Albuquerque, also referred to locally as ABQ and Duke City, is the most populous city in New Mexico and is just an hour’s drive southwest of Santa Fe. Known as the hot air ballooning capital of the world, the sprawling city of Albuquerque boasts a picturesque high desert landscape, diverse cultural history, and vibrant art scene. The city’s modern downtown is juxtaposed against Old Town Albuquerque, which dates back to many centuries of Native American habitation, and the 1706 Spanish colonization of the area, and an old west legacy; the cultures are a testament to the city’s rich heritage.
As the location of the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, Albuquerque sometimes gets a bad rap for higher than average crime and a challenging job market compared to other states. However, ABQ is a great place to live and raise a family – with more than 300 days of sunshine, a reasonable cost of living, minimal traffic congestion, and family-friendly neighborhoods in highly rated school districts.
Keep reading to learn more about Albuquerque and prepare for your move. When you’re ready to get going, request a quote from Great Guys to find fully vetted, licensed, and insured movers who’ll take the stress out of your move.
Living in Albuquerque, NM: What to Know Before Moving to ABQ
Albuquerque is the largest, most populous city in New Mexico and is home to over 500,000 residents. When you live in ABQ, you’ll enjoy a slower pace of life, a lower than average cost of living, minimal traffic on the roads, and a beautiful desert landscape. Keep reading this comprehensive guide for everything you need to know before moving to Duke City.
Pros and Cons of Living in Albuquerque
Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a fun place to live, especially for those who love to explore the outdoors and want to live among tons of culture, history, and great food. However, in any move to a new city, you should always prepare for both the good and the bad.
- Budget-friendly: Affordable housing and a low cost of living, perfect for budget-conscious families.
- Diversity: Rich history and cultural diversity also mean great food from a variety of ethnic origins.
- Affordable College Options: ABQ is a great place to get an inexpensive post-secondary education.
- Slower life: Albuquerque boasts a slower pace of life, without the traffic congestion and hustle-and-bustle of a big city.
- Fantastic weather: This part of NM boasts a warm climate with little to no snow, aside from in the mountains. Without salt on the roads, cars can stay in much better condition.
- Weekend getaways: ABQ is just an hour’s drive to Santa Fe, which is a great destination for day trips or overnights.
- Job market: Higher than average rate of unemployment and a more limited job market compared to other cities in the US.
- Altitude: At an elevation of 5,312 feet, the high altitude, combined with the desert climate, can be uncomfortable for some individuals. If you’re moving to the area from sea level, it may take a few days to adjust to the altitude before you engage in strenuous physical activity.
- Crime: Crime rates in Albuquerque are higher than average for a US city. It’s important to research neighborhoods in advance so you can find the best and safest places to live.
- Education: Pockets of poor K-12 education and lower than average high school graduation rates. Researching school districts ahead of time can help you avoid these downsides.
- Getting around: Limited public transportation means you’ll likely be dependent on your vehicle.
If you’re moving from out of state, the difference in tax rates can be significant, depending on where you’re moving from. Compare the local Albuquerque tax rates to your current tax rates so that you can account for any differences. Overall, Albuquerque tax rates are modest, and in many cases, you’re likely to see tax savings when you move in from out of town.
- The property tax rate in Albuquerque is 0.96%, which is below the national average of 1.211%.
- The sales tax rate in Albuquerque is 7.875%, slightly higher than the average of 7.3% for the US.
- The state income tax rate in Albuquerque is 1.7%-4.9% depending on your income-based tax bracket. This rate is on the lower end of the spectrum for state income taxes; the US average is 4.6%.
There are many affordable houses for sale in ABQ. As of September 2019, Zillow reports the median price of homes that are currently listed is $234,900, which is much more affordable than many other cities in the country. Rental prices are also extremely reasonable, coming in at a median price of $729 per month for a one-bedroom, or $893 for a two-bedroom as of September 2019.
Renting a home is common in Albuquerque, and there are plenty of apartments and other rental properties from which to choose. According to bestplaces.net, 37.7% of Albuquerque residents rent their homes.
If you’re pinching pennies, the cheapest places to live in Albuquerque include Four Hill, Ladera West, Tijeras Arroyo, Snow Heights, and Singing Arrow. See more budget-friendly neighborhoods in Albuquerque.
Cost of Living
The overall Albuquerque cost of living is ranked 91.1 on bestplaces.net, which is lower than the US average of 100. Grocery, health, housing, utilities, and transportation costs are lower than the US average. In Albuquerque, the median household income is $47,413, lower than the national average of $53,482. The Family Budget Calculator estimates that a family of four would require an annual income of $73,839 to live comfortably.
