Author Topic: place near Taos, NM?  (Read 12161 times)

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Offline carroll

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place near Taos, NM?
« on: December 13, 2011, 10:52:31 PM »
Hi, Everyone,

I've come back from Taos (and Albuquerque) -- with laryngitis and an ear infection (from being around smokers in Albuquerque, I think -- coupled with a lack of sleep for 6 days).  I'm now feeling well enough to type, so here goes!

I'm looking at buying an unfinished straw bale house in the off-grid community of Tres Orejas, NM, about 20 minutes (17 miles) from Taos, NM -- it's just the shell, but it seems well-built (concrete foundation, lots of rebar -- owner-builder was planning on living there).  I know that most people on here use wood or concrete or earth-berms, but just in case anyone has some thoughts, I'd appreciate hearing them.

I'd have to put about 15 K into the house (if I didn't do some of the work myself, and I certainly think I could) .  That would be to get a 530 watt solar powered array, a tiny woodstove for heating (750 sq ft), plumbing (it's already piped underneath the concrete slab that the house is built on), split-flow sewage system (with a blackwater holding tank that would need to be pumped every 3-4 months -- although I'd rather have a composting toilet, which would definitely cut down on the pumping), the plastering done that's still necessary (I car-camped because it was too dusty to stay inside the house -- minus 10 at night -- but  it was probably about 40 inside, with no heating whatsoever). 

The seller and his family are wonderful people -- and I'm not so sure that I'm right in thinking I 'should' get all the permits, especially since it seems most people in the community don't bother.  What's your opinion?  No matter what, I'd get a private building inspection done, and a title search --  I'm just undecided [read:  scared] about not getting the "correct" permits! 

I've stayed with people who lived off-grid  but it was in NC . . . . And the owner/builder of that place was featured on one of those DIY channels because of his solar get-up, so he definitely knew what he was doing!  Once I finished the place, off-grid to me doesn't seem much different than on-grid EXCEPT for a consciousness and awareness of one's usage . . . . plus the maintenance, and that could be a/THE sticky wicket, as the Brits used to say . . .  If one is NOT technically - minded, is taking care of a solar array/batteries/charge controller/inverter, etc., too difficult?  (I can handle a hammer pretty well -- and I'm willing to learn, but I'm not too coordinated or mechanically-minded . . . )

I love the little space, it was quiet as all get-out inside the house (quiet is another one of my pre-requisites for a place), and I'd definitely get a BIG dog (or maybe 2!) if I lived out there (single female and all that) -- but although I'd love to live in an environmentally-friendly way, I also know that, as we get older, we have a tendency not to want to carry buckets of  -- well, whatever -- out and about, or haul wood (although I'd cheat and buy it already split, probably -- I've had rotator cuff surgery, and don't need any other shoulder issues).  It's also only about 1/4 of an acre;  I'd need to buy another adjoining 3/4 of an acre to make sure I wouldn't be in trouble if I wanted to add on (and thus would have to get a better septic system in place).

My short 3 day visit was enough time for me to know that I could love living there (even though it's just scrub-brush sage -- it's on the flats, about a mile from the Rio Grande, about 13 miles from the Gorge bridge) . . . .  But, for those of you who have been living off-grid for a while, do you find it too onerous?  I've been lurking on the sites here for a while before I joined, and the support is tremendous -- but all of y'all seem so much more technically and mechanically inclined than I!  I'm single, and would plan on building another little straw bale house so I could get a housemate-who-wasn't -a-housemate eventually -- but . . . . Sigh.  This is such a big decision . . . . 

I've talked to a lawyer (who of course thinks I should get all the permits), the planning commission (sort of -- not naming any particular place, naturally), the private building inspector, the environmental department, the liquid waste specialist -- so I'm trying to do my homework before I sign anything/take the plunge/invest the money. 

Any comments anyone wants to give, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks!

:)
carroll

PS   Gary, I haven't even looked at your Fauxtos for the last three days!  I'll check them out tomorrow . . . .
 
:)

Offline Don_P

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2011, 03:05:13 AM »
Did the present owner pull the required permits. I would be very careful buying an unpermitted structure.
This also answers whether you should pull permits. Aside from the risk to you in being "caught", if you ever decide to sell, trying to market an unpermitted structure greatly reduces your chances of a sale.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:29:25 AM by Don_P »

Offline Gary O

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2011, 04:17:19 AM »
 
PS   Gary, I haven't even looked at your Fauxtos for the last three days!  I'll check them out tomorrow . . . .

