The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In New Mexico

If you love the American Southwest, you’ll be simply mesmerized by these 10 places in the Land of Enchantment.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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We’ve had the privilege of travelling to some amazing places here at Movoto Real Estate, from District 12 to the delightfully twisted mind of Tim Burton. Today we’re heading to the (very real) Land of Enchantment itself—New Mexico, that is.

With its mountains, rolling plains, forests, beautiful summers, snowy winters, and places like Chaco Canyon and Rocks with Wings, this state can sound more like one of our fictional locations than a place within North America. Which place within this state is the most enchanting of them all? According to our analysis, it’s the City of Artesia. Of course there were nine other places that were almost as enchanting; here are the 10 best places in New Mexico:

1. Los Alamos
2. City of Farmington
3. North Valley
4. City of Artesia
5. City of Carlsbad
6. City of Albuquerque
7. City of Lovington
8. City of Rio Rancho (tie)
8. City of Hobbs (tie)
10. City of Santa Fe

Just what is so enchanting about Los Alamos, and why is Santa Fe at the bottom of our list? Keep reading and we’ll take you through the method of our analysis and just why each of these places enchanted us so.

How We Did It

Whether we’re looking at homes built from LEGO bricks, the most exciting small cities, or, in this case, an actual Land of Enchantment, we use measurable criteria in order to come up with our lists. In order to find the Best Places To Live In New Mexico, we relied on these seven:

  • Total amenities
  • Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
  • Total crimes
  • Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
  • Unemployment
  • Commute time
  • Weather (temperature and air quality)

We then took a look at the U.S. Census data for all of the places in New Mexico with populations over 10,000 people. We quickly learned one thing that may add to the state’s enchanted feeling is the sheer lack of overcrowding, because there were only 26 places with populations over 10,000 (compare that to Texas’s 242).

After that, we ranked each mystical place from one to 26 in each of the seven criteria above, with one being the best possible score. After that, we averaged each ranking for an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner.

To check out the entire list of 26 places, scroll down to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, come along with us as we take you to the most enchanted land of all: Los Alamos.

1. Los Alamos

Los Alamos, NM

Source: Los Alamos County

Built upon four mystical mesas of the Pajarito Plateau and White Rock Canyon lies Los Alamos. This place is perhaps best known as the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of two laboratories in the U.S. where classified work toward the design of nuclear weapons takes place. In fact, it is largely because of this lab that Los Alamos did so well in our analysis.

For example, the high median income of $101,503, the low unemployment rate of just 2.7 percent, and the high median home and rent prices ($308,400 and $905 respectively) probably have a little something to do with the fact that as of 2012, the lab employed 7,600 Los Alamos residents (that’s almost half the population). Plus, Los Alamos ranked well in safety, with a crime rate of just 1,620 crimes per 100,000 people, and had one of the best scores in weather, with an average summer temperature of 69 degrees and air quality score of just 13 (the lower the better).

2. Farmington

Farmington, NM

Source: City of Farmington

It doesn’t take a study to realize that this San Juan County city is simply packed with things to do. There is the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Park, the Salmon Ruins, the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village, and of course, Three Rivers Brewery; and even aside from amenities, Farmington has a lot going on.

For example, with a median household income of $49,705, Farmington was the fourth best paid on our list, and with a high median rent price of $718, it is clear that this area is desirable. And why wouldn’t it be? Farmington had some of the best weather in our ranking, with clear skies and an average summer temperature of 73 degrees, and at 19 minutes, folks here had one of the lowest average commute times on our list.

3. North Valley

North Valley, NM

Source: Flickr user City of Albuquerque Open Space

Also known as North Albuquerque, this Bernalillo County place is home to a whole lot more than the Boiler Monkey food truck (though really, aren’t their crepes reason alone to move to the area?). There are always tons of things to do here, and with one of the higher median household incomes in the state, it seems residents can afford to do them.

North Valley also has one of the highest median home prices on our list, $204,600, indicating the area’s desirability, and with some of the best weather and a crime rate 52 percent lower than the rest of the state, it’s no wonder people want to move here.

4. Artesia

Artesia, NM

Source: Artesia Chamber of Commerce

This city of just over 11,000 residents is located in Eddy County, and according to its website is known as the “City of Champions.” After looking at our numbers, we kind of have to agree. You guys rock; let us count the ways.

First of all, with a cost of living of just 83 where the national average is 100, Artesia is one of the least expensive in our list overall, and certainly one of the cheapest in our top 10. Artesia also scored points for one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios in our analysis, just 12 to 1, and an unemployment rate of just 3.8 percent. So if by “champions” you mean that you are well employed, have wonderful classrooms, a good cost of living, and overall quality of life—then yes, you pretty much nailed it.

