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Buyer’s Guide to Santa Fe

Buyer’s Guide to Santa Fe: Helpful Things To Know When Buying in Santa Fe

With Santa Fe known as “The City Different”, it can be an experience to buy property in our diverse and beautiful area. Here are some helpful things to know about Santa Fe real estate from zoning to wells, septic systems, and differences between the City and the County:

Zoning in Santa Fe:

It is important to know what a property is zoned for. There are many different areas in Santa Fe that allow for varying densities in housing types, commercial or residential usages, and /or historic preservation. Areas such as the Historic Zone closely regulate all exterior colors, renovations, and additions. Other areas restrict heights and roof lines. Commercial properties are regulated as to type and size of parcel.

There are many was to learn about zoning. Your Realtor can help you; you can go to the Santa Fe County Court house or teh Santa Fe City Hall. You can also hire an independent planner or architect to verify what applies to the property of your interest. Contact me at: moo@moothorpe.com if you would like referrals to professionals that can assist you.

Water in Santa Fe:

Is the property you are interested in located in the City or in the County?

Santa Fe City Water :

Most City properties are served by the Sangre de Cristo Water Company, a City owned water utility. On occasion, a property within the City limits may still get its water from a private well. Living on City water is usually trouble free. Due to recurring drought conditions, water usage restrictions on outside watering are typically in place and enforced. For more information on the water company please visit their website.

Santa Fe County:

The majority of Santa Fe County Residents receive their water via private wells. If you are purchasing a property with a private well, you should have a well inspection as part of your due diligence process.

Wells in Santa Fe:

There are two options to consider with a well inspection. You can have an electro-mechanical inspection that will tell you if the pump, wiring, and well house are up to code and functioning properly.

The second adds a pump test to the electro-mechanical inspection. In this instance, the inspector actually pumps water out of the well and measures the production to gain insight as to the strength and recharge rate of the well. This is a more expensive and time consuming proposition.

Often, depending what the well inspector says, you may feel comfortable forgoing the extra cost of a pump test. The inspectors know the different characteristics of each area and can advise you if they see any reason to question the production capacity of the well that warrants the need for a full blown pump test.

Lastly, as part of your due diligence process, you may want to have a water quality test. In this instance, water will be taken from the tap within the home and sent to a lab and be tested for bacteria, colliform, and nitrogen. The water can also be tested for a vast array of minerals and other contents.

Depth, quality, and production of wells vary from place to place throughout the area depending on which aquifer the well is drawing from. Email me if you would like referrals to professionals that can assist you.

As part of the buying process, you should get a copy of the Well Permit and Well Log from the State Engineer’s Office. This State office is in charge of issuing and regulating all wells in New Mexico. To ensure you have a legal well, you can obtain its record from the State Engineer’s Office. The Well log will tell you how deep the well was when it was drilled and what the production was at the time. The permit will ensure that it is a legal well. It will also show if there were any restrictions placed on the well when it was permitted. For instance, many wells in the Tesuque/Nambe areas are restricted due to the Aamodt Suit.

Normally, as part of the due diligence process, we ask a Seller to provide the Well log and Permit for a Buyer’s review. You may also go vist the State Engineer’s web site for more information.

Sewer / Septic in Santa Fe:


The majority of homes with the Santa Fe City limits are served by the City sewer system. There are many homes, however, especially older homes and 1+ acre lots that may still have individual septic systems.

Be sure to ask Sellers to provide evidence of what type of system serves a property. If a home is served by a septic system, there is a strict protocol to follow that is dictated by the State Environment Department. This protocol is outlined below.

Santa Fe County:

Most homes in Santa Fe County are on individual septic systems. As of September 2005, all septic systems must undergo a septic inspection and certification process at the time a property is sold.

The inspection must be conducted by an approved contractor prior to the transfer of the deed. A seller is liable to be fined if this process is not done properly.

If a system is found to have failed or to be inadequate, the State will require the system be replaced or modified to come into compliance. You can look up the regulations on the State’s web site or feel free to Email me if you would like referrals to professionals that can help you.


Whether you’re buying vacant land or an existing home in Santa Fe, it is extremely beneficial to have a qualified inspector inspect the property as art of your due diligence. Here are the typical things an inspection will cover:

Santa Fe Homes:

  • Overall exterior condition of home, including but not limited to: roof, stucco, structure, and drainage
  • Overall interior condition of the home, including but not limited to: structure, electrical, plumbing, leakage, evidence of past leaks, mold, and termites
  • You may ask that radon tests be done

An inspector should note any items in need of immediate repair or attention as well as those items that are in suitable condition but that may require maintenance.

It is possible a home inspector will suggest that further exploration be done by a specialist. For instance, he may suggest a roofer, structural engineer, or a mold remediator be brought in if he thinks there might be an issue.

Santa Fe Land:

To conduct due diligence on land is a bit more complicated than with a single family home. There are no land inspectors per se as there are with homes. Here are steps you can take when checking out a piece of property:

  • Hire a planner to verify zoning and allowed usages
  • Review all covenants and restrictions that may effect what can be built. If the property is in a subdivision with a Homeowner’s Association, consider meeting with their Architectural Committee members
  • Work with an architect and/or builder to determine how suitable the property is for building what you envision. Is there a steep slope? Is bedrock close to the surface? Are there and permitting issues?
  • Check on availability of utilities and costs to bring to the building site
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