. 

This rental looks nice, but it was up a tiny, steep gravel drive,
and the complex was a little too tightly clustered.
(it wasn't green and leafy, this is the realtor's photo from summer)

When we scoped out the neighborhood the rental was in, the building was nice looking, but the streets in that area were narrow and steep and very tight, and that seemed problematic. We'll continue to look at rentals, though.

We looked at condos in a planned development up in the hills above the city. Although it felt remote from town, and the sprawling layout of the landscape seemed less welcoming than the neighborhoods closer to town, it was really just a 10 minute drive into the city.

I could live in a place with mountain views.

General Impressions
Every single home in Santa Fe is stucco -- the cost to repair and refresh it, which needs doing every 20 or so years, is thousands of dollars, and I quickly learned to spot which properties looked good but needed expensive stucco work.

This one needs some stucco work, and it's not cheap.

Every home in Santa Fe has a walled garden in back, and some have walled courtyards in front as well. The garden clubs sponsor "Behind Adobe Walls" garden tours in summer. I'm looking forward to that. No one keeps a lawn.

The city has trees, tall shady trees that give the place a graceful feel. Homes feature ornamental fruit trees -- apparently apricots, peaches and apples grow well under cultivation in small courtyard gardens. Outside town there is scrub landscape, with piƱon pines that grow to only four or five feet. They dot the hills all over with a rich deep green against the new snow. It's strikingly pretty.

Courtyard entry in the front.
As this realtor pic shows, fruit trees and flowering trees are popular.

And beyond the green pine scrub, Santa Fe is surrounded by mountains. Before we visited, I thought I had to find a home with a view out the window of mountains, but after spending time in many neighborhoods there, I see that everywhere you drive or walk in the city has killer views. 

You don't need to pay for an adobe compound perched on a hillside with picture windows looking out at mountain ranges -- anywhere we have a house we will be able to walk outside, or drive down the street and see incredible mountain views.

And sunsets.

source: Jack Arnold photo


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