Best Places for Homeownership in New Mexico

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New Mexico’s smaller neighborhoods and census designated places are seeing significant growth in population and homeownership and while it has taken New Mexico longer than other states to recover from the Great Recession, for potential homebuyers, there are deals to be found.

New Mexico home prices are slowly creeping up, according to research from the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and the state is seeing job growth in several industries including tourism, mining, health care and oil and gas production. As the home of government laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico has one of the highest concentrations of Ph.D.s per capita in the nation.

NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best places for homeownership in New Mexico. Here’s what those places had in common:

  • Homes are affordable with median home values below $150,000 in six of the top 10 places.
  • All of the top 10 places for homeownership in New Mexico were unincorporated census designated places.
  • In eight of the top 20 places on our list, the population grew more than 10% from 2010 to 2012.

First-time homebuyers can get help from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, which offers counseling and down-payment assistance to qualified buyers.

NerdWallet analyzed all 86 places in New Mexico with more than 2,000 residents to determine which locations have characteristics that are favorable to homebuyers. Our analysis answers three questions:

1. Are homes available? We looked at the area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

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For more details on our methodology, see the section at the end of this study. For a full ranking of all 86 places and to download the raw data, click here.

Top 10 Places for Homeownership in New Mexico

1. Vado

Vado’s population grew 36.6% from 2010 to 2012, the highest population growth in the state. Vado is about halfway between Las Cruces and the Mexican border at El Paso, Texas. Monthly homeownership costs here are just $647 a month, the lowest on our top 20 list. The area is home to the nation’s newest national monument, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, an almost 500,000-acre swath of land filled with Native American artifacts, mountain ranges and wildlife.

2. Boles Acres

Boles Acres saw its population increase 28.1% from 2010 to 2012, topping out at 2,357 residents. Most jobs are in education, health care and social services. Homeowners here who make the median monthly household income spend 28.7% on homeowner costs.

3. Sandia Knolls

Sandia Knolls has one of the highest median home values on our list at $194,600. In Sandia Knolls, which is about a half-hour drive to Albuquerque, more than half of residents are employed in business, management, science and art occupations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

4. Lee Acres

This census designated place, southeast of Farmington in the northwest corner of the state, allows an affordable lifestyle with a median home value of $102,200. Lee Acres saw its population grow 20.6% between 2010 and 2012. Service occupations made up the largest portion of jobs in the area, according to census data.

5. West Hammond

West Hammond homeowners earn the second-highest median monthly household income on our top 20 list, bringing in $7,550 a month. That high income means homeowners in this census designated place near Bloomfield spend just 14.5% of their median monthly household income on their mortgage and utility costs. The most common jobs for residents are in management, business, science and art, according to census figures.

6. El Cerro Mission

The population in the area, about 30 miles south of Albuquerque, grew 13.1% from 2010 to 2012. El Cerro Mission is an affordable place to live with residents spending an average of 25.5% of their median monthly household income on homeowner costs. The location of El Cerro Mission — between Belen and Albuquerque — allows for reasonable commutes.

7. San Ysidro

The census designated place of San Ysidro, between Las Cruces and New Mexico’s border with Mexico, saw its population increase 14.5% from 2010 to 2012, to 2,532 residents. The homeownership rate here is high, with owners occupying nearly all, 97.1%, of the homes in San Ysidro. Potential homebuyers can get a wide range of counseling and education at Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation in Las Cruces.

8. El Cerro

El Cerro has a much higher homeownership rate — 96.9% of homes in this census designated place are owner occupied, not rented — than its neighbor El Cerro Mission. The median home value is one of the highest on our list at $217,900. Residents of this small community of less than 3,500 work in management, business, science and art, according to census data.

9. Meadow Lake

About five miles north of El Cerro, Meadow Lake offers more affordable homes and a bigger population, with over 5,800 residents in 2012. The median home value is $61,200, the second-lowest on our top 20 list. Similar to El Cerro and El Cerro Mission, Meadow Lake is within commuting distance to jobs in Belen and Albuquerque.

10. Jarales

With 2,086 residents in 2012, Jarales has the second-smallest population on our top 20 list. This area southeast of Belen has an 84.4% homeownership rate, and homeowners spend 27% of their median monthly household income on mortgage and utility costs. The largest group of residents works in production, transportation and material moving, according to census figures.

 

Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income Median Home Values 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Vado Las Cruces 80.1% $647 $1,586 40.8% $40,600 36.6% 80.2
2 Boles Acres Las Cruces 79.7% $960 $3,349 28.7% $118,500 28.1% 76.9
3 Sandia Knolls Albuquerque 88.8% $1,733 $6,726 25.8% $194,600 21.4% 76.5
4 Lee Acres Farmington 77.8% $868 $3,642 23.8% $102,200 20.6% 74.2
5 West Hammond Farmington 93.0% $1,098 $7,550 14.5% $161,600 2.6% 73.9
6 El Cerro Mission Los Lunas 75.9% $859 $3,374 25.5% $78,800 13.1% 69.2
7 San Ysidro Las Cruces 97.1% $1,375 $2,637 52.1% $166,900 14.5% 68.0
8 El Cerro Los Lunas 96.9% $1,477 $4,430 33.3% $217,900 0.6% 65.4
9 Meadow Lake Los Lunas 83.4% $766 $2,728 28.1% $61,200 -0.5% 65.4
10 Jarales Belen 84.4% $917 $3,398 27.0% $114,100 0.6% 65.0
11 Edgewood Albuquerque 87.5% $1,269 $4,325 29.3% $178,100 1.8% 64.0
12 Kirtland Farmington 81.4% $973 $4,664 20.9% $125,900 -2.5% 63.4
13 Rio Rancho Albuquerque 79.2% $1,355 $5,010 27.0% $178,600 7.4% 63.3
14 Peralta Albuquerque 82.2% $1,052 $4,130 25.5% $145,300 0.9% 63.3
15 Pecos Santa Fe 65.8% $1,219 $3,021 40.4% $96,000 23.9% 63.1
16 Bosque Farms Albuquerque 89.7% $1,374 $4,572 30.1% $203,300 0.1% 63.0
17 Placitas (Sandoval County) Albuquerque 89.1% $1,928 $6,600 29.2% $376,600 11.8% 62.8
18 Valencia Los Lunas 88.0% $933 $2,991 31.2% $133,000 -3.2% 62.4
19 White Rock Santa Fe 88.3% $1,808 $9,363 19.3% $275,200 -3.7% 61.4
20 Chimayo Santa Fe 76.9% $868 $3,088 28.1% $92,800 1.0% 61.4

To view the full ranking for all 86 places and download the raw data, click here.

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:

1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. The figure for monthly homeowner costs comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population comes from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.

The top 20 ranking excluded Rio Communities CDP, which no longer exists as it did in 2012 when the data was collected. Communities with residency restrictions, such as tribal areas or age-restricted neighborhoods, also were not included in the top 20 ranking.

Cannon AFB CDP, Navajo CDP, University Park CDP, Holloman AFB CDP were excluded from the study due to lack of data availability.

Image: Daxis/Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/eNZ1wd