18 Pros and Cons of Living in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe serves as the capital of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and has one of the longest full names for a community in the United States today: La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, or the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. After European settlers came into the region, Spain and Mexico controlled the area until Mexican independence occurred in 1824.

When Texas seceded from Mexico in 1836, it attempted to claim Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico, including the use of a small military expedition, but the Mexican army capture them. The U.S. declared war on Mexico in 1846, leading 1,700 soldiers into the city to claim it and the territory for the United States. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formalized that occupation and ownership just two years later.

Despite the efforts to claim Santa Fe, many early settlers didn’t see much promise in the land. It was in the middle of barren country, with 19th century settlers often surviving on onions, red peppers, and mutton. That desolation would lead to the establishment of a Japanese-American internment camp, German and Italian nationals, and the camp remained open until the middle of 1946.

Modern Santa Fe is very different, so there are some unique pros and cons to consider before you start living here.

List of the Pros of Living in Santa Fe

1. The weather is a definite asset for those who start living in Santa Fe.
If you like to have a lot of sunshine, then Santa Fe is an excellent place to consider living. About 70% of the total days each year will give you precipitation-free days to start exploring. That means you can look at options like solar energy for your home in the city. It tends to stay warm throughout the year, although it does get below freezing for the average low from December to March. The summer climate is a little cooler because of the elevation of the city as well. Between 1981-2010, there was not a single day above 100°F.

2. There is a robust agricultural industry in Santa Fe.
The history of Santa Fe focused on sheep farming and growing peppers because of the dry climate. Although the industries have expanded to other livestock, including pigs and dairy cattle, you’ll find chilies, cotton, and hay are still part of the usual supply of goods. There are several energy industries active in the area as well, offering good jobs in the mining sector, oil and gas, clay, and glass production. You can also find work in textiles, printing, or hospitality when living here.

3. The culture of Santa Fe is rich in its diversity.
Tribal cultures were calling Santa Fe home for thousands of years before European settlers began to make their way into the region. The capital for the Land of Enchantment also has a population today that is 47% Latino or Hispanic, which is one of the highest percentages in the United States. Only California can claim a Hispanic majority over European Caucasians along with New Mexico when looking at the cultural diversity in the region.

When you start living here, it can be fun to explore the old churches and missions that built the foundation of modern Santa Fe. Some of the oldest public buildings in the United States are found in this city as well. The Palace of Governors was originally built in the early 1600s as Spain’s seat of government for the region. This adobe structure is now the history museum and became a national historic landmark in 1960.

4. There are numerous art festivals celebrated in Santa Fe throughout the year.
The creative scene in Santa Fe is widely known thanks to the work of Georgia O’Keefe and other artists who came to the southwest to find their muse. One of the most popular annual events that you will discover when you start living here is the contemporary art show that has been held annually since 2000. International artists come to the community to display their work for four days while traditional exhibits, concerts, and parades are held to celebrate this spirit.

5. You will find a culinary adventure awaiting you in Santa Fe.
Although New Mexican cuisine tends to copy other cultures and ethnicities, you’ll find a Native American emphasis in Santa Fe with a modern fusion of styles and ingredients that makes it truly unique. You can also find fresh produce available throughout the year at the city’s farmer’s market, which has won accolades as being the best one in the country in recent years. You’ll want to learn how to love green chili and onions, but there is still a wide variety of options to enjoy during your time in this community.

6. The jobs market is relatively strong in Santa Fe.
Although Indeed notes that the number of job postings in Santa Fe has declined by more than 20% in the past year, that is still far less than the 32% found in the average U.S. community during that time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate stands at 3.6% in the city, which is right on the national average. If you take the figure from the civilian labor force, then the rate drops to 2.7%.

The jobs in Education, Health Services, Leisure, and Hospitality are seeing the strongest markets, with over 4% growth compared to the year before. There are more than 16,000 jobs in the government sector as well, which is up 1.9% from the year before.

7. You will have access to plenty of outdoor activities when living here.
There is a wide variety of recreational facilities and parks from which to choose when you start living in Santa Fe. You will be able to find something that matches your personal preferences and preferred activity levels. There is also the Santa Fe National Forest and its hiking trails to consider, rafting adventures, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing in excellent supply if you want to stay active.

Santa Fe offers several excellent golf courses for those who enjoy the sport. Nearby ski areas provided world-class cross-country trails to use too. It’s all due to the fact that the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are literally minutes away from the downtown center of the city.

8. Santa Fe has a world-class opera as part of its arts and music community.
Santa Fe is the home of numerous artists that impact the entire way of life that the city experiences each year. Music is an integral part of that experience, especially with the opera company that performs in the city. The Santa Fe Opera is one of the best events that you’ll get to experience when living here, even if you are not the biggest fan of this genre. People from all over the world come to learn, perform, and hone their skills, making it one of the best events of its type in the United States.

9. Traffic is rarely a concern when living in the city.
Even though Santa Fe is the fourth-largest city in the state, the population is less than 70,000 people. That makes it one of the smallest state capitals in the United States. Because it was officially founded as a city in 1610, it is also the oldest capital city in the country. Since there are so few people living here and there is direct access to the interstate system, traffic is rarely a problem here.

