Thursday, August 30, 2007

Talking real estate lingo...

In the past year and a half, we have been renovating our house so that we can place it on the real estate market in the coming year. EVERYTHING needs to be done: the actual redo of the house as well as going through every single thing we own to decide what to get rid of. When we are finished, the house will look incredible and we will have downsized so much stuff that we won’t have to have clutter in our house in New Mexico.

We spend lots of time watching the remodeling/renovation shows on Home and Garden TV. We’ve learned all the vocabulary for this project of ours: curb appeal, staging, dated, shabby, clutter, priced to sell, overpriced for the market, maintenance deferred, defined space, etc.

And we have learned all kinds of real-estate-type-stuff that we had little knowledge of a year ago:

1. Keep the interior neutral. The key is to appeal to the largest number of buyers. Earth tones rule these days.
2. Kitchens and baths sell houses. Make sure they are completely remodeled.
3. People want hardwood floors.
4. They also want granite counters and stainless steel appliances.
5. They want fireplaces too.
6. Get all the personal items out of the house before you open it up to potential buyers. Buyers want to picture their belongings in the house, not yours.
7. Get rid of ALL clutter!
8. Make sure the house has good curb appeal; if it doesn’t look good from the street, people may come no further.
9. Make sure the house is spotless…completely clean and shiny and sparkling. Cleanliness sells houses.
10. Make sure everything in the house is in working order, so the house is move-in ready.

We spend a lot of time talking in these terms lately. We’ve become experts in the area of home-selling. When the time comes to put the house on the market, WE’LL BE READY!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Xeriscaping, the way to go in New Mexico

When we began to plan our move to New Mexico, a new word entered my vocabulary: Xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping is gardening and landscaping in ways that do not require supplemental irrigation. The word is a combination of the Greek “xeros” (for dry) and landscaping. It is the most ecologically sensible way to garden in a desert climate such as New Mexico has.

Xeriscaping is a way to garden naturally, with emphasis on desert plants that do not require a lot of water. Evaporation and runoff are avoided in providing as little water as possible to plants. In using local native plants, such as cactus, lavendar, chamisa, and sedum, etc. and other drought-tolerant plants, precious water is conserved.

I have much to learn. A couple of years ago my husband gave me two wonderful books written by Judith Phillips: Natural by Design, and New Mexico Gardener’s Guide. (Judith Phillips is a leading New Mexico landscaper; her wisdom is greatly respected in NM.) While I am still here in the Midwest, and months away from our move, I am taking the opportunity to study these books and learn all I can about xeriscaping and New Mexico gardening.

The great day will come when I can apply what I have learned and try my hand at xeriscape gardening in my own home in New Mexico.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

We're taking our appetites with us.

I love to eat in New Mexico! The restaurants in Santa Fe are known for great New Mexico cuisine. But in the years we have been going there, I have not become a Santa Fe dining expert.

Reason: When we go out there, it is usually only for a few days, and we have our favorite restaurants, so that is where we always choose to go:

1. La Choza, 905 Alarid St. ~ My favorite! Tucked away on a side street and a little hard to find, seems that there are more locals there than tourists. It’s cozy and completely unpretentious….and the food is spicy and GREAT. I LOVE their posole. Sometimes we laugh because we have had the same waiter there so many times; he is pierced all over but really nice and good at his job.

2. Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, 555 West Cordova Road ~ We have been going to Maria’s longer than any other Santa Fe Restaurant. Their margaritas and their green chile stew are to die for. Good place to warm up on a cold day.

3. Harry’s Roadhouse, 96 Old Las Vegas Hwy ~ Funky and fun … and always crowded. Their menu has everything! I had my first breakfast burrito there years ago. And possibly the best plate of nachos I’ve ever had.

4. Blake’s Lotaburger ~ a New Mexico institution. They have numerous locations and a visit there for a green chile cheeseburger is a MUST.

Those are our four places. On our last trip in 2006, we also tried the Guadalupe Café, recommended by my daughter and son in law and it was GOOD, so we will probably go there again.

One of the cool things about moving to Santa Fe is that we will have time to leisurely try the other neat places in town. I’m keeping a list of restaurants that have gotten good reviews and recommendations. We are not interested in the foo-foo overpriced elitist places in the downtown area. We look for good food at affordable prices. Our must-visit list includes:

1. Bobcat Bite, 420 Old Las Vegas Hwy ~ not far from “home” in Eldorado. Reputed to have the BEST GREEN CHILE CHEESEBURGER in Santa Fe.

