The Best Counties to Buy Land in New Mexico

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The Best Counties to Buy Land in New Mexico

Bart Waldon

New Mexico, known as the Land of Enchantment, is a southwestern U.S. state with a landscape encompassing mountains, high desert plains and the Rio Grande River valley. Its culture reflects Native American, Spanish and Mexican heritage. The capital and largest city is Santa Fe, founded in 1610. Prominent attractions include ancient cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the open-air Santa Fe Plaza.

Overview of Buying Land in New Mexico

Buying land in New Mexico can be a great investment opportunity or place to build a home or business. With diverse landscapes ranging from forests to deserts and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities, New Mexico offers many benefits for landowners. The best counties to buy land in New Mexico are determined by factors like affordability, development potential, access to amenities, and more.

When purchasing land in New Mexico, it's important to research property taxes, mineral rights, water rights, land use regulations, and homeowner association rules if applicable. Working with a knowledgeable real estate professional can help ensure you find the right property to meet your needs.

Best Counties for Affordability

Affordability is often a major factor when deciding where to buy land. Some of the most budget-friendly options for vacant land can be found in these New Mexico counties:

San Juan County

In the state's northwest corner, San Juan County offers a rugged landscape dotted with mesas. The county seat of Aztec features Native American ruins and artifacts. With a low cost of living and ample open space, properties in San Juan County can sell for around $1,500 per acre on average. The county has seen steady population growth in recent years, pointing to future development potential.

Sierra County

Sparsely populated Sierra County in southern New Mexico boasts the Black Range Mountains in addition to desert terrain. There are plentiful opportunities for hiking, fishing and hunting. Land values are among the most affordable statewide, often ranging between $500-$2,000 per acre.

Curry County

Home to dairy farms and cattle ranches, Curry County in east central New Mexico has an economy strongly tied to agriculture. The rural county has seen a population decline in recent decades. These factors contribute to very affordable land prices, frequently found for $500 per acre or less.

Best Counties for Amenities & Things to Do

When buying land in New Mexico, you'll want to consider the proximity to amenities for daily living, as well as recreational activities. Some top picks include:

Santa Fe County

It's no surprise the capital county tops the list for culture and things to do. The city of Santa Fe in particular is a major tourist destination, noted for its Pueblo-style architecture, art galleries, gourmet cuisine and ski slopes just outside town. Vacant land typically sells for $10,000-$30,000 per acre.

Bernalillo County

Encompassing New Mexico's largest city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County offers amenities you'd expect in an urban hub along with access to outdoor fun. With property values ranging around $20,000 per acre, hobby farms are popular for those seeking some elbow room.

Taos County

In northern New Mexico, gorgeous Taos County checks boxes for both amenities and recreational abundance. From the rich Native American and artistic culture of Taos town to world-class skiing and hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the county attracts many seeking its natural beauty. Land prices vary widely but average roughly $10,000 per acre.

Best Counties for Development Potential

Some key factors that influence land development potential in New Mexico include population growth trends, proximity to expanding urban centers, and infrastructure like roads and utilities. Counties poised for future development include:

Valencia County

Bordering Bernalillo County with easy access to Albuquerque, Valencia County has seen double-digit population growth since 2010. Local economic development plans in Valencia aim to attract more businesses too, pointing to strong development potential. Raw land goes for around $5,000-$10,000 per acre.

Doña Ana County

Home to New Mexico State University and the growing city of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County has a strong economic outlook. Home values have risen steadily in recent years while the cost of living remains affordable compared to other parts of the U.S. Vacant lots and land parcels start around $2,500 per acre.

Sandoval County

Immediately north of Bernalillo County/Albuquerque metro, Sandoval County has experienced rapid population gains as a commuter-friendly location. Established neighborhoods with available land lots as well as future development sites make Sandoval a prime pick for growth potential. Land prices vary widely but can top $100k per acre.

No matter your priorities when buying land in New Mexico, conducting thorough research is a must to identify the best counties and properties to meet your needs. The Land of Enchantment offers much to explore!

How to Choose the Right County to Buy Land

When searching for land to purchase, the county where the property is located matters. Choosing the right county can lead to better long-term prospects and growth opportunities for your land investment or place to build a home. Follow these tips to select an optimal county.

Evaluate Property Taxes

Property tax rates and assessments vary widely across counties, even within the same state. Be sure to research the property tax structure in any county you’re considering. Generally, look for lower effective tax rates unless the county provides abundant services and amenities that enhance property values.

Confirm Land Use Regulations

Counties have their own zoning rules, land use master plans, building codes and permit processes. Review these details upfront to ensure you can use the land as intended, whether that’s building a residence, farm or commercial project. More complex or restrictive regulations can increase costs.

Assess Growth Potential

Evaluating population trends, economic health and local development plans will help determine if the county offers strong potential for future growth. This can positively impact land values over time. Plus, additional infrastructure and services tend to follow population expansions.

Compare Local Amenities

The availability of things like schools, shops, healthcare facilities, parks and transportation in the county will affect convenience and quality of life. Even if saving money on rural land away from amenities, consider long-term access needed as the area develops.

Check Natural Resource Impacts

Research aspects like water availability, flood zones, wildfire risk and soil conditions when selecting land in a county. These geographic and climate factors can influence what the land can be used for as well as potential insurance rates and development costs down the road.

Weighing all the above criteria will help you find land not just in your target price range but also with the optimal county-level conditions to meet your plans. Consulting real estate and land professionals can provide further insight on comparing county-specific factors.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the optimal county is a key step when purchasing rural land. Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate and compare property taxes, land use regulations, growth projections, local amenities and natural resource impacts across different counties pays off in the long run. Prioritizing the county-level factors that matter most for your plans with the land will help you select a property poised to meet your needs as well as retain value over the years. Withsound research and input from real estate professionals, finding the right land in the right county for you is an achievable goal to make your land ownership vision a reality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What resources can help me compare counties in an area I’m looking to buy land?

Useful resources include real estate sites with county-level data on property taxes, land regulations, market trends and demographics. Local county government websites also provide specifics on zoning codes, development plans and services.

How much do land prices vary between counties?

Land prices can significantly vary between counties, even for bordering counties in the same metro region. Prices typically climb closer to urban centers and amenities. More rural and remote county land can average 500-90% less per acre.

What county-level factors most impact land appraisal values?

Major factors like zoning, usable acreage, access to utilities and transportation, population density and growth potential most affect appraised land values between counties. Nearby public lands and natural features also boost values.

Should I buy land in a county experiencing rapid growth?

Counties with surging population and brisk development see greater demand for land, often increasing values. However, more growth comes with more regulations. Consider whether you want a bustling or more serene setting before investing.

What is the best way to evaluate amenities between counties?

Online county profiles offer snapshots of amenity access like schools, healthcare, transportation, recreation and more. Maps and apps can display drive times to key amenities from a shortlisted property’s location within a county as well. Prioritize must-have nearby amenities.

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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