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Living in Santa Fe NM [2022] | 🏆 Is Santa Fe a Good Place to Live?

Are you thinking about moving to Santa Fe? You aren’t alone! Nicknamed The City Different, Santa Fe is one of America’s oldest cities and rapidly growing thanks to its reputation for gorgeous scenery, rich culture, and excellent quality of life.

Santa Fe is famous for its historic adobe structures, rich art culture, markets, museums, and galleries with hot spring resorts and ski resorts easily within reach. Spanish for “holy faith,” Santa Fe history stretches back to its founding in 1610 which predates Jamestown, VA and Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. This beautiful mountain tourist town receives over 2 million visitors every year, but the things that attract tourists also make for a great Santa Fe New Mexico living!

Whether you’re weighing retiring in Santa Fe, starting a family, or enjoying the freedom of remote work in a beautiful environment, one thing is sure: you’ll love living in Santa Fe! Here’s everything you have to look forward to.

Where Is Santa Fe?

Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and the county seat of Santa Fe County in north-central New Mexico on the Santa Fe River. The city is in the northern Rio Grande valley region and sits at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Glorieta Pass to the southeast. The Santa Fe Mountains refers to the range of the Sangre de Cristo near the city with prominent peaks like Santa Fe Baldy (12,632 ft) and Truchas Peak (13,107 ft).

Santa Fe is the highest state capital in the country with an elevation that’s almost 2,000 feet higher than Denver, the Mile High City.

Santa Fe, NM Information

  • County: Santa Fe
  • Area: 52.34 square miles
  • Zip codes: 87500 to 87599
  • Area code: 505
  • Elevation: 7,199 feet
  • Time zone: UTC-7 (Mountain Standard Time)
  • Closest airport: Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF) and Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ)

Santa Fe Population & Demographics

Santa Fe is the fourth largest city in New Mexico after Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Rio Rancho. Despite its famous art culture and status as one of America’s oldest cities, the capital of New Mexico is actually a small city.

How many people live in Santa Fe? The population of Santa Fe, New Mexico is just 87,505 according to the 2020 census. That’s still up significantly from 67,947 in 2010. The city isn’t densely populated with 1,616 people per square mile.

The racial and ethnic composition is 75% white, 44.5% Hispanic of any race, 16.9% other races, 3.1% two or more races, 2.5% Native American, 1.9% Asian, and 0.3% Pacific Islander.

Additional Santa Fe NM demographics:

  • Average age: 44.4 years
  • Sex ratio: 52 females for every 48 males over 18
  • Median household income: $57,274
  • Homeownership rate: 63%
  • Educational attainment: 42% bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Foreign-born population: 14.2% 

Getting Around Santa Fe – Public Transit & Highways

Santa Fe has been voted one of the Top Rated Walking Cities in America with a compact downtown and historic districts. There are many equestrian, pedestrian, and bike trails in Santa Fe that make it easy to stay active and explore the city like the Dale Ball Trails and the Santa Fe River Trail. You can use the Santa Fe trail map here to plan routes.

Even if you aren’t planning on living in downtown Santa Fe or relying on a car, you’ll find getting around is easy thanks to several Santa Fe NM public transportation options.

The Santa Fe Trails Bus System connects with RTD, Rail Runner, Park & Ride, and Santa Fe Pick-up service. You can see the Santa Fe Trail bus schedule here. The North Central Regional Transit District (RTD) has routes throughout the Santa Fe area as well as Taos, Los Alamos, and more. The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter rail service serving Santa Fe and Albuquerque with 15 stations and 60 bus connections.

Santa Fe is served by I-25 and U.S. Routes 285 and 84. You’ll fly out of Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF) with regional jet services to Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Phoenix or the Albuquerque International Airport (ABQ) about an hour away.

Cost of Living in Santa Fe

Before moving to Santa Fe, you definitely want to know what to expect in terms of affordability. The Santa Fe, New Mexico cost of living index is 115 which makes it 15% more expensive than the national average. By comparison, the New Mexico cost of living index is 88.

Healthcare and transportation are much more affordable, and groceries and Santa Fe utilities are average for the United States. Housing alone is responsible for the higher Santa Fe cost of living.

You’ll pay average rent of $1,600 while living in Santa Fe, NM. If you’re buying a home, expect an average home price of $625,000, up from $408,000 in 2019 due to skyrocketing demand and low inventory.