Well, you haven't missed much....got busy with other things, so one-a-days are pretty much it for awhile.
I'm kinda hiding from Sassy until I manage the time for the evening edition.....

Got pictures of your adventure? I'm sure my bride could live vicariously through them...............
I’m enjoying all that I own, the moment.

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Offline MountainDon

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2011, 06:12:05 AM »
Don_P asked the first question that came to my mind. If they did have permits they won't transfer to your name. I'd bet the builder either did not have a permit or it lapsed. I'd contact the NM CID department or the county to see what they can tell you about permit requirements for the "Three Ears" community area. And a lawyer is definitely a good idea in this case, IMO.

NM does have a list of requirements for permitted straw bale structures. They can and are done legally. So are pumicecrete buildings.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 06:33:51 AM by MtnDon »
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Gary O

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2011, 06:24:51 AM »
"The seller and his family are wonderful people -- and I'm not so sure that I'm right in thinking I 'should' get all the permits, especially since it seems most people in the community don't bother.  What's your opinion?  No matter what, I'd get a private building inspection done, and a title search --  I'm just undecided [read:  scared] about not getting the "correct" permits!"

This is only my opinion, as getting permits and doing it right helps one sleep better at night.
However, 'the community' bears some considerations.
Is everyone there renegades?
Is it a tight knit community?
Will bringing in 'revenuers' something that will disturb the folks there?
Usually the asking price of the place will reflect the stance.
Just sayin'

Gary O'
I’m enjoying all that I own, the moment.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” Emerson

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2011, 11:45:42 AM »
Thanks for the advice!  Y'all all make good points. 

What's the New Mexico/Taos county CID?   

I obviously need to learn more about the community, Gary -- I definitely don't want to be an outcast because I went the legal route!

I thought Tres Orejas meant 3 peaks, not 3 Ears!  Hee, hee!

As soon as I can talk again (and I hope that's soon -- this laryngitis is a PITA!), I'll call the seller and see what's going on -- he's spent a lot of time talking to me, so I'll look back in my notes and see what's already been said -- I know that there's no permits whatsoever involved in the building now, though -- as far as anyone's concerned, it's just an empty plot of land . . . .

Thanks again --

:)
carroll

And I didn't find my camera until I left, so I kind of fell down on taking pictures . .  . .  Sorry about that!
:)

Offline Don_P

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2011, 02:45:59 PM »
I know that there's no permits whatsoever involved in the building now, though -- as far as anyone's concerned, it's just an empty plot of land . . . .

If permits are required this could be a big problem, sort it out before puchase. They might not care, they might require an engineer to sign off on it, but they can require the structure be removed.

Offline Native_NM

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2011, 03:34:28 PM »
There is a full-length documentary on this area.  I would find it and watch it.  There are some huge risks.  Water is the first.  You can't get a septic permit without water.  Most of those people are technically living illegally.  There is a fair amount of violence.  Property crime and drugs are also common.

CID is the Construction Industry Division.

If the name of the movie pops in my head, I'll post it.. 
New Mexico.  Better than regular Mexico.

Offline Native_NM

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2011, 03:37:54 PM »

I knew it would come to me...

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0920467/
New Mexico.  Better than regular Mexico.

Offline MountainDon

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Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2011, 03:57:54 PM »
CID issues bldg permits (electrical, plumbing, etc etc) for all areas that do not have their own permitting and inspection department.
 
Environmental does the septic or privy permits. (Last I checked privies were still permitted in some areas. ($50 fee)

Zoning regulations are done on the local level though. 

CID will not issue a building permit without a zoning approval of the plan, if I remember this all correctly.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2011, 04:45:31 PM »
Not trying to scare you, just telling you what you will not hear most realtors volunteer....  Northern NM does have a fairly large "drug problem", meth labs/addicts, etc. That's where much of the property crime comes from. But you can get that anywhere, city or country. I am not personally familiar with the "3 ears" area but I have had an "interesting" couple of encounters on and off the road a little further north.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 05:38:44 PM by MtnDon »
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2011, 04:47:34 PM »
The movie is on Youtube

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2011, 06:38:00 PM »
Wow -- I just watched the movie "Off the Grid" -- thought-provoking for someone thinking of moving there, that's for sure!  I think I'll have to watch it again, too.  THANK Y'ALL FOR GIVING ME THE NAME AND THE YOUTUBE LINK. 

I'm really going to have to think about all of this -- since I can't talk, it'll make for some quiet time.  Parts of the documentary were scary, but parts made me feel proud to be human . . . .

I think, at the very least, that I need to go up there and meet some of the people who live in the community now . . . .  But the movie was only made 4-5 years ago, so it's probably pretty still somewhat the same . . .