5. Carlsbad

Carlsbad, NM

Source: Wikipedia user AllenS

Perhaps best known for the breathtaking and utterly mind-bogglingly awesome Carlsbad Caverns National Park (just southwest of the city), this place ranked well in our analysis for a number of reasons. First of all, Carlsbad had one of the lowest unemployment rates in our analysis, just 3.8 percent, and it also had one of the better quality of life scores overall.

What’s a good quality of life look like in Carlsbad? How about a high median household income of nearly $44,000, a student-to-teacher ratio of just 15 to 1, and a cost of living of just 84 where the national average is 100. Plus, they are just miles from not one, but two of the nation’s most beautiful national parks. Not too bad, Carlsbad.

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6. Albuquerque

Albuquerque, NM

Source: Wikipedia user Ken Lund

With over 555,000 residents, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, and so it may not come as a surprise that one of the main reasons it ranked so well in our analysis was for its number of amenities. Of course, aside from the Science Center and Children’s Museum, the Albuquerque Biological Park, or an Isotopes Game, Albuquerque scored well in a number of our other criteria as well.

For example, this large city had a surprisingly low student-to-teacher ratio, just 14 to 1. It also had some of the highest median home and rent prices in the state ($188,600 and $712), indicating a strong desirability to live in the area. And with a sales tax of just 6.87 percent (where the income tax is 4.9 percent across the state), it is no wonder people are queuing up to move to The Duke City.

7. Lovington

Lovington, NM

Source: Wikipedia user AllenS

Located in southeastern New Mexico, Lovington is a friendly, progressive, and uncrowded little city of just over 11,000 residents, and according to the city’s website, is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.

And after our analysis, it turns out… that’s absolutely right. This lovely city ranked as the least expensive in our top 10, with a cost of living score of just 82, compared to the national average of 100, and residents here have some of the lowest sales tax rates in the state, just 6.63 percent. Lovington also clearly loves its employees, because with an unemployment rate of just 4 percent, it was ranked the fifth most employed place in our analysis.

8. Rio Rancho (tie)

Rio Rancho, NM

Source: Flickr user mnchilemom

Rio Rancho is known as the economic hub of Sandoval County. It is home to many businesses (Intel, for example), home to many amenities, and home to almost 91,000 residents… and according to the Census, it is growing.

Why are people clamouring to move to this city? Apart  from its many amenities, at $59,063, the median household income here is 45 percent higher than the state. Also, the crime rate is just 2,033 crimes per 100,000, making this the fourth safest place on our list. Oh, and the gross receipts tax is just 7.4375 percent. No wonder rent prices are higher here than anywhere else in New Mexico at a median of $973 per month.

8. Hobbs (tie)

Hobbs, NM

Source: Flickr user fireflythegreat

Tied with Rio Rancho for our No. 8 spot was the City of Hobbs. Hobbs ranked as one of the best when it came to restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and other amenities. If doing fun things isn’t really your cup of tea, don’t worry, because Hobbs has other of non-amenity perks too. Things like going to work. With an unemployment rate of just 4 percent, you’d fit right in if you just wanted to head to the office—which, by the way, you’d only have to spend an average of 18 minutes commuting to in this lovely city.

Whatever you’re into doing, the great thing about Hobbs is, here you can feel safe doing it, as this city was the 11th safest on our list.

10. Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM

Source: Flickr user katsrcool (Kool Cats Photography)

Last and certainly not least on our list was the City of Santa Fe. The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe means “Holy Faith” in Spanish, and after looking at our numbers, holy cow, do we have faith that this city is way cooler than we even imagined. Aside from the unique architecture, festivals, beautiful environment, art galleries, boutiques, rich culture (and on and on), it turns out Santa Fe is great for some less visible reasons as well.

For example, Santa Fe had one of the highest quality of life scores overall with its median household income of $49,947, median home price of $311,300, and a median rent price of $879. Plus, for the impressive 92 percent of residents who are employed, their commute time is just 20 minutes on average, which means one thing: more time to enjoy this lovely city.

Charmed, to Say the Least

Well, New Mexico, you have charmed us with your amenities, you have mesmerized us with your quality of life, and you have simply enchanted us with your beautiful weather and clean air. We must say, if you’re living in one of the 10 places on our list, it is pretty clear you are a winner—especially, if you’re in Los Alamos, the most enchanted place of them all.

Best Places To Live In New Mexico

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posted on: March 10, 2014
238,129 views, 16 comments


  1. Rose

    I agree with Jeremy Parks. South Eastern New Mexico is filled with me th heads and it smells like rotten eggs. I think Hobbs and Lovington is the arm pit of hell. I had only bad memories when I lived there. I don’t even like to go visit my family there. The northern part of the state is so much better.

