Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Living Large.(New Mexico & The West)

Byline: LEANNE POTTS Of the Journal

Thriving economy shows in the cavernous homes springing up in Albuquerque

You probably didn't need anybody to tell you this: a lot of really big houses-bordering-on-small-castles are being built in Albuquerque. Drive around the North Valley or the Foothills and it seems little mansions are going up everywhere you look, Gatsbyesque in their sprawl and scale, with garages that are bigger than the average 1950s-era Heights tract house. Is it just us, we think, or is blue-collar, unflashy Albuquerque in the grips of a minor case of Trophy Home Syndrome?

Numbers from the Bernalillo County Assessor's Office confirm what we all suspected: There has been a big-house building binge in Albuquerque. As of this month, the number of new houses larger than 3,000 square feet has more than doubled since last year. Last year, 3.4 percent of the new houses built locally were larger than 3,000 square feet; by the third quarter of this year that number has increased to 7.5 percent.

True to our poorest-in-the-nation status, we're still far behind the luxury fever of the times. We've gotten the crumbs of the Boom Economy. Albuquerque's rate of trophy-house building is less than half the national average (17 percent of U.S. houses built last year were big enough to be considered a trophy home.)

And the city's trophy home percentage still isn't where it was in the mid-80s, when the oil industry was flying higher than J.R. Ewing's Lear jet. In 1985 the eve of the oil bust and two years from the stock market crash nearly 10 percent of the new homes built in Bernalillo County were larger than 3,000 square feet.

We've chosen 3,000 square feet as the minimum size requirement for trophy home designation for this reason: That is the size threshold at which one needs to hire outside help say, a housekeeper to take care of the place. …

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