Makes the "permit" question kind of moot, if I don't fit into the community to begin with, right?

THANK Y'ALL SO MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS documentary TO MY ATTENTION.  My friend in Albuquerque knew of it, but she didn't remember the name, nor had she watched it before . . . . 

Lots to think about . . . .

:)
carroll
:)

Offline db4570

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2011, 08:50:02 PM »
When I'm looking around trying to figure out where I might want to move, I always go on the http://www.bestplaces.net/ site to take a quick look at the stats. First thing I check is Crime, and Taos is a 9 out of 10 for violent crime. That's up there with the most dangerous gang-violence cities in the country. We're talking Detroit, Chicago, Rochester, Oakland, Miami.

I was really surprised. I stayed overnight once in Taos, and it was a bit odd, a bit shady, but I had no idea it was that bad.

This would be a quality-of-life deal-breaker for me.

That bestplaces site is handy for checking other stuff, too. After crime I check property tax rate, then average housing cost, then school graduation rate, then racial makeup, then political party leanings.

FWIW

David

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2011, 09:59:30 PM »
Sigh . . . .    Thanks for the link to the bestplaces site, David -- and all of y'all -- it is so wonderful to have each one of you for a resource!  Many heads are better than one, that's for sure!

David, I think the 9 out of 10 is a deal-breaker for me as well.  :(  I don't want to live where I NEED an Ak-47 for protection!  And dogs can get/be killed, no matter how well-trained they are.

I'm tough -- but I don't know if I'm tough enough.  I don't particularly want to live in a high-crime area . . . .  Trouble is, I don't have much money, and this was within my 'budget' of 30 grand . . . .

 I live in a very safe neighborhood now, though, and I like that feeling -- I'd be one of the solitary women out there, and looks like that could be an issue as well . . . . I've worked construction, and dealt with male "agro" before -- but I don't want to have to worry about any of that, actually . . . .  I'm too stubborn and onery sometimes myself! 

I did like the way the elders dealt with the youth gang, though -- and Stan and Maine and Mama Phyllis and . . . . what can I say, these people are, like a lot of 'poor in material wealth' people all over, very generous people.

The community featured in the film is about 2 miles further away from town than the straw bale -- and there's a community well at the cattle guard corner now, which you access with an ATM-like card -- so some things have changed since the film -- but I guess only for those people who have the 3 cents a gallon that the community well costs . . . . 

Again, thanks for all the helpful counsel, advice, and web-links!  Y'all are the greatest!    Obviously, I need to do some more investigation of this particular site . . .

:)
:)

Offline db4570

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2011, 08:41:20 PM »
Carroll

Geez, now I feel bad that I've turned you off of your dream.

The bestplaces site is helpful, but sometimes I can't comprehend the crime rates in some of these small towns. Sometimes I think it's accurate. You have a lot of meth activity, or some other criminal element. Other times I think the statistics could be a little out of context. For example, if you have one murder, a couple of bad bar fights, and a few burglaries, in a really small town in a year, their tiny population might make it look like it's a crime-ridden hell-hole, when the fact is still that they just had one murder (which is almost always totally unrelated to an innocent passer-by) and a couple of bar fights and a few burglaries. It's not much. But the population is 1/100 of some terrible inner-city gang-banger war zone which has 100 times the total crime. So it might make it seem to be equal in overall dangerousness to, say, Detroit, or someplace. Statistics are funny.

Would I feel more comfortable walking at night alone down a back street of Taos, or Detroit? Definitely Taos. (But a Detroit native might feel the exact opposite.)

But even though the statistics may be a little out of context, a 9 out of 10 is still alarming, no matter where it is. There are enough places where it's a LOT lower.

Out west is different. In the Northeast, where I'm from, and fantasizing about leaving, the small towns are generally very safe. Some of the closest ones to me are rated 1 or 2. One town that's a rural county seat is known for attracting a lot of welfare bums, and that's a 7, but people know it's a little shady. Out west it seems like a lot of the small towns have worse crime.

I just checked Silver City, NM, which is one of the places I have been thinking seriously about for some time. It's a 7. WT...? That is a lot higher than I remember. Did they have two instead of three bar fights this year, so their violent crime skyrocketed? I spent the better part of a week there, and while it was a bit of a rough and tumble western town, I never thought of it as unsafe. So is this a deal-breaker for me? No, but I'm sure going to investigate it a lot more closely before I move there.

