A Guide to Moving to: New Mexico

(Everything you need to know - and more)

Late afternoon in the Red Rocks area of Northern New Mexico featuring amazing colors and rock formations

 New Mexico is a state with a colorful history centuries older than the country it is part of. Maybe even a history not of this world (the jury is still out on that). While the ancient cliff dwellings and otherworldly reputation are two reasons the state is so enchanting, New Mexico has more than just UFO sightings to offer. 

For those who are thinking of a move to this desert state (as in sandy, not sweet), but aren’t sure what the deal is with this seemingly magical place, we’ve got you covered. What jobs are available? What’s the housing market like? Was there really an alien landing? We’ll try to answer these questions (aliens are still up for debate) and more in this quick and easy guide to moving to the Land of Enchantment. 

No matter where you choose to move in New Mexico, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Job Market

People living in the New Mexico may not be quite so enchanted with the current job market. With an unemployment rate of 5.8%, the state is pretty high above the national average, which is hovering around 4.1%. Wallet Hub also ranked the state 43rd overall for the best states for jobs when taking into account economic opportunities and available jobs. 

Out of the available jobs the state does have, many are in health services. According to Zippia, the top fastest-growing jobs are personal care assistant, home health aide, and physical therapist. The state’s leaders in employment are the New Mexico VA Health Care System, Lovelace Health System, and Presbyterian Healthcare Services. If you’re in the healthcare field, and you’re dead set on New Mexico, it may be your lucky day. 

Besides health services, construction saw a 9.0% rise in employment in the last 12 months, while financial activities saw a 4.8% rise. The minimum wage is  $7.50 an hour, while the cost of living was ranked 24th by U.S. News, which makes it just about average. 

Housing

New Mexico has a population hovering around two million, and it doesn’t seem to be budging very much. The population is stagnant for a few reasons, the main one being that not many people are moving in, and more are moving out. Outsiders just aren’t seeing the enchanting side of the state, and housing is one reason. 

Since people won’t be soaring into space anytime soon, the new construction homes are limited. What few they have are mostly concentrated around the metropolitan areas of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The majority of homes in the state were built between 2000 and 2010, meaning most prehistoric dwellings are officially off the market. We did hear Airbnb is a good place to look, though. 

Home prices for the state are hovering around the national average as well, and it’s predicted that the prices will go up 2.1% in the next year (state can’t catch a break). U.S. News ranked its housing affordability 33rd. Sources put the median home value for the state at $182,500, and the median rent price at $1,200.

People and Culture

The otherworldly natural landscapes of New Mexico only add to the alluring diversity seen throughout the state. While the Native American and Hispanic origins of the state go back millennia, there has been an eclectic mixing of ethnicities and cultures throughout the state over the years. No city represents that better than Santa Fe. 

Home to more than 70 ethnicities, this multicultural capital city is home to not only Native American, Latino and Anglo cultures, but also African-American, Asian and Middle Eastern. It’s a smorgasbord of cultures all wrapped up in a charming southwestern vibe. 

Outside of the state’s capital and other tourist destinations like Albuquerque , the state experiences substantial generational poverty. While the tourist centers represent the state’s lively culture and diversity well, the smaller villages dotting the landscape portray what life is really like for the majority of the state’s population. Warm friendly welcomes may not be as prevalent in the areas not so heavily tourist-driven. 

While food scarcity, poor education, and  high levels of unemployment and poverty are the main features of society in the rural areas, substantial elements of Hispanic and Native American cultures can still be felt through the destitution.  

If you’re hoping for a welcoming dynamic urban center with chill southwestern vibes, and access to amenities and cultural events, the metropolitan areas are probably your best bet. If peaceful small-town living is more your style, there are plenty of nondescript towns dotting the landscape, but that life comes with the cost of economic security. 

