Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Financing Real Estate

I am in the trenches every day and the question I hear a lot has to do with financing. I've been accused of being overly simplistic, and financing is certainly complex, but here is what I know about the situation now:

We have come through a period of time when lending was too generous. If you wanted to borrow 110% of the purchase price of your house, you could. (I still have clients who want to do this.) You got an appraisal and took every penny of equity out of your property. Then you bought a flat screen TV. That is called consumer spending. It is a bad thing.

Then the bottom fell out of real estate and whatever appreciation we had for the last five years was lost. In other words, you bought your house for $250,000 five years ago, it appreciated 5% a year, until this year when it was suddenly worth $250,000 again.

Fannie Mae, the U.S. Government entity, sets lending guidelines. Their new guidelines are very, very limited. So limited, that a lot of people (like me) can no longer qualify for a loan. These guidelines also apply to properties, so for instance, if your condo association doesn't meet their criteria, you can't get a loan to buy the condo.

The vast majority of banks use these Fannie Mae guidelines and if they are giving you a loan and then sell the loan, your loan has to conform. Where there is a little bit of light, is with local, private banks, that don't sell their loans.

The biggest hurdle to buying real estate is getting that loan. But if you have a good team, and know your options, you can take advantage of really low interest rates and tons of great homes to choose from with low, low prices.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Aromas of Santa Fe

Everyone has heard about the "light" in Santa Fe. The intense blue sky, the thin atmosphere--which attracts artists from many disciplines. But the environment also affects smells. Santa Fe actually smells nice. Even though we are in a basin, we don't have smog and there isn't enough atmosphere to hold any particular odor for long.

Some of what we are experiencing now includes the smell of pinon burning. Stepping outside in the early evening, no discernible wind, the sweet and musky smell of pine is wafting across the valley. A prelude to winter with many of our outdoor fireplaces stoked.

Russian Sage is just past peak all over the hills surrounding Santa Fe. A member of the mint family, it's foot long panicles bloom for many weeks in the late fall, sending a distinctly sagey aroma out in to the atmosphere.

In the summer months we have lavender, planted in drifts in some subdivisions around Santa Fe and at the lavender farm in Tesuque. And chocolate flower is a personal favorite. You have to get close but once it hits you it is a very strong scent of chocolate.

North of Santa Fe, in the more alpine regions, we have stands of Ponderosa Pine. The deeply etched bark has a lovely flavor of vanilla which you can almost taste as you pass by.

And last, I've caught the scent of our marauding bear, who most likely has garlic breath from sampling the neighbors left-overs from Tomasitas. His odor isn't exactly one I enjoy, but it does let me know he's around.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Santa Fe Surrounds....

Santa Fe is pretty great spot in terms of culture, climate and community--but Santa Fe is also a terrific jumping off point. Last summer, I did a few girl's trips with my daughter and I will forever cherish the adventures we had.

We started out small, with one-day in Albuquerque. The botanical gardens and acquarium--yes, hard to believe, but there are live sharks living in Albuquerque--are in a complex near the Rio Grande just before you get to mid-town. The gardens were awe-inspiring and the acquarium, while small, was enjoyable. From there you can take a train, although we opted to drive to the zoo. Even if you are a zoo snob, you won't be disappointed. We especially enjoyed the wolves as they loped around their habitat. The grounds are lovely with many large trees and expanses of grass to lounge around on. After lunch, we got in some retail therapy at ABQ Uptown, the newish and upscale mall off of Louisiana, east of town.

Our second outing was to Pagosa Springs and Durango. We left late in the day and arrived in Pagosa Springs around dinner after a spectacular 3-hour drive. After enjoying some local brew, we checked in to the Springs Hotel which is where the action in. And by action, I mean the 22 pools of spring fed water with temperatures ranging from 90 degrees in the large pool to 114 degrees in the "lobster pot." The water is so hot as it comes up from these springs that they maintain the temperatures posted by mixing in cold water. The large pool plays first run movies on a giant screen and the young cowboys from the surrounding areas are there looking for pretty girls. They wear their swim trunks and their hats in the pools. Enough said. The next day we did a leisurely raft trip down the Animas and explored the town--before driving the one-hour to Durango.

Durango is a really neat town. We rented bicycles and explored the paved river paths which are extensive. There is a lot of good shopping along the one main street and no kidding, we had some of the best sushi we've ever had in one of the two sushi joints in town.

Our third trip for the summer was Boulder. It is a little over five hours to Denver and then another 45 minutes northwest to Boulder. I graduated from UC but had not been back for a visit. Pearl Street is the main drag and it has not lost it's charm. There are still the colorful street entertainers and the restaurants are varied and enjoyable with their outdoor patios. The flat irons are awesome as they loom over the southwest side of town. Marriott has a very nice hotel in a new retail district which includes all the standbys like Macy's.

Next summer we may be trading in the car for a Southwest Airlines 737, because San Diego and San Franciso are close enough for weekend trips.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fiesta in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a free-wheeling place but we do have our rituals and Fiesta is all about ritual. Fiesta began in 1712 to celebrate an expedition by Don Diego de Vargas who conquered New Mexico. The week is punctuated by several masses but there is considerable drinking and eating and partying.

Of the several events planned for this celebration, the burning of a giant effigy named "Zozobra" is the most racous event. 30,000 people crowd into Fort Marcy park to participate in the burning of this 5-story "marionette." Conceived of in 1926 by Will Schuster, Zozobra was taken over by the Kiwanis Club in 1963. The party starts around noon and by the time the old guy burns around 9:00 p.m., a considerable amount of debauchery is enjoyed in the park. Zozobra is filled with police reports, divorce papers or anything else you would like to burn. I contributed a letter lamenting the crummy real estate market and economy in general so let's hope they go up in smoke when he burned. Kiwanis raises about $300,000 for scholarships and other good works so it's not completely gratuitous.