I've been reading on another forum, city-data.com about another area I am curious about. The locals repeat the same advice to everyone thinking about moving there: spend some serious time on the ground checking it out, first, to get an idea of what the neighborhoods are really like. Sounds like wise advice before any move.

David

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2011, 10:16:55 PM »
Hi, David,

Thanks for your concern,  ;) !  You didn't turn me off to my dream, though-- I'm still thinking about it (quietly, because of my laryngitis!) -- so, I'm doing some more investigation.  I think the particular neighborhood my potential home is in could be one of the safer places -- I spent 2 wonderful (and cold) nights there, and basically no one was around. 

It helped to find out that the documentary "Living Off-Grid:  On the Mesa" was NOT filmed in 'my'  neighborhood, but one further away -- and, as soon as I can compile my various findings, I'll have an even better idea of exactly what I'm looking at, as far as a place to call  home.  I'm still entranced by the home itself, and the time I spent there;  I just need to do some more "homework" to find out if it's a viable place for me, specifically.

 Taos, itself, seems to have a lot more crime-ridden than in Tres Orejas -- and, at least it's pretty definite that you won't have someone putting up a meth lab next door in the latter spaces, because of the community -- which is pretty tight, if you want to be part of it (it's a lot different than the one portrayed in the two peaks documentary, though) -- there's a Buddhi stupa up on the hill, and a strong spiritual community.  (That said, I definitely need to go up there and hang out, meet some of the neighbors, make sure that what I'm getting is what I expect, etc.)

The documentary kind of scared me off, but it's not the same place -- just like one part of a town can be really unsafe and one part can be fairly safe.

Silverton, NM is pretty expensive, as far as I know.  Not necessarily to live, but to buy there . . . .  but then, I'm on a definitely shoestring budget, so you may have more resources.  I am glad that you wrote in, because all of the comments give me more investigative tools.  I'm really hoping that I'll be able to talk tomorrow, so I can call the seller and ask some more questions -- it's a good thing that he's a patient person!

I also found city-date.com to be useful -- I just know that, having lived a lot of my life in the humid South (NC and VA), once I got out to CO, the lack of humidity was WONDERFUL!  (As one skeleton said to the other, "But it's a DRY heat . . . .")  I use a whole lot more moisturizer, but I also don't sweat so much when I'm doing stuff -- so I want to stay out West.  Unfortunately, CO land is too pricey for me -- and I have a friend who lives in Albuquerque -- so NM was another place I was considering -- and then the Casita came up for sale, and . . . . 

We'll see . . . .

Good luck with your own plans -- and, if you have any other thoughts to share with me, please do!  The more heads thinking and talking about all of this, the better, as far as I'm concerned (all the talking I do inside my head starts to echo, hee, hee!)  That goes for anyone else out there, too -- THIS COMMUNITY IS AWESOME -- I still can't believe how fortunate I was to stumble upon it . . . .

:)
carroll
:)

Offline NM_Shooter

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2011, 05:53:34 AM »
There are some communities in NM that are not quite as risky as the Taos area, and where the land prices are not too bad.  Edgewood, Madrid come to mind.  Edgewood is a bit more civilized, but Madrid has the Taos funkiness if that sort of thing appeals to you. 

Northern NM makes me nervous.  Unless you are Castillian Spanish (and have family in the area) you won't be welcomed.  It can be pretty dangerous.  When traveling through the Mora valley, I tend to not stop unless I have my in-laws with me.  Unfortunately it is a hostile environment.
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Offline hpinson

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #19 on: December 26, 2011, 09:47:50 AM »
I think that movie paints an overly dramatic picture, and focuses on some really eccentric characters, living in one particular area, for the sake of drama.  There are lots of independent folks living west of Taos, good folks, lots of interest in the type of lifestyle a straw bale off the grid house entails-- perhaps you would fit right in with that? The Taos area really has so many positives.

Also, nothing is selling right now... least of all properties that have problems or are abandoned.  You probably have latitude to negotiate price!

We looked a bit in the area.  What was apparent was that there were deals to be had if you were willing to take on someone else's mess, and were ready to take on water and permitting issues.  Water was generally expensively deep on the Taos plateau, and often non-existant-- and a water source and septic system of some sort seems to be the limiting requirement for legal new building in NM now.  I remember that there is a dusty / noisy gravel pit north of Tres Pedres, and that a lot was for sale both north and south of that town.  Much north of there is very lightly populated up to San Antonio, and you are a long ways out from Taos. It is some beautiful remote country.

Also, I'm thinking that there are plenty of other pleasant and safe places around Taos-- north towards Lama (expensive), east into the Angel Fire / Eaglesnest area, and south of Tres Pedras towards Ghost Ranch and down throught the Abiquiu valley.