Weather & Natural Disasters
For the most part, Albuquerque is typically dry and sunny, with relatively low humidity and over 300 days of sunshine each year. The dry air means winters are mild, and you’ll find the summer heat is a bit more bearable than it would be at the same temperature in a high humidity climate.
The two hottest months are June, with average highs of 88°F and lows of 62°F, and July with average highs of 90°F and lows of 66°F. The two coolest months are December, with average highs of 46°F and lows of 26°F, and January with average highs of 47°F and lows of 26°F. Due to the desert climate, rain and snow are scarce. On average, Albuquerque gets about 10 inches of rain and 10 inches of snow per year. Rain falls most frequently in July and August.
While Albuquerque does experience seasonal temperature changes, don’t hold out for a white Christmas. When snow does fall, it rarely sticks. But, if you can’t live without your dose of winter snow, take the tramway to Sandia Peak on the outskirts of the city to enjoy some great skiing.
Albuquerque is at little to no risk for three of the most common natural disasters – tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. However, wildfires can be a threat to homes and property. To stay informed and learn what to do in case of wildfire, visit the Wildfire Safety page on the city of Albuquerque website.
Economy & Job Market
Albuquerque has an unemployment rate of 4.3%, which is higher than the national average of 3.7%. US News ranks the job market in Albuquerque as 6.0/10.0, indicating that it has a less healthy job market than similarly sized metro areas, but bestplaces.net indicates a 3.3% job market increase over the last year.
The top industries in Albuquerque include aerospace and defense, energy technology, solar energy, and semiconductor manufacturing. Engineers, research scientists, manufacturing technicians, and teachers can find local jobs in these markets at major employers like Intel Corporation, Honeywell Defense and Space Electronic Systems, Thomas and Betts, General Mills, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Public Schools, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Kirtland Airforce Base. There are many state and government jobs available, as well.
When you’re ready to find a job in Albuquerque, update your resume and save it as a PDF since most employers will want to see your resume in electronic format. Then, practice your interviewing skills so you’ll be prepared to make a great first impression. Peruse sites like linkedin.com, indeed.com, and ziprecruiter.com to get a sense of the jobs and employers available in your area.
Traffic and Transportation
If you live in Albuquerque, you’ll most likely need to own a car because public transportation is limited; the transit score is 30. Luckily, there’s minimal traffic congestion in the city, so driving to work is generally a breeze. The major thoroughfares include Highway 45, which runs north-south on the west side of town, Highway 25, which runs north-south on the east side, and Highway 40, which runs east-west straight through the city.
Overall, the city has a walk score of 43, which makes it the 27th most walkable city in the US. So, while you’ll likely need a car, you may be able to walk to nearby amenities depending on where in Albuquerque you live. For example, Nob Hill and Old Town Albuquerque are extremely walkable. Albuquerque is also a fairly bikeable city, with a bike score of 60.
What to Do
Albuquerque is an awesome place for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors and being surrounded by history. From world-class museums to picturesque hiking spots, Albuquerque offers a wide range of recreational activities that the whole family will enjoy. Here are a few great places to visit:
- Rio Grande Nature Center State Park – This 38-acre New Mexico state park is teeming with local wildlife and is a popular destination for year-round birdwatching. The park also features trail access to the Rio Grande and 1.2 miles of interpretive hiking trails.
- Petroglyph National Monument – Connect with a piece of New Mexico history when you visit one of North America’s largest petroglyph sites. Petroglyph National Monument features an estimated 25,000 petroglyphs within the park boundaries. Native Americans and Spanish settlers etched these symbols and images onto the volcanic rock eons ago.
- Old Town Albuquerque – Named the “Heart of Albuquerque,” Old Town Albuquerque is the historic area of the town founded in 1706. The popular destination is home to more than 150 stores, locally-owned restaurants, art galleries, and museums. The area is easily walkable and a great way to spend the day.
- Sandia Peak Tramway – Take the Sandia Peak Tramway into the Sandia Mountains. The peak is 10,378 feet and offers an 11,000 square mile panoramic view. The tram only takes 15 minutes to get to the peak. Once at the top, you can hike, ski, eat at the restaurants or find a souvenir at the gift shop. Then either take the tram back or hike down the mountain.
Are you looking for more fun activities in Albuquerque? Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta®, the world’s largest balloon festival held every October, where more than 500 colorful hot air balloons take flight over Balloon Fiesta Park. Or take a Breaking Bad RV tour of over 20 locations featured in the TV show, with plenty of photo opportunities.
For sports fans, several professional sports teams call Albuquerque home, including the Albuquerque Isotopes (minor league baseball), New Mexico United (soccer), and the Duke City Gladiators (indoor football).
