On The Road Again, Chapter 6
My sister, Karen, and I are finally settled into Santa Fe. We made it!
We saw our first property for sale the other day, and it was a dump! I’m hoping they’re not all going to be so disappointing. After all, Robert and I have been working our asses off every day for a year to get here. I’m exhausted. But I’m also too excited to rest.
So, Karen and I scheduled another full day of house hunting with our realtor, Vanessa.
I consulted with my husband before creating a wish list of the things we were looking for (for those who know me, this is not surprising, right? I’m all about making lists!). I did tell Vanessa we were willing to look at properties that did not have everything on this list. Plus, I told her I was open to being surprised (and, she did!).
OUR DREAM PROPERTY WISH LIST:
1. 2+ acres
2. 30 minutes or less from downtown Santa Fe
3. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
4. Separate guest house for AirB&B rental
5. Out-building that could be turned into Robert’s art studio
6. Fast Internet
Our Next House Hunting Expedition
Vanessa had our wish list. She came bounding in on the morning of our house hunting, and handed us a stapled set of house listings. “I have five properties to show you today!” This was encouraging — I was hoping we’d see nicer properties than the one the other day — I didn’t want to see another Chewed Up House like we had seen the other day.
Karen, my dog Rita, and I got into my car and followed Vanessa to the first house on the list. It was in the same neighborhood where we were staying. This is an HOA community called Eldorado. It’s 20 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, and the properties are tastefully set on 1-2 acres of western desert land. The community has two shopping centers, a community center, and 3,000 acres of walking paths. It’s very desirable. The only problem with buying a house here could be the covenants, or restrictions, for building an outbuilding that Robert could use for his art studio.
The first house we looked at was priced at the top of our budget, on 2.5 acres. It did not have a guest house or outbuilding. It was just the house, a perfectly lovely house situated on a flat piece of land that had no trees, landscaping, or anything. My sister took notes on the listing sheets, and she wrote, “Subdivision-like. No Privacy. Very nice house. Nothing else.” I was sort of bored by the house. We moved on.
The next house was pretty far south. After driving for 25 minutes, we turned onto a red dirt road and drove past a sculptor’s property (he even has his name on the Santa Fe local maps!), and several large estates. Finally, we got to the end of the dirt road with three houses in close proximity. Two of the properties were for sale at the same time.
For the sake of easy identification, I will call these next two houses “Cat Pee House #1” and “Cat Pee House #2.” My sister named them. Now you know a little more about my family…we like to assign clever names to things. The first house was a little smaller, looked overgrown and unkempt on the outside (which can easily be nurtured and tamed!), and was on 12.5 acres. Vanessa walked ahead of us and knocked on the front door. No one came to the door. She looked at her watch and looked at us. Suddenly the door cracked open, and a disheveled young man in a beanie poked his head through the crack and said, “You’re an hour early.” You could hear dogs barking in the background. Vanessa said, “No we’re not early. We’re right on time. You have the time wrong.” I’m thinking, you go girl! He finally opens the door and lets us pass through, while he’s holding back two huge dogs from lunging at us. Yikes! I’m thinking this is not very welcoming…
Finally, the young man leaves with his angry dogs and we’re alone. But, what’s that horrible smell? We all looked at each other in disgust. It was a heavy animal urine smell, mostly cat urine, coming from every corner of the house. There were no carpets or rugs around, so Karen and I wondered if the smell was embedded into the Saltillo tile on the floor, and Karen immediately wrote down on her sheet, “Google: how to get cat urine smell out of tile.” The house was cute inside. They had painted the kiva fireplace a beautiful cerulean blue color. The kitchen was open concept. The rooms were a nice size. But we couldn’t get past the smell. We got out of the house quickly, and walked outside to the horse barn in back. Gorgeous 2-stall horse barn with paddocks, tack rooms, and a bonus room. I remember thinking my husband could turn the barn into a studio. It was a nice barn with a concrete floor.
However, I am not buying Cat Pee House #1. I just don’t think I could get that smell out of the house! And now, it’s stuck in my nostrils!
We head to the bigger house next door. Cat Pee House #2 (pictured below — nice touch with the red gate!).
I can hear a dog barking incessantly outside and the sound is coming from the first house, which is NOT for sale. I make a note of the barking dog. The bigger house smells better, but Karen and I still detect cat urine smell. There are four cats who come up and greet us (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE cats. I had cats most of my adult life, but never did my house smell like I had cats). The realtor representing this house shows us around, and points out all the amenities. It was a well-kept house with older appliances, and popcorn on the ceiling, which surprised me because most of Santa Fe houses have beautiful viga beams on the ceiling. This house looks like it could be in California or Michigan. It also has a huge barn with a dirt floor that could be converted into a studio, although there is no electricity in the barn because the home owner had experienced a barn fire at another house and she swore she would never have electricity in her horse barn. Too bad…
So, with this property over the top of our budget we would have to come up with the funds to convert the barn into a studio. No guest house. Karen writes, “The dirt road is nuts. Awesome barn. Cat Pee House #2 smelled a littler better.”