According to Doxo, average Santa Fe monthly bills were $1,995 in 2019, almost exactly average and 39% of household income. This included the following average bills:

  • Rent: $1,075
  • Mortgage payment: $1,420
  • Car loan: $375
  • Car insurance: $294
  • Utilities: $347

The MIT Living Wage calculator shows a single adult needs to earn $16.97 for a modest life in Santa Fe New Mexico. The living wage for a family of four is $12.87 with both adults working or $26.70 with a single working adult.

The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator offers additional insight into how much it costs to live in Santa Fe. A family of four would need to earn $6,768 per month ($81,217 per year) for a modest lifestyle.

Santa Fe Real Estate – Home Prices & Average Rent

The Santa Fe NM real estate market has become very competitive and expensive over the past three to five years, putting a crunch on Santa Feans, especially would-be first-time homebuyers. This small tourist city has experienced explosive growth that has pushed the rental vacancy rate to 2%, one of America’s tightest rental markets.

The skyrocketing demand for Santa Fe New Mexico houses is partially blamed on the “Zoom boom” which is increasing demand for housing in more affordable areas from remote workers who are no longer bound to a traditional 9-5 job and commute. This housing crisis is affecting many small and mid-sized cities in the western mountain region.

A separate study found that the large-scale conversion of homes and apartments into short-term rentals has also increased Santa Fe housing costs by around 20%. There’s high demand for short-term rentals in Santa Fe thanks to its small population and huge tourism industry. There are 1,400+ short-term rentals in the small city of 87,000.

Affluent remote workers from high-cost regions like California’s Bay Area have pushed prices to new highs. In 2020, the Santa Fe County median home price reached $500,000 for the first time. By the fourth quarter of 2021, the median single-family home price in Santa Fe County was $607,500.

With a median household income below $58,000, long-time residents have been largely pushed out of the market. A comprehensive 260-page report into the Santa Fe housing crisis found a family earning the median income can only afford a home at $300,000 max. About 70% of the population is priced out of buying a home.

The average home price in Santa Fe, NM reached $625,000 in summer 2022. That’s up a tremendous 36% year-over-year and up from $408,000 in summer 2019. The median price for Santa Fe, NM condos is $319,000. Condo prices have remained more stable over the past three years but inventory has dropped and prices have still far outpaced the reach of many residents.

You can see Santa Fe, NM homes for sale here to anticipate what you can afford in the city.

Planning on renting while living in Santa Fe, NM? Be prepared for a challenging apartment hunt.

The Santa Fe Association of Realtors reported average rent in Santa Fe increased 12% to $1,000 from 2017 to 2019. SFAR’s updated 2021 report found average rent increased a total of 40% in the past four years to $1,358. RentCafe reports $1,598 average rent in Santa Fe.

While still below the national average, the region is short more than 7,000 rental units with an incredibly low vacancy rate.

The tight housing market and skyrocketing prices are definitely high on the list of pros and cons of living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Where to Live in Santa Fe – Top Santa Fe Neighborhoods

Ready to explore neighborhoods in Santa Fe? Whether you’re looking for a trendy and walkable community with great food and nightlife, prefer a quiet residential street with historic haciendas, or you want to live in a newer master-planned community, there’s something for everyone. Here are the best neighborhoods in Santa Fe to explore.

Acequia Madre – Historic & Affluent Santa Fe Neighborhood

This neighborhood runs along the Acequia Madre, an irrigation system built by the Spanish over 300 years ago. Acequia Madre boasts some of the most beautiful and expensive homes in Santa Fe nestled along a meandering road.

Pueblos del Sol Santa Fe – One of the Most Desirable Santa Fe New Mexico Neighborhoods

One of the best neighborhoods in Santa Fe, Pueblos del Sol Santa Fe is centrally located near the Genoveva Chavez Center and schools with some of the most popular Santa Fe trails to enjoy. You’ll find many newer Santa Fe style homes with the attractive Pueblo style. Most homes were built in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Midtown District – Hip Santa Fe Neighborhood for Millennials & Families

Once an industrial area with empty warehouses, the Midtown Santa Fe district is now one of the city’s hippest and most exciting places to live. It’s home to Meow Wolf, theater companies like Adobe Rose Theatre, many galleries and performance venues, and MAKE Santa Fe, a community makerspace. It’s one of the best places to live in Santa Fe NM to be close to everything with community resources, dining, and entertainment within walking distance.