Other places in NM? Agree about Edgewood, and there is lots for sale at good prices there.  Madrid has some horrendous water problems that are not going to get better.  Magdalena east of Socorro, Carizozzo / Capitan area, Glennwood/ Pleasanton, Ramah area out towards Zuni-- all are pretty remote though. Silver City is great but is going through quite the real estate  boom right now it seems.  But like Taos it is a cultural center, and there is work to be had.

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #20 on: December 26, 2011, 08:32:53 PM »
Thanks, Hpinson!  (sorry, didn't know what else to call you!)

I'm doing the investigative work/budget I need now -- and yep, the movie is not only about another community, but even that other community has settled down quite a bit from its old "wild west" days -- more families moved in, and some of the others moved on -- and so it goes . . . .

I NOW HAVE A VOICE -- so I'll be doing some phone work tomorrow down to the Taos County area, trying to get some answers to questions.  That the community well water is available is a HUGE plus, since that aquifer is big -- and there's no gas/oil in the area, so I don't have to worry about some company leasing the mineral rights from the state and fracking/ruining the groundwater!  It's kind of scary for a Southerner to be in a place with no  water abundance -- but then, NC had drought conditions a few years ago, so who knows what will happen in this climate -- NO ONE.  (I do know that I don't want to start out in a place like Madrid, though -- you're right, those people are just out of luck (and water . . . .!)

I've looked at a lot of places in NM -- I particularly like this community and this house -- and yes, nothing's selling, but I think the price he's set is pretty fair.  He's done a LOT of work, and is willing to help me do more (although obviously he can't afford to just do it for free!).  He's held onto this land for a while -- and I don't mind working.  In fact, like a lot of people on this forum, I love doing stuff -- I'm just technologically challenged when it comes to being on my own with building (my visualization center hasn't worked correctly since I was in a car wreck at 16) -- so we'll see.  Doing the budget means getting some answers about property taxes (valuation per $100), car taxes, etc.  It seems everything is pretty low there (especially compared to Boulder, CO!), but all I can say is . . . .  we'll see . . . .

I'll keep y'all posted -- I'm still excited!

:)
carroll
:)

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2012, 10:20:29 PM »
Hi, Y'all,

I'm still investigating, doing budgets, etc., and it turns out that I need to go live in a tent, somewhere cheap.  Oh, well.  I'm still crunching numbers -- so maybe I can crunch them enough to change 'em!  (OK, that's a joke -- I know that statistics --and, for that matter, budgets -- can be made to support just about anything . . . which isn't useful, if you really need the info to be realistic!)  So, I'm doing different budgets, with different components (after all, who needs to communicate with the outside world, hee, hee!) 

I don't know if this is the appropriate forum, because it's a bit off-topic for Land, but how do you get home insurance for an off-grid place out in the boonies?  Or don't you?  It's one of my 'budget' categories, but if USAA won't insure it because there's no fire department close enough (I'll ask tomorrow, but that was a question she had that I couldn't answer when I got the first quote from her), what do I do then?

 Do you just try to be careful?  (Well, obviously, fire mitigation, etc., means that the answer to that question is a resounding YES, but what else do you do?)  I don't have another house that I can pair the casita in Taos to as a vacation home, because the casita's going to be my only home if/when I get it  . . . .

I might be going through some lean years for a while -- good thing I love beans and rice!  Hee, hee . . . . And libraries -- I haven't bought books that aren't reference books in years . . . . 

Thanks, everyone -- and I hope you're having a great 2012 so far -- all 2 or three days of it!

:)
carroll
:)

Offline MountainDon

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2012, 09:17:39 AM »
how do you get home insurance for an off-grid place out in the boonies


Every company will have their rules. State Farm would insure our cabin the the forest. They had a long list of requirements.  Then the rate varies with the type of construction, is the ecterior fire resistant materials, etc.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline carroll

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Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2012, 09:43:32 AM »
 :)  Thanks, MtnDon -- I'll call State Farm and see what their rates are . . . .  I was making the erroneous assumption that USAA would have the same rules that other companies had, except for being more accepting!

I appreciate the input -- I hadn't even called any other companies . . . yet.

:)
carroll
:)

Offline NM_Shooter

  • Journeyman
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  • Posts: 2,788
  • Sometimes I sit and think. Mostly I just sit.
Re: place near Taos, NM?
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2012, 12:01:16 PM »
What about this?  Near Ruidoso....

http://nmvalledelsol.com

"Officium Vacuus Auctorita"

 

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