You are also close enough to Albuquerque thanks to the link of I-25, so it is possible to commute between the cities if you wish. It’s about 64 miles to drive it, which takes a little more than an hour. There are also shuttles and trains that run between the two communities.

10. Santa Fe offers a slower pace to life.
If you are looking for a city that is going to slow down the pace of life for you, then Santa Fe might be the perfect place to live. Most of the residents here tend to be retired or on the verge of doing so, which means there is a certain aura of tranquility that you can enjoy here. Although this advantage can limit some of your entertainment options, anyone who loves the idea of an outdoor lifestyle will still find plenty to do.

List of the Cons of Living in Santa Fe

1. It can be a struggle to afford a home in Santa Fe right now.
According to data published by Trulia, there are more than 850 homes for sale in the Santa Fe area right now. The average listing price of those properties is more than $610,000. If you can’t afford that price, then rentals in the city are going for an average of $2,200 per month. You’ll need to live outside of the city and commute in on I-25 from Las Vegas or live near Los Alamos to find something affordable. You need to go all the way out to Cuba to find something in the $100,000 range.

2. Get ready for the dust when you start living in Santa Fe.
Because Santa Fe is in the desert biome (along with most of New Mexico), there is a lot of dust that you will need to manage around your home. Windy weather will bring it to your face, stinging in a way that is similar to sleet for people who live further north. Although there are over 300 days of sunshine to enjoy here, you’ll want to invest in a state-of-the-art HVAC system for your home if you want to avoid constant cleaning chores.

Anyone with sensitive air passageways because of asthma, COPD, or a similar disorder might want to think twice about calling Santa Fe home thanks to this disadvantage.

3. There is a lack of nightlife in Santa Fe.
If you want to do something other than drink at a bar or at home when living in Santa Fe, then you’ll need to take the hour drive south to enjoy what Albuquerque offers. There aren’t many places where live music or dancing takes place in this community. Even though there are some fun festivals to enjoy, the community gets pretty quiet at night. If you have dinner at a favorite restaurant, a common night out involves a movie, bowling, or maybe a quiet rive in the mountains.

4. The crime rate in Santa Fe is higher than the national average.
According to data published by city rating, the incidents of property crime in Santa Fe are over 55% higher than the national average. The violent crime rate is about 3.6% lower in comparison. The rates in 2019 are showing that the year should be better than the data from 2016, but the rate of burglary is 1,455 per 100k people compared to the national average of 430. That’s why Area Vibes grades the city with a D in this area.

5. The quality of the schools is very poor in Santa Fe.
If you are moving to Santa Fe with a family, then you might want to consider a private school or to do home schooling with your children. New Mexico graded almost all of the institutions with a D or an F in 2018. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, there are 29 educational facilities as part of the school district, and eight of them received a failing grade. Another eight earned a D. Only four locations received an A. Ortiz Middle School earned a fourth-straight failing grade.

One of the exceptions to this disadvantage is Wood Gormley Elementary School. While the Santa Fe public schools went from 46% of locations earning a D or an F in 2015 to 56% doing so in 2017, this location earned an A for its seventh straight year. The Academy for Technology and the Classics received its six A grade.

6. You will want to prepare in advance for the tax picture in Santa Fe.
The personal income tax rates for New Mexico vary from 1.7% to 4.9%, and there are currently four income brackets that dictate what you will pay. Anyone who works in the state as a non-resident must also pay, including regular military salaries for those stationed in the city. Only active-duty military salaries are exempt. Even Social Security income is subject to this disadvantage.

Although there are deductions offered to seniors with a household income below a certain limit, the 1.7% bracket applies to $8,000 or less for married couples or $5,500 or less for singles, estates, or trusts. You’ll pay the 4.9% top rate on anything you earn above $16,000 or $24,000 whether you are single or married. There are also state and city gross receipt taxes for you to think about when living here as well, which acts like a sales tax on most business transactions.

7. The insects in Santa Fe can be problematic during certain times of the year.
The forests of Northern New Mexico are under siege from the Bagrada bug, which is a stink bug that can cause extensive losses to your landscaping. You will encounter issues with multiple types of cockroaches when living in the city since the climate allows them to thrive. Drywood termites are particularly problematic here, especially during the spring and summer when they like to swarm. There are scorpions, rattlesnakes, giant centipedes, and black widow spiders in the area too. You’ll want to watch where you put your feet if you like to wander about without shoes on – even in your home.

8. People with sensitive skin can burn easily when living here.
Because the weather is consistently sunny in Santa Fe, anyone with sensitive skin will want to pack plenty of sunblock with them for their daily commute and outdoor activities. Even when the sun seems cool and gentle, you can start to develop sunburns as early as February and as late as November in some years. If you’re used to a cooler climate with more cloud cover, then this disadvantage is an issue you’ll want to keep at the forefront of your mind.

Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Santa Fe

There are some challenges that you will face if you decide to start living in Santa Fe. The jobs market is strong, but it isn’t an overpowering reason to move here unless you receive a lucrative offer. The housing market is a significant challenge for many families, including the high rental median. Even the smaller size of the community can be problematic for some households.

You will also find yourself living in a place surrounded by natural beauty. There are numerous outdoor activities for you to enjoy when living here. It can be a place of wonder and opportunity.

That’s why the pros and cons of living in Santa Fe all depend on your personal circumstances. If you can counter the potential issues that you will face, then it could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life to call this place home.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.