Schools and Universities
Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) serves 84,000 students across 143 schools. While pockets of Albuquerque have below-average public education, it’s not difficult to find excellent schools in the city, including public, private, and charter schools.
According to greatschools.org, the top elementary schools in Albuquerque are SY Jackson Elementary School, Hubert H Humphrey Elementary School, Double Eagle Elementary School, and North Star Elementary School – each with a rating of 10/10. The top middle schools are Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science, 10/10; Explore Academy, 9/10; Desert Ridge Middle School, 9/10; and ABQ School of Excellence, 9/10. The top high schools in the city are Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science, 10/10; College and Career High School, 9/10; Explore Academy, 9/10; and La Cueva High School, 9/10.
Beyond secondary education, there are several colleges and universities in Albuquerque. The most prominent is the University of New Mexico, a major public research university with multiple branch campuses throughout New Mexico. Other universities in the area are Trinity Southwest University, University of Phoenix, and the University of St Francis. Also, a variety of community, technical, and design colleges, including Central New Mexico Community College, ITT Technical Institute, and The Art Center Design College round out the post-secondary educational opportunities in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque often gets a bad rap for crime, especially drug-related crime, as portrayed on the hit TV show Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, crime rates are more than fiction. On a scale of 1 to 100, Albuquerque ranks 85.3 for property crime, which is significantly higher than the national average of 35.4. For violent crimes, Albuquerque scored 51, also high compared to the national average of 22.7. The highest crime rates are in Albuquerque proper, Pajarito Mesa, and Bernalillo.
- Gas service – New Mexico Gas provides natural gas service. Visit their website, or call 888-664-2726 to start service.
- Electric service – The Public Service Company of NM provides electricity to residents. Visit their website, or call 505-246-5700 to set up service.
- Water service – Water service is available through the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority. To set up service, call 505-842-9287 or visit the website.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service – The Solid Waste Management Department of Albuquerque manages trash and recycling. Call 505-761-8100 to set up service.
- Internet/Cable service – There are a variety of internet and cable providers in Albuquerque. Major players include CenturyLink, Xfinity, and Spectrum. A convenient site that allows you to compare services is www.highspeedinternet.com. Just type in your zip code, and the site will show which providers serve your neighborhood, available packages, and prices.
Best Neighborhoods in Albuquerque, NM
If you’re still looking for a place to live in Albuquerque, this guide gives you a glimpse into eight of the best neighborhoods in the area.
One of Albuquerque’s most sought-after neighborhoods, Nob Hill is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood that was developed in the mid-1920s and named after Nob Hill in San Francisco, California. Featuring Route 66 architecture, bright neon signs, and a plethora of locally-owned shops and restaurants, Nob Hill is known for its nightlife and is a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists alike. Some of the top-rated restaurants in the area are Two Fools Tavern, Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro, and II Vicino Wood Oven Pizza. Nob Hill is also one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Albuquerque.
Located three miles from downtown Albuquerque and immediately east of the University of New Mexico, the Nob Hill neighborhood is bound by Lomas Boulevard on the north side, Washington Street on the east side, Garfield Avenue and Zuni Road on the south side, and Girard Boulevard on the west. Due to its popularity, Nob Hill is also one of the most expensive places to live in Albuquerque. Many young professionals, college students, and university staff live in this neighborhood, and most residents rent rather than own their homes.
- Population – 6,845
- Home Price – Median home price is $325,000
- Rent Prices – Median rent is $1,015/month
- Employers – University of New Mexico, Kirtland Air Force Base, Honeywell
- Schools – Bandelier Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School, Albuquerque High School
Something to try – Attend the Route 66 Summerfest, a free family event that features a car show, art market, food trucks, kids activities, and live entertainment.
North Valley and Los Ranchos De Albuquerque
When in North Valley and Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, you wouldn’t know you were living in the desert. Situated northeast of downtown in a lush green valley along the Rio Grande, North Valley is a great neighborhood with a rural feel, known for low crime levels and affordable housing. Homes and lots in North Valley are on the larger side for Albuquerque, and the area features many farms and horse pastures, beautiful old cottonwood trees, and vineyards.
About a 20-minute drive from downtown, North Valley and Los Ranchos De Albuquerque border the Rio Grande on the north and west sides, Candelaria Rd NE on the south side, and the North Diversion Channel and Highway 25 on the east side. The neighborhood is also near several of Albuquerque’s biggest employers, including General Mills, Honeywell, and Intel.
- Population – 40,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $252,200
- Rent Prices – Median rent is $750 per month
- Employers – General Mills, Frito-Lay Inc., Honeywell Aerospace, Intel Corporation
- Schools – Alvarado Elementary School, Taylor Middle School, Valley High School
Something to try – Visit Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, a historic property that’s home to 25 acres of lavender fields, majestic cottonwood trees, and formal gardens.