2. The Pantry, 1820 Cerrillos Rd. ~ Have heard only good things about this place; it is supposedly an institution in Santa Fe.

3. Mariscos la Playa, 537 W Cordova Rd ~ I’m not usually crazy about the idea of Mexican seafood, but this place gets so many raves, it much be something special.

That’s only a few of the places we MUST try when we get to Santa Fe.

I see many years of good eating ahead!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pondering Lew Wallace..

In the early 1880’s Lew Wallace served as the Governor of New Mexico for 2 ½ years. New Mexico was still a territory and Wallace was appointed by the president to serve the term. He had just published a successful novel, "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ", which was getting worldwide attention, and Wallace couldn’t wait to get out of New Mexico.

On April 28, 1881, he sat in his office in Santa Fe, and wrote a letter to his wife Susan back in Indiana. "Let Gen. Sheldon come quickly is my constant wish,'' Wallace declared in the letter.

In the same paragraph he wrote this:

“All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.''

I have thought many times about this quote since I first came across it years ago. For most students of New Mexico history, Wallace’s comment is seen as a condemnation of the territory where he didn’t want to serve and which he couldn’t wait to leave. Beset with local problems, he was expressing great frustration with New Mexico.

But to me, the quote means something entirely different …. It suggests the possibility that New Mexico is so unique, so truly different, that it defies being put into a box with the rest of the United States. To me, it means that New Mexico is a new experience, a different kind of lifestyle, a truly unparalleled place.

Thank you, Lew Wallace, for your words which inspire me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The "Must-Have" List

As we begin our preliminary look at available existing houses, we have made our list of “must-haves” in the house we select.

1. We must have ceiling vigas, at least in one or two rooms. Not beams, but the round vigas.
2. We must have tiled floor in the living areas of the house. We prefer porcelain, ceramic or travertine. Brick floors are also acceptable to us. Carpeting in bedrooms is okay.
3. We must have lots of windows and views of the mountains.
4. We must have at least one kiva fireplace in the house.
5. We must have radiant heat.
6. We must have a large kitchen.
7. We must have storage, storage, storage.
8. We must have at least one portal and courtyard.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The plan and the other plan

We always had two plans.

Plan A was to buy some property, design our dream house, and when retirement approached, have the house built on our lot. We did everything right, I think. We bought one of the building lots in Eldorado with the best views. That land is all paid for, and the value has increased six- or sevenfold in the past 15 years.

With the direction of a wonderful architect in Albuquerque, we designed the house of our dreams, down to the very smallest detail. It was designed with our lot and the views in mind….and everything we agreed we wanted in a home. We did an awesome job, I believe!

Then came the ugly part: finding someone to build the house. We met several good builders in the fall/winter of 2006, and inspected many of the homes they were building. A third builder was recommended to us by a realtor in Santa Fe. We were impressed with him, too. The bids submitted by all three were WAY over the top of our budget that we are willing to pay. Discussions with all of them about finding ways to cut our costs proved to be unsuccessful.

So…we are left with a perfect lot, a perfect house plan, and no one to build the house within our budget. We are unwilling and unable to go over the price we can afford.

Plan B has been there all along: sell the lot we own, make a really nice profit on it, and give up the idea of the dream house. Then look for an existing house on the market within our price range, with the square feet and the features we want. We check the Santa Fe real estate websites regularly, and are finding a nice variety of homes in our range that we like and might be acceptable to us.

It is beginning to look more and more like Plan B is going to be it. It comes with a lot of disappointment about giving up our perfect lot and our perfect house plan, but we are finding it necessary to be realists about this.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's Chile Season in the Land of Enchantment!

I'm here in the midwest...getting our house ready to sell .. we are renovating, painting, repairing, sprucing up, downsizing, cleaning out closets and cupboards, packing, getting rid of the accumulation of "stuff", planning for our move ...

BUT.....out in New Mexico....THE CHILES ARE IN SEASON! They are chile roasters in parking lots all over the state...hanging in strings of colorful ristras outside of shops. The smell of roasting chiles fills the air with that wonderful aroma.

