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Las Cruces real estate broker Steve Montanez acquired New Mexico Properties in September, but his “office” is any number of coffee shops around Las Cruces.
In fact, “Let’s meet for coffee” is often the prelude to doing business for Montanez, who has been in the real estate business in Las Cruces for more than 10 years.
Montanez, who is a member of the Doña Ana County Planning and Zoning Commission, the National Homebuilders Association and the New Mexico Association of Realtors, is bullish on Las Cruces and its future, and gets excited about “any new potential development” in the city or county. But he also acknowledges there are major issues facing the real estate and home building industries here and across the country.
“We’re going through some challenging times right now,” Montanez said, noting that interest rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages (the most popular home loan) increased to more than six percent earlier this year. The jump to 6.02 percent in September put interest rates above six percent for the first time since 2008, and nearly twice the 3.22 percent rate last January.
“Our value is finding other solutions,” he said, including refinishing, an adjustable-rate mortgage and seller point buydowns.
“There are lots of solutions out there,” Montanez said.
A shortage of available housing also continues in Las Cruces, Montanez said. The average home price is about $275,000, which he said is “still a very good median price,” but listings are down from a year ago because there are fewer houses to sell.
Supply-chain issues, especially shortages of lumber and other building materials, continue to drive prices up, Montanez said, and there is also a shortage of skilled labor in the construction industry.
“We’ve forgotten how to teach people to work with their hands,” he said.
That’s one reason Montanez was part of a real estate panel discussion during the Las Cruces Home Builders Association’s Tyson Brown Memorial Building My Future 2022 event in Las Cruces in October.
Regulatory issues are also a problem, he said, including requirements for builders to use certain materials and codes – green infrastructure that can push home prices out of reach for many potential buyers.
Montanez stays in regular contact with local leaders and elected officials, he said, to continue to push for “solutions to streamline the process,” help the consumer and make homes more affordable.
But “homebuilders are very resilient,” Montanez said, and continue to give back to their community.
Local homebuilders participate in the Building My Future project, he said, along with Casa for a Cause, the Education House that students at Organ Mountain High School are helping to build, a building project at Tutti Bambini used children’s clothing store that involves donated labor and materials and other projects benefitting local nonprofits and people in need.
His close work with homebuilders has also made Montanez a better real estate agent, he said, because he has a better understanding of home construction and can give more detailed information to potential homebuyers.
“Home builders have taught me so many things,” he said.
“I love building grass roots connections with my fellow community members,” Montanez said. “I love helping other people with their business goals and aspirations.”
His career has also allowed him to spend more time with family. Son Henry, 11, and daughter Lylah, 6, are frequently with their dad during working hours as “part of my everyday journey,” he said.
“I’m grateful to be in an industry that allows me to do that,” Montanez said. “My wife (Christine) and children are the center of my universe.”
He also continues to donate to and support many local nonprofits.
Montanez, who ran for Las Cruces City Council in 2017, also lobbies during sessions of the New Mexico Legislature in Santa Fe.
“We stay busy,” he said. “People tell me all the time, ‘You’re everywhere!’”
Montanez’s long-time friend Chris Bunn of Silver city is a New Mexico Properties associate.
“I’m grateful to have Chris with me to build this company,” Montanez said. New Mexico Properties opened in 2016.