RIO RANCHO – In what may come as a surprise to Rio Ranchoans, and what may have surprised some of those in attendance at the NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable discussion at Rust Medical Center on Sept. 7, was the fact that not only are new homes going up here at the same rate as in Albuquerque, but new home prices are higher than in the Duke City.

Also pointed out at “Rising to the Reset,” with an eight-person panel, was the fact that with rising mortgage rates and new homes costing in the neighborhood of $350,000-$500,000 and beyond, sales of used homes have dropped, as well as what people are seeking in new homes: a smaller, less-expensive lot and a smaller home, in terms of square footage.

“People aren’t moving (as often),” said Realtor Tego Venturi, who closely monitors Metro area home sales trends at “Housing is vital, and we’ve got some great challenges.”

Sales of used homes have dropped 26% recently, Venturi said, with new home construction up 30% in Albuquerque and up 58% in the City of Vision.

In August, he said, the average sales price of a new home hit an all-time high of $421,000, with $360,000 being the median price.

“Mortgage rates are crushing people that want to buy,” he said. For people who are selling their homes, they’re getting just under an average of $300,000 – but people seem to be staying in their homes 14 years before deciding to downsize or relocate because of jobs, for example.

It was noted that Albuquerque and Rio Rancho each have about 2,500 new homes going up annually.

“Rio Rancho has always been one of our hottest submarkets,” said Sheena Ramos, marketing director of Abrazo Homes, which has 15 new homes available at prices ranging from $338,000-$512,000.

Rio Rancho, said Realtor Mike Fietz of Westway Homes, “is a unique and interesting market with plenty of challenges.”

Among those challenges are “holes” in development areas, and there’s nobody better in the area to close those holes than Mike Skolnick of Excalibur Realty & Investments, Inc.

Skolnick did the heavy lifting to get the huge housing development Los Diamantes underway, seeking property owners throughout the U.S. and negotiating with them to obtain their land. All told, he estimated, he’s paved the way for some 1,200 acres to be sold and become available to developers, closing those holes.

That task once was easier, Skolnick said, and led to the Cabezon and Loma Colorado neighborhoods, when the Metro Redevelopment Act was a way to negotiate with landowners who had to sell their property in an eminent domain method. But, Skolnick said, during the Gov. Bill Richardson administration, that act was repealed, putting “a kibosh on the city.”

He said he’s been involved with state legislators, trying to get a similar act enacted to aid developers in their quest for contiguous land for neighborhoods, but, “We’re going up against deaf ears.”

Among Fietz’s challenges was obtaining a piece of land owned by someone in Hawaii. He went to Oahu to track down the land owner, found him and made an offer that was accepted.

Fietz said the builders and other related entities “all have to work together,” and that was easy to see during the panel discussion involving the different builders.

The next NAIOP Roundtable meeting is slated for 7:30 a.m. Oct. 12, also at Rust Medical Center.