It's just about the best time of the year in New Mexico. And next year!....Next year we should be there to be a part of it! For us ... the anticipation is growing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"God was in his prime when he painted this place"

I was searching for something today when I discovered this quote within a quote:

"I have figured out why New Mexico comforts me so. As my friend said, 'God was in his prime when he painted this place.' Nowhere have I felt more lighthearted and free, and nowhere more humbled."

Diana Nelson Jones (2001)

I think that is cool.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The City Different

Santa Fe. City of the Holy Faith. The City Different. Future home.

The city of Santa Fe sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at 7,000 feet elevation.

The population is approximately 72,000. 48% are Hispanic and 47% Anglo and 3% Native American.
Albuquerque is 60 miles away, Eldorado 9.5 miles, and Lamy 14 miles.

Santa Fe has a temperate climate…warm in the summer, cold in the winter. Humidity tends to be lower than the U.S. average. Santa Fe gets about 10 inches of snow a year and about 14 inches of rain per year.

Santa Fe has one major hospital, St. Vincent’s. The closest large airport is the Sunport in Albuquerque.

Those are the statistics. Here are the intangibles:

Many people consider Santa Fe to be very pricey, tourist-y, pretentious, artsy crafty. I don’t pay a lot of attention to that stuff.

I find the city to be completely charming. I love the adobe architecture, especially the Plaza/downtown area which is so delightful and alluring and so full of history. This is an ancient place … and the aura of uniqueness and blended cultures hangs in the air.

And maybe the best part of Santa Fe … the food! The New Mexican cuisine is at its very best here.

I have favorite places in Santa Fe: the Palace of the Governors, the Plaza, St. Francis Cathedral, the State Capitol Building (the Roundhouse), La Choza, Maria’s, and Jackalope.

The one thing I have learned through the years … I have not seen everything there is to see, so there is much much more to explore!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why New Mexico?

Several people in the past few weeks have asked me…”Why New Mexico?”
“Isn’t it terribly hot there?” "Isn’t it a barren place?” “Won’t it be hard being so far away from everyone?” “Won’t you feel isolated?”

Fair question. And it is a question for which I have known the answer for many years. Why New Mexico?

* It’s an immense, huge, breath-taking beautiful state. I am captivated by all of it….the mountains, the desert, the rivers, the mesas, Valle Grande, Acoma, Abiquiu. I cannot name my favorite place in New Mexico; that would be impossible. The beauty everywhere is so powerful that I cannot find the right words to describe it.

* The light. New Mexico is bathed in light; it is different than the light anywhere I have ever been. I suppose it has something to do with the thin air in the high elevations, but the scientific explanation does not matter to me. The light is magical; that’s all I know.

* The sky …. The endless sky that goes on forever. My family used to laugh when I said I loved the huge sky in New Mexico. But they knew exactly what I meant.

* The blend of native American, Latino and Anglo cultures. Indians have lived on the land in New Mexico for what? Thousands of years? Some Hispanic (Mexican and Spanish) families go back for generations. I love how Spanish mingles with English. I want to learn to speak Spanish there.

* The food! Oh the New Mexican cuisine! The only place where everyone knows what the question “Red or green” means. Green chile. Red chile. Posole. Navajo fried bread. Tortillas. Stacked not rolled enchiladas. Tamales and burritoes to die for. Margaritas.

* The energy. The alive, fresh, excitement in the air. Earlier New Mexicans, not knowing how to describe it, just called New Mexico “The Land of Enchantment” And so it is.

* I am enchanted. That’s the answer to the question, “Why New Mexico?” Why? Because that is the place I choose to live out the rest of my life. I am homeward bound.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Dream

My husband and I are just about to start out on our grand adventure.

We fell in love with New Mexico many years ago when we were young, and now .... 38 years later, we are going to fulfill our dream and move to Santa Fe.

We've been planning this for a long time now. We bought our property in the Eldorado community near Santa Fe in 1992. We have made and revised our list of priorities, needs, wants, etc. for a house on the lot. We have visited the property many times, and walked over every bit of it, among the juniper trees and the prickly pear cactus and the chamisa. We have studied the mountain ranges to the north (Sangre de Cristo) and the west (Jemez) to decide where to place a house on the lot. We have gone to many open houses in Eldorado, and met several builders and looked at their work. We have worked with an architect to design our dream house.

Finally we are nearly ready. We are getting our house in the midwest ready to sell.

The dream is becoming real!