Evaluating the New Mexico Land Market

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Evaluating the New Mexico Land Market

Bart Waldon

From the rugged Rocky Mountains up north to the Chihuahuan Desert down south, New Mexico has all kinds of diverse and beautiful landscapes. They really mean it when they call this the "Land of Enchantment!" With over 300 sunny days a year, there's definitely no shortage of great weather to enjoy the outdoors too. However, the terrain changes a lot depending which part of the state you're in. You really need to understand those regional differences if you want to make the most out of land opportunities all across New Mexico. The conditions that work well for a mountain cabin are probably different from what you'd want for a ranch down in the southern plains. So, it pays to do your homework on the lay of the land before jumping into any deals!

Getting to Know New Mexico's Regions

New Mexico contains a total land area covering over 121,000 square miles. Geographically, the state consists of three main regions:

The Rocky Mountain Region

Up in the north-central part of New Mexico, you'll find the tall Rocky Mountain peaks ranging from 5,000 feet up to over 13,000 feet high. With all those slopes and forests, this area is understandably popular for skiing and winter sports! But fair warning - the remote location and craggy landscape also means the land can be pretty inaccessible without much infrastructure.

The Colorado Plateau Region

Tucked into the northwest corner of the state, the Colorado Plateau Region has a rugged semi-arid feel with mesas, canyons and valleys dotted by some small mountain ranges. The lower elevations take on an almost desert-like look. Folks seeking privacy out in the sparse countryside might take a liking to land out this way. Just know that water availability is far more limited compared to other parts of New Mexico.

The Basin and Range Region

Stretching across the southern half of the state, the Basin and Range Region runs north-south with alternating valleys, plains and ranges of rocky mountains. This is where you'll find New Mexico's largest urban areas, including the cities of Albuquerque and Las Cruces nestled within the diverse landscape. The varied terrain can work well for ranching, although things get rather arid in places.

And on top of the geographic diversity, New Mexico has incredible cultural intrigue too! Native American pueblos pepper the landscape, echoes of Spanish colonialism linger at historic sites, and artistic towns like Santa Fe exude a funky Southwestern vibe. But those complex layers also point to intricate land ownership considerations worth noting.

Navigating Diverse Ownership Dynamics

With approximately 30% of New Mexico’s acreage owned by local, state or federal government entities, public lands shape the real estate landscape. Understanding where public land exists can provide perspective when evaluating privately owned parcels in relation.

The State Land Office oversees surface and subsurface real estate assets that help fund New Mexico’s schools, colleges, hospitals and other public institutions. Managed “in trust” for designated beneficiaries, these 9 million acres follow purposes not necessarily aligned with private land goals. The extensive acreage scattered throughout central and southern New Mexico creates a checkerboard ownership pattern often intricately tied to private inholdings.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees 35 million subsurface and surface acres throughout the state, managing them for environmental protection and public access. While the BLM allows recreational mining, drilling and grazing by permit, land dealings follow a distinct set of regulations and restrictions. Where BLM parcels border or surround private land, those rules can directly impact not only access but allowable usage of the adjacent properties.

These and other public lands add unique dynamism within New Mexico’s real estate ecosystem. And their proximity, views and recreational appeal enhance – or possibly detract from – nearby private land. Paying attention to that ownership context, and any easements in place, matters when properly assessing land value for buying or selling.

Factoring in Water Resources

In New Mexico’s arid climate, access to water also plays a huge role for land use and market value. Properties adjacent to reliable freshwater sources warrant attention for agriculture, recreation and development. But not every water right transfers directly with the land.

The Office of the State Engineer monitors New Mexico’s complex water rights system based on prior appropriation doctrines. Surface and groundwater allotments follow a hierarchy of licenses based on seniority. So not all waters attached to land stewarded for decades necessarily convey directly; careful verification matters. With increasing climate uncertainty, buyers and sellers need assurance that sufficient water rights exist for intended usage like farming or drilling wells.

Above or below ground access options vary greatly depending on aquifers, streams and reservoirs dotted across the diverse regions. Even land parcels located just miles apart can have extremely different availability scenarios based on their positioning. Carefully investigating water rights, conveyance specifics, and comparable conditions nearby helps appropriately gauge value.