The fourth house is back out the long dirt road, off a main paved road, and there is a closed green gate and mailbox at the entrance. Vanessa pulls into the driveway and opens the gate and both our cars drive through. The driveway is a long gravel road surrounded on either side by majestic juniper trees and the occasional carved wooden animal sign and all sorts of random pieces of pottery on either side. This property is 16 acres, and most of the land is up front before you even see the house. Suddenly the trees open up and you see this beautiful 2-story stucco house looming in front. To the left is another building they call the “Gallery/Guest House” and down below the hill is the metal frame Studio building. It has all three components on our wish list!!
As you can see below, the house was in much better condition when it was listed in 2017. I’m still not sure this photo was taken in 2017, or whether it was an older photo used in the 2017 listing. But, in any case, I could envision the transformation…
This land was once home to the San Marco Pueblo, and our friend, Patrick, told us there is a pueblo ruin within sight of the property. I am overwhelmed. I fall instantly in love with all the charm of this house. You see handmade tile everywhere, in the path leading up to the front door, in the kitchen, in the bathrooms, everywhere you look you see art.
Karen and I walked inside the house and instantly loved it. Rita, my dog, came prancing into the house like she owned the joint. The views, the hand carved stairway, everything just said welcome home. And the view from the upstairs was breathtaking!
We walked over to the “Gallery/Guest House” and as soon as we walked in and felt the spongy floor we knew this building needed a lot of work to get it back to living condition. It smelled moldy, the sub-floors were soft, and the bathroom was a complete tear out. Okay, this would be a project to get it up to par as a guest house.
Last, we walked down a hill to the Studio, which looked like a small replica of my husband’s previous metal studio, and it even had a roll-up door! This would allow Robert to get to work immediately! It had concrete floors, and the studio was completely empty. Okay, so it was only a third of the size of his previous studio, but he could add on.
Karen wrote, “Love the kitchen. So Private! Good windows. It’s empty and ready to move in. Studio is great for Robert. Guest house needs a lot of work.”
We finally left the property, and my head is exploding with joy! I felt such a connection to this land and the artistic house. I am so excited to go back again and see this house. Maybe this is THE ONE.
Our fifth, and final, house to view that day was closer to downtown Santa Fe, and it was way over our budget. But, it did have a guest house, which would mean potential revenue. Honestly, it was a big disappointment. It did not have any views. The neighbors were very close. The inside of the house was stuck in the 1980s, including the thick pile carpet. And, the guest house was a small building with a loft, and you could see that a man and woman had their belongings into every nook and cranny. After the property we had just fallen in love with, this place didn’t even register with me or Karen. Karen didn’t write down anything on her listing sheet….
That night, Karen and I sat outside with our beer talking about the amazing fourth property and how much we loved it. We called Robert on speakerphone and told him everything about it. Actually, he had already looked at it online, and I think he had picked it out initially. We strategized about our next step because Robert was still in California working. We needed an educated opinion about the Guest House condition, so we asked our friend, Patrick, to come with us to look at the property. Patrick and his wife, Kita, have lived in Santa Fe for many years, but we met them in California when they returned for a few years to care for Kita’s parents. We trusted Patrick’s opinion because he had been fixing up their house in Santa Fe for the past few years.
Making a long story short, we went back to the San Marco Pueblo property several times. My husband flew in for one night to see the property. We all knew that there were risks with the Guest House condition, but the house and studio looked in good shape, and the inspections would reveal anything we couldn’t see. In the meantime, we kept learning more and more about the previous owner of this property. We wondered why the house was completely empty of furniture. It was totally cleaned out. Note, many of the photos above are from the 2017 real estate listing when the house was shown furnished. Apparently the previous owner was a 70-year-old artist who dreamed of moving to Santa Fe and working on his art. He bought this property in 2017, and was only there a year when he became gravely ill and died. That’s right. He died a year after buying the house of his dreams. We felt badly for this man, but we did not feel like this marred the beauty of the land or house. His estate was being handled by his cousin. We put an offer in on the property for less than full price. I wrote a letter to the cousin and told her how much we loved it and how we would honor her cousin’s memory. I had my fingers and toes crossed that his family would agree to accept our offer…I really became emotionally attached to the house and the land. I could see us living there. Was this our dream house?
Chapter 7, Some Very Difficult News and Decisions To Make…