In honoring the 20th year of the publication “Enchanted Homes,” we have been visiting the many ways in which the community looks different between “then and now.” And perhaps the most significant changes have come in the way we look at and utilize our land.
“Twenty years ago the building boom was still in its infancy,” noted Ted Terry of Casa Encantada Realty. “The Blueberry Hill neighborhood was just getting going; in fact, the first spec houses coming to the market were built on Cottam Road. It was such a small community then.”
“The late 1980s saw an increased interest in buying property, with people planning to build on it when they retired, or by developers who were proposing subdivisions,” he continued. “By around 1995 the market got very active with both buyers and sellers, and the conversations about water and septic requirements became increasingly to the forefront.”
For centuries water has been the region’s most precious commodity, from the first snowmelts in Colorado to our own, both cascading to the Río Grande and a sprawling system of ancestral acequias. “Hopefully you’ve had a lot of snow and the cycle will begin around April 1, with an irrigation window lasting until maybe July 1,” Terry explained. “After that, you’re hoping for a robust monsoon season.”
“Hopefully.” “Hoping.” It’s no surprise, then, that the capricious nature of climate lends great weight to water rights that are carefully guarded. And as the desirability of land in Northern New Mexico grew, so did an additional, intricate weave of state, county and local laws to preserve and regulate those rights.
Has that changed the face of land sales in recent years?
“Very little available land now has access to municipal water and sewers, so the nature of the business in land sales is politicized in the sense that you are always dealing with acequia rights, well rights – which could be shared ones – and the viability of septic [systems] that are zoning issues.”
Terry continued, “On top of that the proposed development of vacant land requires anthropological, cultural and hydrological studies, all of which are at the front end of your building costs with no guarantee that you’ll be able to proceed. It has changed the face of spec housing – no rash decisions anymore.”
Terry said he has “no idea” what the future of land development will look like in Taos. “Airbnb has certainly changed the profile of town in that it’s hard to find a place to live here now,” tipping the scales as it has on the acute issue of affordable housing.
And the congestion on the main roadways is testament to the fact that Taos remains a magnet for housing, thanks in part to sites like Zillow and the internet in general, even as the development of additional housing becomes increasingly regulated.
But there are two things of which he is certain.
“Taos will always be about its natural beauty and will attract those who see two seasons: the ski season and the rest of the year,” he said, laughing. “If you want a lifestyle based upon the outdoors, then nothing beats Taos and will keep its desirability going.”
But, he mused, “There’s a strong desire to maintain the status quo and the character of this town.” That’s not to say he expects there will be no changes. “Of course there will be changes – look at what’s going on now – but we are resilient here. We’ll come out on the other side.”
Terry has been a resident here since the mid-1970s. After a childhood of visiting his grandparents in Albuquerque it seemed almost fated that, after college graduation, he would find his way to Taos to work first as a bartender and then opening a bar called La Fonda de Taos Tavern on Taos Plaza. For decades, however, his expertise in local land sales guidance is what he is widely known for.
Visit Ted Terry at Casa Encantada Realty at 107 Plaza Garcia Street, Suite B, in Taos. You may also reach him at (575) 770-0655 or