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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day Hikes in Santa Fe

It's getting to be that time of year when short hikes around Santa Fe are particularly enjoyable. My overweight Rottweiler and Chiweenie are chirping at the door to go.

The Dale Ball trails are a well-maintained system of trails that run along the Sangres. My favorite section is above Sierra del Norte where they have a parking lot and the trail loops nicely around two foothills. It takes me almost exactly an hour to walk the loop, which includes spectacular views of the Santa Fe basin.

Rio en Medio is a one-way trail at the back end of Chupadero. When a friend first took me back there, I kept imagining the movie "Deliverance" and wondered if we were going to make it back to civilization--but it's really not that far. From the Plaza, 285 north to any of the Tesuque exits. Route 592 runs off the main drag to the east. You follow that to the end, which from the turn off is probably only 15-minutes. The beauty of Rio en Medio is the lush landscape and the flowers. It's most likely you'll get your feet wet because you cross the stream ten or twelve times before arriving at a small pool with a 2-story water fall. Be prepared to be awed by an oak tree canopy, towering ponderosa pines, a field of Rugosas (wild roses) and a glade of purple, waist high thistles. The masses of iridescent blue butterflies complete this picture perfect experience.

Tent Rocks is a national park about 45-minutes south west of Santa Fe. This is my go-to hike for visiting out-of-towners. The "tents" or rock formations have have been worn by the wind and look like giant spires against the azure blue sky. It is truly spiritual. You wend your way through a small canyon and then there is a short climb to the top of a ridge. Following my tri-athlete sister, I once made it from the parking lot to the top in 45-minutes but it usually takes about an hour and fifteen. This is a popular park so it can get busy but everyone is so taken with the beauty of this place that they are usually in a serene mood as you saunter amongst the sandstone finials.

So whatever your taste: Panoramic, sylvan or just plain spectacular, we have something for everyone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Music Scene in Santa Fe

Culture, as in the arts, is big in Santa Fe. Yes, we have many interesting galleries and artists flock here to capture the "light" but there are many aspects to our culture including music.

The Santa Fe Opera is probably the largest player on the block, with it's spectacular venue just north of the city. Did you know you can pay $10 to STAND at a railing and enjoy a performance--which runs 3+ hours--and that people DO just that? You start your evening with a high-end tail gate in the parking lot, watch the sun set to the west, and just as the Sangres start to turn pink, you teeter on your stilettos (if you are of the feminine persuasion) into the plaza areas. The building is amazing, and if you sit on the north side, you'll see the lights of Los Alamos flickering against the Jemez Mountains as the performance unfolds. I was treated to a performance last summer, and I observed that the recession does not seem to have affected ticket sales.

The Lensic is also well-known and has been the main-stay for our theatrical scene. It can be eclectic but I have never been disappointed. Believe it or not, the Lensic Performing Arts organization does not own the building (they rent, and it used to be a mainstream movie theatre) but the venue is lovingly maintained and I always marvel at the beautiful surroundings. So if it's Arabic music or Klezmer or Blues, what ever is playing, it's a worthwhile night out.

Vannessie's is a favorite spot of mine. It is an upscale bistro style eatery with a great bar area. They hire local talent and we really have talent here. For years, you would find Rabbi Helman there on a Saturday night, playfully tap dancing amongst the tables.

Then there are many, many other great establishments, hotels and restaurants, to enjoy music, including Second Street Brewery where you can sample a micro-brew and their fresh made calamari. La Fonda has a hopping jazz scene, as do a number of other hotels.

Santa Fe is a "go with the flow" kind of place so if you are here for a short time or live here but decide to go out at the last minute, you can find a performance of some kind. It may not be something you would typically seek out but go and you might be surprised.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happiness in Santa Fe...

Last week, I met with a gal who is considering a move to Santa Fe. She lives in Arizona and she is looking to get away from the summer heat, among other things. So I broke out the map and gave her my 10-cent orientation. Then it was question and answer time and the first question was, "Are you happy in Santa Fe?" To which I answered, unconditionally, "yes." Then of course, there was the follow up, "why" ?

I have lived on both coasts, and I can honestly say that Santa Fe is the most nurturing place I have ever experienced. I lived in New Hampshire on and off for 12-years, worked in hospice, served the community as a volunteer in the schools and married a busy surgeon. But my connections were mostly shallow and even though it was a small town, I didn't feel particularly valued or even known.

My favorite sandwich place in Santa Fe is Back Street Bistro. When I walk in, David, the owner, yells out my name and asks me if I'm eating in or out. (I eat at my desk a lot, and his hot pastrami is the best in town, as are his homemade soups.) Then there was the time that Charles, who owns the mail box place where I have a box, stepped out of his shop and stopped traffic for me so I could cross the street with an arm full of mail. There he was in the middle of busy Santa Fe Trail, 6' 3" tall, arms out-stretched. My days are often populated by these little acts that bring joy to my life.

Then there are the slightly less mundane situations, like five trips to the ER in the last few years. We have a new ER here and as you can imagine, we are somewhat discriminating about health care services. But the broken nose, kidney stones and skin hives were all handled quickly and with good care.

And last, we are enjoying a rewarding and active social life. Politics, religion, animal-welfare, the environment--whatever your interest, we have a group for you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grocery Stores in Santa Fe

Santa Fe has a real rainbow of choices when it comes to grocery stores so I thought I'd run through the list...

In the "most economical" category you will find Smith's and Albertson's. Albertson's has three stores: DeVargas, south St. Francis near I-25 and at Zafarano. These are big box stores where I can recommend the produce but I don't usually venture in to the meat or fish department unless it's for something standard. We also have a Sam's Club if you have the storage capacity for stock piling.

Our Trader Joe's is small here compared to other stores in other cities but it's at the top of my list if I'm planning a party. And I regularly buy their rack of lamb and the pecan salmon is very good. Life would not be worth living without their dark chocolate caramels sold in bulk.

We have two new Sunflower Markets here which is a chain. The fruit and produce are often good buys but their packaged dinners and meat have been a disappointment. Sunflower is in DeVargas and south of town on the west side of Zafarano.

My market of choice is Kaune's (pronounced Ka-nees) which is at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail or kitty-corner across from the state house. The location is ideal for me and the parking is awesome. They have an old style meat department and a real butcher. If Tur-duck-ins are your thing, you can order one from Kaune's. Their standing rib roasts and beef tenderloins are cut to order and divine. The prices are somewhat elevated but if I forgot the ginger ale, I don't have to criss-cross the length of a football field to back track. And did I mention the parking?

Then we have a smattering of what I call mother-earth style markets. The best one is the Co-op in Solana Center. They have a great deli, quality meats and fresh produce. The prices are up there and you can't find Dr. Pepper there but this is a manageble and quality market.

Last but certainly not least, the moment you've been waiting for: Whole Foods. I'll start with the parking lot which is a nightmare. There are times when I've tried to park but gave up and headed to Kaune's. Yes, this is a high end, expensive market and the produce is lovely but the quality of the meat and fish are not a given. Always smell before you agree to buy. If you are planning an event or a holiday meal, go to Whole Foods early and during off times like early morning. I've been in there with my basket full of food and felt so over-whelmed that I was tempted to abandon my basket and run screaming. But there's nothing like the smell of fresh roasted chilis as you pick out a beautiful bunch of cut flowers to grace your table.