  2. Gary

    I have to agree with Jeremy also. I haven’t lived there for 30 years, but it’s still hot and dry. The smell of the refineries is still there, and I doubt that there is anything for the younger generations there.

  3. bran

    My family has been looking to move to N.M. which is how we came upon this blog. However, upon seeing Los Alamos listed as the #1 choice for quality of life, we almost had a heart attack. The LANL (Los Alamas National Laboratory, Sandia Labs, et al) is a known polluter of toxins. (If in doubt, read “The Orphaned Land” by V.B. Price). Rio Rancho and Corrales have been spoiled by Intel’s pollution. We had selected Corrales as our next home, but a book entitled “Boiling Frogs” by Barbara Rockwell, set alarm bells ringing. We are currently at a loss where to move to in N.M. We love N.M., but we want a healthy place to live and grow old in. We’re still considering Santa Fe, although there are issues there too. Kiss goodbye your natural resources for your grand-children to enjoy.

  4. Ren

    Santa Fe: Angry people, terrible walking conditions, rich people with second homes, cat calls for every woman walking around–constantly, landlords from hell, reverse racism, racism, culture clashes (this is not a melting pot). Get real. If you didn’t grow up here you are the outgroup–make no mistake, if you’re just trying to make it on your own, forget it. This place is terrible despite the beautiful weather.

    The metrics for this article do not accurately reflect reality. Get real, and write about a place in which you’ve actually lived.

  5. Jackie

    I have lived in Albuquerque since December, 1988. Out of all of the places to choose from, Albuquerque is the best in terms of outdoor living, convenient amenities and people. I’d be happy to show you some great neighborhoods, bike and walking trails, farmer’s markets, and more. The weather is more temperate than Santa Fe or Los Alamos, for sure.

  6. Shar

    Do not even consider Farmington. It is an oil & gas town. There isn’t much to do around here. Because of a job promotion I relocatied here from Albuququerque and I am ready to leave. The people here are rude, customer service is a rarity in stores, good eateries are almost nonexistent. The local health food store is pretty much lacking in maintaining their shelves and produce stocked. I’ve found myself shopping either in Durango CO, stocking up in Albuquerque or ordering online. The cost of gasoline is high in this car dependent town. There isn’t any form of the cultural arts. Since leaving the area 20+ years ago, I still find racism still as prevalent.

  7. David

    The only real place in New Mexico would be Las Cruces, which has grown considerably in the last 10 years. The Organ Mountain range, the Rio Grande River, and excellent weather year round offer many opportunities for anyone loving the outdoors, do some research, or better yet visit and see for yourself.

  8. David

    Albuquerque is the murder Capital of the entire state especially the area known as the War Zone A gang and drug infested sewer, don’t take my word for it once again do your own research check Albuquerque Newspapers past and present so many shootings by rival dope gangs you may as well move to south America seriously Albuquerque is an aweful place to drive through assuming you make it through safely a smart person would keep going.

  9. David

    I have lived in new Mexico for over 40 years and do not know a single person in the state that loves Albuquerque and have known a whole lot of people who left most after being victims of crime. Tourism Agencies are really good at making any place look desirable. The so called low teacher to student rate means nothing the new Mexico school system ranks poorly by national standards combined with Albuquerques drop out rates and violent schools education is not a selling point for Albuquerque.

  10. David

    Cops in Albuquerque recently shot a homeless individual for doing nothing (all over the news) and do nothing about crime.

  11. David

    You obviously know squat about New Mexico,

  12. David

    I will stop harping on this after this one last comment, Albuquerque news every night reports some violent crime yes even in the so called. Nicer parts of town. This site unfortunately is based on real estate and ignores all else.

  13. David

    Only interested in lies so here is the truth Albuquerque is great the crime rate is exceptional buy a big overpriced house from some realtor who cares nothing for your safety then lie back and relax while the burglars, vandals and other local talent keep you mesmerized.

  14. Emmanuel

    I love the comments on

  15. Ron

    What a pack of lies….and glad they got it wrong…come on down and wallow
    in the misery…

  16. Victor

    I now live in the eastern part of the U.S. And miss New Mexico terribly. I grew up in Santa Fe. Not the friendliest place yet beautiful beyond words. I also lived in the Farmington/Aztec area. I found the people there to be very friendly!!! And minimal hours from some of the most beautiful places in the country, in my opinion. Las Cruces has grown tremendously and thirty minutes from a larger metropolitan area, El Paso. And I know many many people who love living in Albuquerque.


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