Of the other events which includes fairs and parades, the pet parade is a crowd-pleaser. Picture a 75-lb. pit bull, being pushed along in a baby carriage that has been modified to look like an airplane. Snoopy, the Red-Baron, eat your heart out.

Fiesta culminates with the Wine and Chili Festival which has grown significantly over the years. It started out in a parking lot behind Sanbusco Center but now the whole town participates with many out-of-towners planning their yearly trek to Santa Fe around this one event.

I hear some grumbling from local merchants about Fiesta because of the closed streets and other inconveniences but it's better to embrace the merriment of the season and go with the flow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Green Chili Season

We are coming in to the green chili season which means roasting spots are starting to pop up all over town. The aroma is difficult to describe if you've never smelled fresh roasted mild, green chilis. It's a sweet and spicy slice of sunshine, wafting across Santa Fe.

All of my out-of-town clients are subjected to a green chili immersion which has produced many rabid green chili fans.

What you need are an assortment of freezer bags, the green chili's fresh from the roaster and a couple of simple recipes. When you bring the chilis home, divide them into small and large meal portions, bag them and put them in the freezer. I leave about six out for meals I'm going to prepare in the next two days. A small meal is two to three chilis and a large meal like a Shepard's Pie will use about six chilis. Leave the skins, seeds and stems in place.

First up on the list is scrambled eggs with green chili's and cheese for breakfast. Take about three chili's, and if they are frozen, they soften up quickly under cool running water for a couple of minutes. Under water, split them open with your hands and wash away the skins (which are mostly black) and the seeds. Cut away the stem and chop them up into pieces. I saute the chilis for a minute in butter before I throw in the eggs and cheese.

Lunch consists of the chilis as prepared above on a burger with or without a slice of cheese. Heaven is a green-chili burger at Bob Cat Bite on Old Las Vegas Highway. Their website even has a video: http://www.bobcatbite.com/

Dinner is green chili Shepard's Pie. My recipe is plebeian but it is a family favorite. You need a frozen deep dish pie shell, ground beef, a jar of chicken gravy, a can of corn and a tub of store bought Country Crock mashed potatoes. Prepare the chilis and saute them with your beef. Drain the pan and add a half of the jar of gravy. Layer the beef mixture in the pan, with a layer of corn on top of that. Take the potatoes and if you want to spiff up the taste and the consistency, mix in a little 1/2 and 1/2 with some butter, salt and pepper. Smooth on the potatoes over the corn until the whole pie is covered. Drizzle on some melted butter, salt, pepper, paprika and put it in the oven. 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Back to the freezer, your chili's will get you through the year, so lay in enough to last!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Golden Pax

Spirit Library has announced that Santa Fe has now or will shortly replace Sedona, Arizona, as the vortex capital of the world. It is said that "certain areas on the earth become specialized portals of prominence." The prediction is that Santa Fe will rise to the spiritual apex because the Sedona vortex spins in a counter clockwise direction while Santa Fe's vortex is starting a "dual vortexial spin" which is lighter and allows energy to rise up.

"...this vortexial PAX can allow a human seeker to of sufficient light quotient... proactively choose and more readily manifest the life and attributes desired..." Well, okay.

I tend to be somewhat scientific in my approach but I have found that there are overlapping disciplines when it comes to this type of prediction. I have often told clients that Santa Fe has a lot of wounded birds. People do come here to heal or to grow. And there is concrete data that New Mexico has healing energies.

The altitude in Santa Fe does promote red blood cell production which is why athletes train here. The thin atmosphere and 340 days of sunshine mean you soak up a lot of vitamin D and if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder this is your place. And then there is the connection to nature. There is a strong pull to wander the hills around Santa Fe or even just work in the garden.

So pilgrims, grab your spiritual nets, and head this way.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening in Santa Fe

The night time temps are coming up and any danger of frost is now gone--which can only mean one thing: it's time to make my first foray to the local nursery's. I live north of town, so I start out at Payne's on Camino Alire. This is a large garden center with a nice selection of annuals for pots, tools and supplies.

From there, I head south on Agua Fria, where the Agua Fria Nursery is just around the corner. Bob is the proprietor there and he is a character. They have a nice sampling of annuals here but the real draw are the ratty perennials in the back. These plants have had it pretty rough, but when you get them home they will be so happy to have regular water and good soil that they will reward you with strong growth.

Further south of Agua Fria is Plants of the Southwest. This is a great nursery for "natives" and the place to buy seed. Petunias would be laughed off the premises.

From Agua Fria, I double back a half block, head up Siler Road to Rufina. Right on Rufina to Santa Fe Greenhouses. When I first moved here and stumbled upon Santa Fe Greenhouses, I cried with joy. There are two display gardens, both of which will take your breath away. I've since learned to come here for inspiration but I usually only buy a few things because this pretty place will cost you.

Next stop, south on Cerrillos Road to Newman's Nursery. Newman's is a sprawling nursery with five or six green houses of annuals and a huge selection of shrubs and trees. If you are looking for that perfect dwarf spruce to punctuate your garden, this a good place.

This is where I loop around and head north again. I know you'll be somewhat surprised, but my next stop is Jackalope. Jericho's is a very good nursery in Albuquerque and they have the franchise at Jackalope. They are a little skimpy on shrubs and perennials but what they have is nice and they have one green house full of annuals. I almost always come away with several flats.

At the corner of St. Michael's drive, I turn right and hit my last stop for the day, Payne's south. They are a sister store to Payne's on Camino Alire but they have a slightly different selection of bedding plants.

When I get home, am I too tired to start planting? Never.