The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Santa Fe

Santa Fe offers a rich local culture and a wealth of dining and entertainment options, but you’ll have to take that in stride with the high living costs.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
As a Santa Fe resident, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a rich local culture and a wealth of food and entertainment options. However, you’ll also have to weather the high elevation, rising crime rates, and expensive living costs.
As the oldest state capital in the United States, Santa Fe, founded in 1610, has a long and complicated history. Over the centuries, this city has stood out for the marks it’s made on arts, culture, food, and architecture.
If you’re debating whether to make yourself part of Santa Fe’s next chapter,
, the
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, is here to lay out some of the pros and cons that can come with living in the City Different.
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What you need to know about Santa Fe before you move

Santa Fe covers an area of about 52 square miles and is home to a population of more than 84,000 who get to enjoy the picturesque Sangre de Cristo mountains as their daily backdrop. 
Will one of them soon be you? If you’re still weighing your options, here are some common pros and cons that can come with calling Santa Fe home.

1. You may need to brace yourself for living costs

It depends on where you’re moving from, but if you plan on relocating to Santa Fe, one of the first things you’ll want to do is crunch some numbers and establish a budget. 
While the cost of living for New Mexico is lower than the national average overall, it’s significantly more expensive in Santa Fe. While moving from a city like San Francisco or Honolulu might offer you some potential savings, you might need to make some extra financial preparations if you’re moving from a low-cost-of-living area.
A large share of that is thanks to housing costs. The median sales price of a home in Santa Fe as of September 2022 was about $525,000, based on data from
. For comparison, the median home sales price nationwide during the same time period was about $402,983. 2020 census data shows that the average monthly homeownership costs for households with a mortgage were about $1,539 per month.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Fe as of October 2022 was about $1,910, according to
analysis. That’s just slightly less than the national median of $2,002 per month.
Based on numbers from
, on a trip for groceries, a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs could cost $4 to $5 each. A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant could cost around $85. While you’re out and about, a cappuccino to go could cost $4 to $5, and a pint of beer could cost about $5.
Santa Fe’s median household income, as of the 2020 census, was $57,274.
And as part of the Santa Fe
Living Wage Ordinance
, which aims to adjust the minimum wage according to inflation rates, the local minimum wage of $12.95 per hour went into effect in March 2022. Admittedly, that’s still shy of what MIT’s
Living Wage Calculator
suggests a single adult would need to earn to live comfortably in Santa Fe: at least $16.97 per hour.

2. It’s a foodie haven

If there’s one thing Santa Fe residents can agree on, it has to be the wealth and variety of dining options the city offers. When you live here, you’ll have your pick of a little of virtually anything, from Mexican to French to Asian to Italian to Indian to Peruvian-inspired cuisine. 

3. Driving is usually your best bet

Santa Fe covers an area of about 52 square miles, so how walkable it is depends on the destination you have in mind.
In some cases, owning your own car will still be the easiest way to get from point A to point B in Santa Fe. While traffic congestion here may sometimes be inevitable, compared to many other major U.S. cities, it’s actually not half bad. INRIX’s
2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
ranked Santa Fe as number 112 on the list of the country’s most congested cities and estimated the average driver here lost 12 hours to traffic congestion each year.
You’ll have
public transit
options at your disposal like the Santa Fe Trails bus system. There’s also an extensive network of bike lanes and trails throughout the city.

4. Crime rates are an ongoing problem

As a whole, high crime rates have plagued New Mexico as a whole, and that includes Santa Fe. 
While violent crime in recent months has remained fairly steady,
property crime
has been on the rise. As of late September, the city had almost 500 burglaries reported over the course of the year—a number that’s 80% higher than the previous year. Auto theft has also had a notable increase.
All this means that if you do decide to relocate to Santa Fe, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the right amount of car and home insurance protection in place.

5. The weather’s more moderate than you’d expect

Partially because of the 7,000-foot elevation, the Santa Fe weather isn’t quite as extreme as some people expect. Summer highs typically reach the 80s and 90s, but the dry heat makes it a little more bearable. Average winter lows can hover around the teens and 20s.
Not a fan of overcast days? You might be pleased to learn Santa Fe can typically expect more than 300+ sunny days out of the year.
You can expect all four seasons here, too—Santa Fe receives about 32 inches of snowfall annually, with popular nearby skiing areas receiving much more.

6. The elevation isn’t for everyone

Did we mention the city of Santa Fe sits at an elevation of about 7,000 feet above sea level?
The drier air can be hard on the skin and make some more prone to things like nosebleeds, and staying active can feel strenuous as your body tries to acclimate to lower oxygen levels. Santa Fe’s elevation paired with its high number of sunny days means you’ll also want to incorporate a good sunscreen into your skincare routine year-round.
For many, adjusting to Santa Fe’s altitude is just a matter of time, but for some, it might just end up being too uncomfortable.

