New home construction is going well in Los Diamantes. (Gary Herrpn/Observer)

What was a dream in 2013 has become a growing reality for Mike Skolnick, a local real estate agent specializing in residential land.

“Nine years ago this month, I started that dream,” he said.

The dream ultimately became Los Diamantes in Unit 10, west of Unser Boulevard and mostly south of Westside Boulevard, and after Skolnick first saw that vast area, he remembers thinking, “This is a home run.

“My vision was live, work, play. We’re slowly getting the work portion,” and, of course, the live portion has been underway. Soon, trails and parks will complete the trifecta, although students at nearby Joe Harris Elementary are already fulfilling part of the play portion.

There are almost 500 residential lots altogether. Phase 1 has been completed, with residents moving in, and the 38-acre business park has its first tenant.

The development is now in Phase 2, which is west of the DR Horton homes on the south end of the tract.

Developer Pierre Amestoy said that unnamed tenant will have “an office-warehouse facility … a little over four acres to start, with the plan to probably to enlarge it in the future.”

Also in the works, Amestoy said, is “a local restaurateur that’s looking at one of the corners out there to bring a nice restaurant out to the site; also, I’ve been talking to some other storage people and some medical-office people also.”

Also down the road, literally, is a 100-acre site for another high school for Rio Rancho Public Schools.

DR Horton and Pulte Homes were the builders in Phase 1, Amestoy said.

“Horton probably has about 50 or 60 homes closed and another 40 under construction; Pulte has closed their first four or five houses in the last 30 days and have about 30 or 40 under construction,” Amestoy explained. “They’re moving rapidly, sales have been strong there, and everything’s positive.”

The new homes are not what locals term “affordable housing,” though: Pulte Homes, which has seven designs available in that development, says prices start at $413,000; DR Horton’s start a bit lower, $330,000.

Skolnick isn’t optimistic about the future for what is thought to be affordable housing for “Joe” and “Jill Rio Rancho,” namely homes in the $200,000-$250,000 range. A local realtor at the Sept. 1 NAIOP meeting said if there was an inventory of homes in that price range, they’d sell like hotcakes.

Although Skolnick said the price of lumber has dropped, the costs of other materials hasn’t, and there are also supply chain issues to be dealt with, certainly not limited to this region.

“When Pierre first put the project together, just two years ago, it cost $25,000-$28,000 to develop the lot – prepping, compacting, water, sewer, street,” Skolnick recalled. “The last one (I remember hearing about), a similar lot, was $45,000-$48,000.”

Also – and who hasn’t noticed? – “the price of oil went thru the roof and, believe it or not, oil is a big factor;. It’s used in (PVC) piping and there’s a surcharge for ungodly amounts for fuel.,” Skolnick said. “People don’t realize how much fuel is used by this monstrous equipment, blading and grading, out there running these things for months every day.

“And the labor shortage, getting people to do the menial tasks? All this added to the development costs – it’s almost as if it happened overnight,” he added.

It’s not expected to end soon.

With those costs rising, and fewer people able to pay for those expensive homes, considering rising interest rates, developers are cutting back on the number of lots they’re developing.

“Builders – the big builders, not the little guys — use absorption rates to determine how much land and finished lots they’re going to need over the next three years, and there’s not an anomaly in this: Big builders are canceling land purchases,” he said. “We are a reactionary society – we react to things very quickly.”

The big build goes on

Also underway in what is referred to as the Unser Gateway is The Village @ Rio Rancho, a development on the east side of Unser Boulevard, north of Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, which broke ground July 13 and will feature an 80,000-square-foot Albertsons Market Street store.

Once that’s completed, estimated to be in late 2023, one of the city’s long-standing problems – tax leakage — will be alleviated.

About a third of that chunk of land will be for medical wellness, east of Albertsons, and then another third for multi-family residential units

SaidMayor Gregg Hull, “This is what is going to bring people into the city of Rio Rancho from Albuquerque’s West Side to shop at this particular facility. I think this is an amazing anchor for this particular piece of property.

“There’s a lot of excitement and energy around this whole process,” he told the Sept. 1 NAIOP gathering at Premiere Cinema. “This is going to be a gorgeous addition to that corner.”