Las Estrellas at Santa Fe Estates – Master Planned Community of New Homes in Santa Fe NM

Interested in new construction? La Estrellas at Santa Fe Estates is the latest Santa Fe subdivision and one of the only modern communities in the city. The development features condos, townhouses, and custom homes with a village center and native park spread over 550 acres. It even includes a Senior Village in the development with assisted and independent living residences for a multi-generational community.

Santa Fe Weather Year Round

The climate in Santa Fe New Mexico is subtropical highland (Cwb) or warm-summer humid continental (Dfb). While living in Santa Fe, NM, you’ll enjoy dry, cool winters and hot summers with low precipitation. The semi-arid climate delivers four seasons and mild winters that make retiring in Santa Fe so appealing but occasional snowstorms occur as well as dramatic thunderstorms in the summer.

Summer is the rainy season in Santa Fe with frequent afternoon thunderstorms although only 14” of annual rainfall. Heavy rainfall occurs in July and August during the monsoon season.

Santa Fe annual weather can be unpredictable and vary significantly from day to day and depending on the area of the city. Given its high elevation and arid, mountainous climate, Santa Fe gets regular snow from November through April. Average Santa Fe snowfall is 23”, about average for the U.S., but surrounding ski areas can get up to 300”.

You’ll experience large temperature ranges throughout the year after moving to Santa Fe. The average variation between daytime highs and lows is at least 25°F every month of the year. The average temperature in Santa Fe in July is 70°F and 30°F in December.  

Best Restaurants in Santa Fe

With 400 years of history and a huge tourism industry, it’s no surprise that there are seemingly endless Santa Fe restaurants serving up award-winning cuisine. You’ll find traditional northern New Mexico dishes like green chili stew, Southwestern cuisine, and a wide range of authentic international fare. Here are just a few of the best places to eat in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Things to Do in Santa Fe New Mexico

Santa Fe living is paradise for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are endless Santa Fe events and things to do every day of the year, whether it’s exploring 170+ miles of trails and 68 developed parks, visiting one of a dozen art museums and over 100 art galleries, or catching live performances in town.

Many of the best things to do in Santa Fe are within walking distance and located around Old Town Santa Fe. This intimate and walkable city offers so many treasures to uncover and learn about, it’s hard to know where to start! Here are just some of the top things to do in Santa Fe, NM.

Santa Fe Attractions

  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi or the Saint Francis Cathedral in downtown Santa Fe is one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
  • Santa Fe Plaza radiates outward from the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors in the heart of Santa Fe. It’s the central gathering place with many attractions within walking distance.
  • Meow Wolf Santa Fe is one of the most unique things to do in Santa Fe with 70 rooms of immersive art installations and narratives.
  • Santa Fe Botanical Garden covers over 20 acres with developed gardens and walking paths plus wetlands.
  • Ten Thousand Waves is one of the best Santa Fe resorts and day spas and inspired by mountain hot spring resorts in Japan.

Santa Fe Arts & Entertainment

  • Violet Crown Cinema is one of Santa Fe’s best theaters. Near the Railyard District, it shows independent and classic films plus new releases.
  • Santa Fe Opera is an iconic hilltop opera theater with an opera company that features classic and contemporary works.
  • Lensic Performing Arts Center is a gorgeous performing arts theater with live shows throughout the year.

Santa Fe Museums

Santa Fe Parks & Outdoors

  • Santa Fe Railyard Park is a 10-acre park at the former railyard with a play area for kids and outdoor performances.
  • Ragle Park is one of the top kid-friendly attractions in Santa Fe with a huge slide and new upgrades.
  • Frenchy’s Field/Santa Fe River Trail includes the popular Frenchy’s Field park along the Santa Fe River with a community garden and playground equipment and a trail that follows the river for ten miles.
  • General Franklin E Miles Park is popular with families with murals, BBQ grills, a skate park, game courts, and almost 27 acres of amenities and green space.

Shopping in Santa Fe

Map of Santa Fe Things to Do

Santa Fe Sports

If you’re a sports fan, the lack of major league professional sports teams is likely big on your list of living in Santa Fe pros and cons. The city is home to the Santa Fe Fuego, a baseball team in the independent Pecos League. It also hosts the annual Rodeo De Santa Fe in June.