Must-Sees in New Mexico

No state is without their crown jewels of tourism , and New Mexico is no exception. For all of the history buffs out there, hold onto your cowboy boots. New Mexico is filled with ancient and beautiful sights. Here are a few of those must-sees that every New Mexican would heartily advise putting on your list: 

  • Roswell: If New Mexico is renowned for anything, it’s for its shady (and sometimes comical) past with UFOs. The International UFO Museum and Research Center is located in Roswell, and largely focuses on the 1947 Roswell Crash and later claims of UFO incidents all over the world.  
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Located in the Guadalupe Mountains, this stunning park offers visitors deep canyons and desert wildlife to discover (a bit lacking in UFOs, though). However, the highlight of the park is not what lies above ground, it’s what lies beneath. There are more than 100 caves hidden beneath the Chihuahuan Desert where the park is located.  
  • Ra Paulette’s Hand-Carved Caves: These one-of-a-kind gems can be found in La Madera, in the desert north of Santa Fe. For over 25-years artist Ra Paulette has been hand-carving caves out of the desert, creating intricate underground marvels. Once he’s done, he leaves, allowing fate to take over. Most caves are located on private land, so a tour is advised. 
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park: This park can be found near Nageezi. It offers visitors a glimpse into the prehistoric past. The area was home to thousands of people between 850 and 1250 A.D. Visitors can explore the massive ancestral Pueblo buildings that are still scattered across the landscape. 
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: This 533-acre national monument was created to protect the ancient Mogollon cliff dwellings found in the Gila wilderness. They are believed to have been inhabited between 1275 and the early 14th century. 
  • The Lightning Field: Although it may not be as ancient as the others on this list, it still has significant cultural value. Completed in 1977 by sculptor Walter De Maria, this work of land art is situated in a remote area in the high desert of western New Mexico. It’s made up of 400 stainless steel poles installed in a one mile by one kilometer grid. A hair-raising experience if there ever was one. This one needs to be experienced to be believed. 

Pros and Cons of Living in New Mexico

Apart from enchanting landscapes and the occasional UFO sighting, New Mexico has some pros and cons that should be considered before any move is taken.   

Pros of living in New Mexico:

  • Cost of education: School is affordable. Period. The average cost of in-state tuition is $3,181. That’s one of the lowest in the country. If you’re thinking about going back to school, this may be a good state to consider. Your wallet will thank you later. 
  • Natural beauty: The landscape in New Mexico is breathtaking. Many people say it’s unlike anything else in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why it’s been the backdrop of potential UFO sightings for decades. The magical scenery only adds to the alien-esque charm.
  • History and culture: This state’s full of it. From the oldest established city in the U.S. (New Mexico wasn’t technically a state at the time) to the wide variety of flavors represented in its cities, this state is the OG of southwestern charm and diversity. 

Cons of living in New Mexico:

  • Quality of education: Graduation rates of high schools and 4-year colleges are much lower than the national average, with high school graduation rates a bit under 70%. The state is suffering from loads of generational poverty in its rural areas, so access to and quality of education are a lot lower than what is desired.
  • Economy: U.S. News ranked the state’s economy 46th. With a high unemployment rate and a greater number of people leaving the state than staying, business has gone a bit stagnant and so has the economy. Without much growth in sight, many people are leaving for better job opportunities elsewhere.  
  • Crime rate: Public safety here is ranked last among all the states in the U.S. It has a high rate of property and violent crimes. 

Weird Laws

Every state has them. While most are laugh-worthy, these could potentially land you in in jail overnight. Best be safe rather than sorry. 

  • In Las Cruces, it is against the law to carry a lunch box down Main Street. For anyone planning on living in Las Cruces, going old-school with a brown paper bag is advised.
  • In Albuquerque, cabbies aren’t permitted to reach out and pull potential customers into their cabs. Just so you know your rights, in case any cabbies get a little handsy with you.
  • It’s illegal to challenge someone to a duel with a deadly weapon or to accept such a challenge, even if the duel never takes place. Forget actual dueling, even suggesting a duel can land you some jail time. To all the Renaissance faire-goers out there, here’s your warning. 
  • Indecent waitering is a petty misdemeanor. Private parts and food are a match made in heaven, said no one ever. 

Welcome to New Mexico

New Mexico is a special state, filled with some pretty cool cultures that are worlds away from what the rest of the country experiences. Shaped by its prehistoric (and otherworldly) past, this state is not one to be overlooked. 

While it may be struggling in some important areas, you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover. Yes, the state might be suffering from some of the highest levels of poverty in the U.S., but the great thing about states (and their people) is that they are always changing. 

As a cultural presence, New Mexico has been surviving and growing for a long time – since long before the rest of the states were even a thought on a map. Chances are it will stick around, and with some hope, thrive again. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.

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