Yes, I’ve changed the site layout here to reflect an upcoming change in our life – we’re moving from this rented double adobe casita to our own house. It’s a little newer (built circa 1948), a little bigger, and in a different neighborhood. We close on the new house this coming Tuesday and will officially leave our rental on May 31 – almost two years to the day we moved in.
Andrew and I started thinking about buying a home a year or so ago, and took a first-time home buyer education class through a local nonprofit called Homewise last January. Homewise is an organization which assists low and middle-income residents of Santa Fe County with buying a home – from basic education classes through to working with a realtor and then to mortgage lending.
Santa Fe has an especially tough market for middle income people – there are plenty of houses on the market for upwards of 500k, and very few for under 200k. Like many cities in the western US (or is this everywhere now?), most new homes are built in subdivisions, with tiny treeless yards and moderate to strict neighborhood covenants. The more affordable subdivisions contain a lot of cookie-cutter houses and are primarily clustered on what is called Santa Fe’s “Southside.”
When Andrew and I first met with our realtor, she had us each write down our top priorities without sharing with the other. We were happy to find our priorities were very similar: nice lot/ yard for the dogs, garage or outbuilding for a workshop, no carpet, 2+ bedrooms, safe neighborhood – and a price tag under $200,000. We didn’t want covenants. We didn’t want cookie-cutter. We weren’t afraid of older appliances or some cosmetic ugliness, but the structure had to be sound.
I think the only real compromise we had to make was distance from town. I love the country and don’t mind a longer commute. But Andrew is unsure of living rurally and with only two motorcycles and no car – there was no way he could live outside of town without some major rideshare finagling. And I had to admit, it would be a lot more convenient to live within city limits. Gasoline costs would be low, we could get home for lunch. We wouldn’t have to worry about a well drying up, impassable dirt roads, or coyotes eating the cats.
So, we found this house in a neighborhood called Casa Alegre. It’s an older subdivision, with houses built between 1940-1960. Many homes were built by a well-known local named Allen Stamm and are known for being constructed with high-quality materials and workmanship. Stamm’s vision was to build fine, affordable houses for returning veterans and working class people in Santa Fe. Even in 2014, it’s a mark of pride to own a “Stamm home.”
We’re about 90% sure our new home is a Stamm home and a little archival research should provide answers. I’ve already found a few historical documents related to the original neighborhood plat – the land was bought by a Jewish merchant named N.B. Stern in 1946 and charted into 49 residential lots. The title research even revealed the original covenants Stern specified, including “No person of any race other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot.” Those covenants expired in 1966.
The home is a foreclosure, so its got a few issues, such as lapsed yard work and a few huge ant hills. But overall its in good shape and ready for our long list of touch-ups!