Santa Fe Crime Rate – Is Santa Fe Safe?

Before living in Santa Fe, you are probably interested in the city’s crime rate. Is Santa Fe, New Mexico safe? The Santa Fe, New Mexico crime rate is 8% lower than the national average, but violent crime is 20% higher. You have a 1 in 47 chance of being the victim of crime.

In 2020, the Santa Fe Police Department had 127 reported violent crimes and 43 cleared cases. That’s below average for the city which averages 244 to 350+ violent crimes per year over the last decade.

Santa Fe crime rose sharply in 2021, a phenomenon many cities experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 11 homicides in the city in 2021 including the high-profile accidental shooting death on the set of the Rust production involving Alec Baldwin. Santa Fe interim police chief Paul Joye stated that gun violence is on the rise across New Mexico and many violent crimes involve drugs and/or gang activity.

Most people find Santa Fe, New Mexico living is safe with a great quality of life. Property crime is the biggest concern. The historic east side and areas to the north and southeast along the hills have the lowest crime rates.

Economy & Jobs in Santa Fe

State government and tourism make up the largest share of the Santa Fe economy. On average, Santa Fe attracts about 2 million overnight visitors every year with a retail industry that brings in about $1 billion per year. Light manufacturing, healthcare, education, and scientific research are also major industries in Santa Fe.

The city is close to the Sandia National Laboratories, the Santa Fe Institute, and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), one of the country’s largest research laboratories with more than one-third of its 12,000+ employees living in Santa Fe. In 2021, LANL opened a new office location in Santa Fe to relocate about 500 employees in administrative services.

Largest employers in Santa Fe:

  • New Mexico state government
  • Santa Fe Public Schools (jobs)
  • Federal government
  • City of Santa Fe (jobs)
  • St. Vincent Hospital
  • Santa Fe Community College
  • Santa Fe Opera
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (jobs)

According to Payscale, the average salary in Santa Fe is $60,000 or $19.56 per hour. The BLS reports an average wage in Santa Fe of $51,020 per year or $24.53/hour for all occupations. You can see wage estimates by occupation here.

Santa Fe Healthcare

Santa Fe is home to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, rated as one of the top New Mexico hospitals, and the Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center. St. Vincent Hospital has the only Level III Trauma Center in the region. The Cancer Institute of New Mexico is a new, multi-disciplinary practice offering comprehensive cancer care with a team of 130 researchers who oversee treatment studies and research projects. The city also offers many alternative medicine specialists, many of whom graduated from the local University of Natural Medicine.

Santa Fe Schools – Private & Public Schools + Higher Education

While living in Santa Fe New Mexico, you’ll be served by Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS), the Santa Fe school district. SFPS is a highly rated school district with three high schools in Santa Fe: Capital High School, Santa Fe High School, and New Mexico School for the Arts. The latter is a public-private partnership with the NMSA-Art Institute available to students state-wide.

There are also three middle/high schools, three middle schools, and 21 elementary schools. The prestigious Mandela International Magnet school allows students to earn International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas.

Families can choose from several private schools in Santa Fe including:

After you move to Santa Fe, you’ll enjoy many opportunities for higher education. The city is home to St. John’s College, one of America’s oldest higher learning facilities, and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). The Northern New Mexico College is 25 miles away in Española, NM. Residents are also served by the Santa Fe Community College with 100+ degree and certificate programs and Southwestern College, a graduate school.

Santa Fe Utilities & DMV Change of Address

While living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you will be served by PNM (Public Services Company of New Mexico) for electricity and gas service and the City of Santa Fe (NM) for water, wastewater, trash, and recycling service. You have a few other options for energy providers, particularly if you live outside the city limits. Below are links for setting up utilities before you move to Santa Fe.

If you are moving to Santa Fe, NM from out-of-state, you will need to visit an MVD Field Office to surrender your out-of-state license and apply for a New Mexico driver’s license. You will need to pass an eye test. A written test and road test are not required if your current license is valid and unexpired.

Does Santa Fe New Mexico living sound like a dream come true? If you’re ready to make The City Different your new home, give the 5-star Santa Fe movers at Pro-Move Logistics a call today. Get started with a free moving quote to fit your needs and budget. 

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