7. The city is rich with art and culture

If you’re looking for a city with a vibrant local culture and arts scene, look no further than Santa Fe. You’ll enjoy various festivals and events across the city year-round that celebrate the city’s diverse heritage, plus a wealth of exhibits, museums, live music venues, and more.
Just a sampling of popular spots in Santa Fe include:

Does Santa Fe live up to the hype?

Whether Santa Fe can satisfy your expectations depends on what you’re looking for most in a lifestyle.
If you can handle the high elevation and aren’t deterred by local crime rates, Santa Fe is at the ready with plenty of culture, history, art, and good food to enjoy as you settle in. Just make sure your budget will hold up against high living costs before you get here.
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Finding a place to live in Santa Fe

One of the most expensive aspects of living in Santa Fe is housing—so you’ll want to make your moves wisely as you look for your own place to live.
As we mentioned above, the median sales price of a home in Santa Fe as of September 2022 was about $525,000, and the average rent sits at around $1,910 per month. 
If you’re looking for a place with more space as a renter, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is about $2,271, while the average three-bedroom is about $1,650. 
Wondering where to start on your house hunt? Try establishing a budget first—that way you can see what options are available to you, then further narrow down your options based on what’s most appealing to you, whether that’s good local schools or a location near a great public park.
As you search for the perfect place to call home for you, here are some Santa Fe neighborhoods and suburbs worth looking into:
  • Most iconic neighborhoods: Historic District, Downtown, Canyon Road, Railyard Arts District
  • Best neighborhoods if you’ve got kids: Midtown, White Rock, Los Alamos
  • Best neighborhoods for foodies: Canyon Road, Railyard Arts District
  • Best neighborhood to buy a house: White Rock, Canyon Road, Historic District
  • Most affordable neighborhoods: Chimayo, Pojoaque, Los Alamos
Be sure to visit the neighborhoods you’re considering in person so you can get a sense of whether or not the atmosphere feels like the right fit for you!

Moving to Santa Fe checklist 

Once you’ve finally picked the perfect place to call home in Santa Fe, the hardest part of relocating is over—or is it?
Whether you're moving just a few miles or from all the way across the country, every move is bound to come with some obstacles. To help make your own transition as smooth as can be, here are some items you may want to add to your own Santa Fe moving checklist:

Before you go

Ahead of your arrival in Santa Fe, make sure to:
  • Book a moving date with a
    reputable moving company
    . If you’re looking for some guidance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration offers
    helpful tips
    to find good movers and avoid scams.
  • Handling your move DIY-style? Remember to
    reserve a U-Haul
    in advance if you need one.
  • Let important contacts know you’re moving
    —that can include your landlord, your employer, your insurance provider(s), and utility provider(s). 
  • If you’re planning a long-distance move, decide whether it’s ideal for you to drive or
    ship your car
  • Check to make sure your new
    homeowners insurance policy
    will be active and ready to go once you’re officially moved into your new place.
  • Update your address and set up mail forwarding with the
    post office
    so you don’t miss out on any important communications.

After you get there

Once you’ve made it to your new home, there are just a couple more items you may need to take care of as you settle into Santa Fe: 
  • If you moved to Santa Fe from
    out of state
    , you’ll need to
    re-register your car
    in New Mexico and
    update your car insurance
    if you haven’t already.
  • Get to know Santa Fe! Now that the moment you’ve been planning for has finally arrived, take your time familiarizing yourself with the City Different and all the fine food, arts, and culture it has to offer.

How to save on car, renters, and home insurance in Santa Fe

If you do decide to call Santa Fe your next home, there’s one tool you can use to make your move that much easier: it’s called the
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Santa Fe car insurance
policy that meets your new needs in your new city—and at the best available rate. Jerry can even help you
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When it comes to car insurance alone, the average driver saves more than $800 per year!
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Whether it’s worth it to move to Santa Fe depends on what you’re looking for in a lifestyle, as well as your budget.
Depending on factors like the distance and size of your move, and whether you hire professional movers to help you, you could likely expect relocating to Santa Fe to cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
Once you’re living in Santa Fe, how much you’ll need to earn to cover your regular expenses will depend on your needs and your lifestyle. Based on data from MIT’s
Living Wage Calculator
, a single adult without kids would need to earn at least $16.97 per hour to live comfortably in Santa Fe, while a family of two adults and three kids would need to bring in a cumulative $40.51 per hour.
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