"It's been hard to find housing here since 2004. I think a lot of it is attributable to population growth," said George Dunagan of Dunagan Associates. As an owner and qualifying broker of a real estate company, Dunagan has been following the Carlsbad housing market for quite some time.
"FLETC is when it all started," said Dunagan, referring to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center that brought an influx of border patrol agents to Carlsbad. "They have instructors that come in on a rotation basis from 3 months to one year plus. There's lots of them, and they rent houses in Roswell, Artesia, and Carlsbad."
But besides FLETC, other factors have contributed to the rapid population growth and the need for housing in Carlsbad. "The medical expansion, the pot ash, and the oil and gas," listed Dunagan. "All of the people working in those industries need places to live. That's created a high demand and low supply in residential rentals."
"Carlsbad continues to grow, and with it, the CDOD continues to address housing needs for our community," promises the Carlsbad Department of Development on their website. John Waters, Executive Director for the CDOD continues to be positive about the housing market, and spoke very positively about Carlsbad's growing population and the need for housing expansion.
"I am really enthusiastic about the community I grew up in," said Waters. "Certainly, oil and pot ash are doing fantastic. Pot ash is selling now for well over $500 a ton, and oil prices are up to the $100-a-barrel range. The prices for gas are a little bit lower, but there are still gas wells being drilled. For the last three years, Eddy County has out drilled all other counties in the state of New Mexico combined. We've out drilled Lea County 3 to 1, and we're actually out drilling Texas counties. In addition to drilling more, the prices are high enough to where we're really reaping a benefit from it."
"We know that there is still a big need for rental homes," added Waters. "We saw the uptake start about 3 years ago. When everybody else was in a recession, we didn't notice it here. That's what drove our apartment complex boom that we have right now. I know that before the construction of the rental houses and apartments started, older apartment complexes had 40 to 50 people on the waiting list."
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway also commented on the current housing situation and the recent growth of the population. "For the last three years, it's been good, steady growth. The official number is 26,000 inside the city limits." However, he was quick to add that within a 15-mile radius of the town's center, there are 42,000 residents who claim Carlsbad as their hometown.
Waters believes that with the expected 2014 construction of Intercontinental Potash bringing a possible 800 jobs to Carlsbad, these population numbers are sure to increase.
"We have more than 1,000 apartments being built right now. From everything I understand, they're being leased and rented just as quick as they become available. I think the same thing with rental houses all over Carlsbad. We're working with builders to try to get as many as we can as quick as we can," assures the mayor.
"We definitely need more rentals available," said Dixie Carroll, an associate broker and property manager who has been with ERA Montgomery Real Estate for the last four years. "They've gone to apartment complexes, and that seems to be helping some."
But even with more housing becoming available as apartments near the end of construction, Carlsbad citizens are still complaining that rental rates are being raised and are at many times "insanely high," as one Current-Argus Facebook fan put it.
"I do think rental prices have risen some, and I think it's been a really sharp increase since the oil and gas industry has really kept our rental market up. Plus we are seeing almost no vacancies with properties," said Cathie Head, who manages 60 properties for Century 21. "Homes are renting as soon as they are available." Such was the case yesterday with a rental home on Alameda Street. Head said that within an hour of the house becoming available, she had already found a tenant.
Head also had some advice for individuals who have not encountered such good luck in the renter's market. "People who are not finding rental homes but do qualify for a mortgage might want to consider buying a home since mortgage rates are at an all-time low," she suggested.
"I think our market has definitely been on the increase," said Denise Griffith, who sells homes for Means Real Estate. Though Griffith did admit that the price of houses has gone up in the last year, she also stated that it is a good time to buy a home. "I think the lower interest rates have a whole lot to do with it, and the economy of Carlsbad is pretty darn good. I don't think housing has met its full potential now," she said, "but I think we're doing it. I think we're meeting the needs of Carlsbad."
But CDOD's John Waters is not so sure. "Carlsbad has challenges. It's a rural community. There's probably a need for more single family homes in Carlsbad."
The fact that apartment complexes are filling up their three-four bedroom apartments first is an indication that whole families are primarily the ones in need of housing.
"(The apartments) probably will meet maybe half of our multi-family housing needs," explained Waters. "The potash industry and hospital have all lost people because they couldn't find housing in Carlsbad. A lot of folks are finding out that it's just very competitive out there, and the lack of housing is holding Carlsbad back. We could be exploding."
But Waters would like to reassure the community that the current state of affairs in the rental market can only be an indication of good things to come. Any growing town must encounter these circumstances at one time or another, and with more and more people choosing Carlsbad as their home, "We are fortunate," said Waters. "It's a great problem to be in the situation that we're in."