Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scammers targeting Rio Grande Estates?

I've gotten two calls in less than a month from out of state owners of lots at Rio Grande Estates. Granted, two isn't exactly a trend but I expect more.

First off, Rio Grande Estates (which I'll now call "RGE") is a development partly in Socorro County, partly in Valencia County that was platted and sold about 50 years ago. Hundreds of relatively tiny lots in the desert. Apparently, the developers sold their "New Mexico Ranches" mostly out of state, mostly sight unseen with promises of major infrastructure improvements and massive area growth that would make this the place to be. Didn't quite happen. I understand it still looks very much like it did 50 years ago. I've never been out there myself and don't plan to.

Back to my callers. Caller number one bought her acre or two with her husband when they got married 48 or 49 years ago. It was their first investment together. Last year, they had been contacted by a man who said he had a buyer for their lots. This buyer was going to give them many, many thousands for their little parcel. Man says buyer is out of the country and he just needs $300 or so to make the deal happen (Advertising? Mailing fees? My caller was unclear as to what this money was for.) They sent the money and sadly, the deal "fell through". The $300 is lost.

The man must have been a smooth talker because, months later he calls again. He has another buyer. Just needs that fee again. Ever-hopeful husband sends the check. Wife begins to worry and decides to see what she can find out. That's how I ended up talking to her. I don't know if she was able to stop-pay that check but if she didn't, that money is gone, too.

Caller number two hadn't gotten that far with the "deal" but he had been approached by a man who said he wanted to buy his couple acres for a similar price.

I can't say what these lots are worth because I am not a licensed appraiser. I'm also not comfortable saying what these people told me they were offered. I will say that anyone who owns lots at RGE or knows someone who does ought to read Fred Bernstein's article that was published in the New York Times in 2005. You can read it on Mr. Bernstein's website here . I believe someone is targeting owners of these lots who are out of state and have had them for decades and getting a few hundred bucks from each one they can hook. I don't believe there any buyers out there willing to pay what these people were "offered" when you can pick up lots at the county auction for minuscule back taxes.

I doubt if the owners will read this, mostly being of pre-internet age, but I do hope their concerned relatives will.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Party in the Hood

It's not uncommon for people to ask plaintively - "But what is there to DO in Magdalena?"

Well, if you're looking for the nightclub scene or pro-sports, you'd be better off elsewhere. We make our own fun here.

Last weekend Magdalena Steel (formerly Magdalena Steel Chicks but they have some roosters now) held a fundraiser party at the home of one of the organizers to send a promising young musician to a music school out of state. I don't have the details off the top of my head but here's how it all went down from my perspective.

Linda Mansell lives across the street from me. A few years ago, when the late and noted steel pan musician Bill Smiley moved to town, Linda learned to play the steel drum and organized a group of local girls and women to also learn and perform. Huge hit! Bill is gone now but he lives on in Magdalena Steel. Linda continues to work with young musicians (not just drums, there's singing, song-writing and guitar picking, too). Lots of other people are involved, too. I don't want to minimize them but Linda is the driving force and the P-A-R-T-Y was her doing.

Linda hosted a huge BBQ (she did all the cooking - fantastic!), talked another band , Liquid Cheese into playing later (for free or cheap, I'm sure) and set up a donation jar near the beer.

The front-runner for receiving the scholarship money is Lexy Pettis. She's a graduating senior here in Magdalena. She sang her own song "Missing You". Beautiful folky thing that made me mist up. Played the guitar better than I ever will, too and she's only a first year player. That's Lexy in the photo.

Anyway, I don't know what the take ended up being but the jar was looking pretty good when I walked back across the street early on. The party went on till the wee hours. Yeah, it was a tad noisy but all for a good cause. If I hadn't been so wiped out from the preceding week, I'd have gone back and danced...although the amount of Linda's Jungle Juice it would take to get my uncoordinated self to dance in public is perilously close to the amount it would take to get me passed out in a flower bed. Maybe it's better I didn't.

Actually quite a lot of stuff goes on in Magdalena but it's mostly us doing it. Once you get to know people - and that doesn't usually take long - you can easily end up trying to juggle multiple things on any given summer weekend. If you just want to veg out on the weekend, try Albuquerque.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can You Have a Lawn in the Desert?

Well...depends. Do you want a golf course-like sea of fertilizer-enhanced emerald green that causes you to shriek at the neighbor kids for walking across your lawn? Then sure- if you’re insane. The amount of water and chemistry that requires is nothing short of irresponsible. And it’s futile, really. Our springs are amazingly sunny and dry. Kentucky bluegrass just won’t happen like it does in wetter places. Bermuda grass is used a lot but it really needs a crazy amount of water.

On the other hand, a little lawn goes a long way toward cooling around your home (those pebble yards are HOT!), creating a valuable fire break and giving your little ones a comfortable place to play. For that, I am a believer in native Buffalo grass. It’s extremely drought tolerant once established, grows so low you don’t really have to mow it and it thrives in some really bad soils.

It’s a warm-season grass which means it goes dormant after the first frost but you get used to that. It also doesn’t do well in shade so you might try something else under your trees (if you have any). Probably, the hardest part is site preparation. You really do need to get rid of as much of the weeds seeds as you can before you plant. Buffalo grass doesn’t compete well when just sprouting and the moisture it needs to sprout is used better and faster by the weeds. I have found that the best way is to dig the area you want your grass just a few inches down, water to sprout the weeds seeds, chop the sprouts back in and repeat. Don’t plant till you’ve sprouted the weeds at least twice. This only takes a couple weeks and avoids herbicides. You’ll still have to monitor and pick out weeds as you see them but it won’t be any where near as bad as if you didn’t do this. I speak from experience here.

I wouldn’t plant the whole back 40 this way, of course. This is best for areas nearest your house where you don’t have gardens or for a play area for the kids. We planted a tiny break area in the back yard of the Realty office. It’s on its third year and looking good. I have just seeded the aisle between my two rows of new grape vines, too. Besides holding moisture without competing with the vines, I expect it to encourage my kitties to find facilities elsewhere.

Photo: The Realty back 40 (square feet). Just starting to green up May 4th. The tall grasses in back are last years blue grama.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting lost in Tee Pee Ranches

Last summer I drove out to Tee Pee Ranches southwest of Datil to scope out a potential new listing. I thought SURELY I could find this lot - they're all numbered. Well, I couldn't even find the road. Actually, I do recall seeing it but it was so over-grown, I thought it was an unused driveway so I took a right instead and bottomed out the Corolla on the boulders. FYI: Avoid passenger cars in most of the rural subdivisions.

After I got the listing, I spent - I don't know - hours copying sections the big plat maps and taping them together trying to match up roads to create a usable map of the subdivision. Then I drove out with another broker, stopping at corners and signs trying to make sure my map matched reality (it didn't always). I was pretty proud of my map and we've been using it since.

Then Bev, my qualifying broker - also known facetiously as Boss-Lady starts laughing this morning and says "Look what I just got!" A lovely map of Tee Pee Ranches roads. Sigh. Where was that when I was lost in Tee Pee Ranches?

Theirs & mine. Theirs has phases but mine has lots. I'll use them both and between them and my old truck with the jumbo tires, I am invincible.