Evaluating Development Potential

With New Mexico containing pockets ripe for growth alongside remote areas better suited for agriculture, assessing infrastructure availability is also key. Factors like roadways, electric transmission, and internet connectivity range broadly across the state’s extensive acreage.

More urban-adjacent parcels near expanding municipalities such as Albuquerque offer settings welcoming development. Assessing zoning, county approvals, and construction viability for residential or commercial uses requires local expertise but may reward investment at scale. Less remote areas with existing infrastructure or lacking development restrictions merit comparison to adjacent lands already successfully built up.

However, the state’s rugged beauty also appeals for those seeking more isolated locales for passion projects or personal retreats. Parcels very distant from power lines or quality road access may appeal to investors with solar energy capabilities or strong self-reliance rather than turn-key convenience needs. Trade-offs between affordability and infrastructure investments should align to long-term visions.

No matter the locale specifics, realistically mapping utility or road access, along with options to add them, provides objective context versus subjective aspirations alone. Tangibly evaluating development costs compared to potential market demand in that particular area spotlights the reality gap to enable pragmatic deal assessments.

Navigating Volatile Vacant Land

These resource evaluations and ownership dynamics provide grounds for pricing comparisons between land parcels across markets. However, subjective elements and localized supply/demand fluctuations add challenges when assessing appropriate market value in New Mexico’s expansive vacuum.

Land markets tend to be more volatile than built property spaces due to reliance on comparables with fewer direct equivalents. What sells down the road for one price per acre does not necessarily directly translate to a vacancy miles away. Time, promotion and patience required to connect with buyers intrigued by a particular parcel’s unique attributes leaves room for pricing arcs not aligned to commodities or housing trends.

Buyers with flexibility paying in cash can often capitalize on volatility by purchasing land at opportune discount moments motivated owners then market to less urgent buyers at earned equity levels later. Patient buyers avoid overpaying while incentivizing value lift for subsequent owners.

New Mexico appeals widely for its beautiful landscapes, welcoming small towns bursting with culture, and resilient locals who proudly call it home. Taking time to properly evaluate parcels by methodically assessing resources, ownership implications, infrastructure, and market demand suits both buyers and sellers ready to broker deals fairly beneficial for all involved parties. Conducting due diligence sets the stage for equitable transactions.

Final Thoughts

Navigating New Mexico’s diverse and dynamic land ownership requires conscious evaluation from geographic and developmental perspectives. Determining infrastructure access, ownership restrictions, utility availability and water rights delivers objective context for pricing considerations. Both buyers and sellers benefit from insightfully investigating these parameters to establish informed positions during negotiations. Properly appraising land value based on tangible property specifics, rather than subjective aspirations alone, sets the stage for equitable deals benefitting all involved. While the free-spirited landscapes across New Mexico stir the senses, taking an attentive approach grounds transactions in practical reality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the main land regions in New Mexico and how do they differ?

New Mexico contains three distinct land regions: the Rocky Mountains in the north, the Colorado Plateau in the northwest, and the Basin and Range across central and southern areas. Terrain, climate, accessibility and infrastructure vary greatly across these regions, impacting land usage and values.

How does public land ownership impact the real estate market?

With nearly a third of New Mexico's land publicly owned, factors like adjacent Bureau of Land Management parcels or State Land Office checkerboard patterns intermingled with private inholdings can directly shape access, allowable usage and valuation of properties for both buying and selling.

Why are water rights important to assess?

In New Mexico's arid climate, land value relates closely to verified water rights within the state's complex licensing system monitored by the Office of the State Engineer. Both surface and groundwater access options differ greatly across the diverse regions, so due diligence on conveyance specifics matters.

What infrastructure considerations matter most?

Development potential and thus land valuations tie directly to accessibility factors like roadways, electric and internet connectivity. Urban-adjacent parcels may reward investment more than remote vacancies, but infrastructure gaps can be bridged with solar power or road building if budget allows.

Why can pricing land be challenging?

With fewer direct comparison properties than built spaces, land valuation relies more on subjective aspirations rather than objective commodity equivalent pricing. Navigating ownership rights, resource availability and infrastructure access provides grounds for contextualizing listing prices amidst a volatile vacant land market.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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