Nestled at the foothills of the Sandia mountains, Heritage East is a family-friendly neighborhood 20 minutes northeast of downtown that’s known for its low unemployment rate and middle-class population. Heritage East is also one of the safest neighborhoods in Albuquerque, thanks to 24/7 security and controlled access to the area.
The lower than average crime rates, coupled with good schools and strong high school graduation rates, make Heritage East a great choice for young families. Heritage East borders Ventura St NE on the west side, Paseo del Norte on the north side, Holbrook St NE on the east side, and Redmont Rd NE on the south side.
- Population – 3,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $350,000
- Rent Prices – Median rent is $1,800 per month
- Employers – Bernalillo County, Wagner Equipment Co., New Mexico Gas Company
- Schools – Hubert H Humphrey Elementary School, Eisenhower Middle School, La Cueva High School
Something to try – Explore the many recreational activities available in Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, including hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, horse riding, and camping.
The neighborhood of Bear Canyon is a small, quiet community situated a mere 15-minute drive from downtown Albuquerque. Like the previous neighborhoods, Bear Canyon is located on the northeast side of town and is popular with young professionals and families. The neighborhood provides quick and easy access to shopping areas, schools, and recreational activities, including the Arroyo del Oso golf course. Bear Canyon borders Academy Road Northeast on the south side, Wyoming Boulevard Northeast on the east side, and Burlison Drive Northeast on the north and west sides.
- Population – 2,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $313,000
- Rent Prices – Median rental price is $2,000 per month
- Employers – Wagner Equipment Co, General Mills, Honeywell Aerospace,
- Schools – Osuna Elementary School, Madison Middle School, Sandia High School
Something to try – Hop on the Bear Canyon Arroyo trail, an east-west mountain biking trail through the Bear Canyon Open Space.
Located approximately 20 minutes northeast of downtown at the base of the Sandia Mountains, Tanoan East is one of the safest neighborhoods in Albuquerque. The exclusive neighborhood, complete with its own country club, features expensive houses in gated communities. Unsurprisingly, this neighborhood boasts highly rated schools, a low unemployment rate, and a high average household income.
The neighborhood is bound by Eubank Blvd NE on the east side, San Antonio Dr. NE on the north side, Lowell St NE on the west side, and Academy Rd NE on the south side. The Tanoan East neighborhood is also just a few miles from Sandia Peak and Cibola National Forest for easy access to a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities.
- Population – 1,400
- Home Price – Median Home Price is $610,000
- Rent Prices – No rental prices available
- Employers – Bernalillo County, Wagner Equipment Co., New Mexico Gas Company
- Schools – Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School, Eisenhower Middle School, La Cueva High School
Something to try – Schedule a tour of the Tanoan Country Club to see its 14 tennis courts, Junior Olympic size pool, and perfectly manicured 27-hole championship golf course.
Also located along the foothills of Sandia Mountains, the Peppertree-Royal Oak neighborhood is a safe but expensive neighborhood with beautiful homes. This neighborhood is also a popular choice for young families and has been named as one of the best neighborhoods in Albuquerque for trick-or-treating during Halloween.
Located 20 minutes northeast of downtown, Peppertree-Royal Oak is bound by Lowell St NE on the west side, Academy Rd NE on the north side, Tramway Blvd NE on the west side, and Spain Rd NE on the south side. The neighborhood’s proximity to the mountains and national forest areas provide unlimited opportunities for fantastic outdoor recreation.
- Population – 1,500
- Home Price – Median home price is $422,000
- Rent Prices – Median rental price is $1,100 per month
- Employers – Bernalillo County, Wagner Equipment Co., New Mexico Gas Company
- Schools – Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School, Eisenhower Middle School, Eldorado High School
Something to try – Take the Sandia Peak Tramway to the crest of the mountain and enjoy the panoramic views.
Vista Del Mundo
Vista Del Mundo is a small, safe, and quiet neighborhood located 20 minutes east of downtown and just a few miles north of the Kirtland Air Force Base. Low crime and unemployment rates, paired with moderately priced homes, make this neighborhood at the mountain foothills, an attractive option for newcomers.
Residents of Vista Del Mundo have the mountains in their back yard; the neighborhood is bound on the east by Lomas Blvd NE, and on the west by the Sandia Mountains and the Cibola National Forest. In addition, the Vista Del Mundo neighborhood is close to many convenient amenities and has great schools for the kids.
- Population – 1,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $377,000
- Rent Prices – Median rental price is $1,900 per month
- Employers – Bernalillo County, Kirtland Air Force Base
- Schools – Onate Elementary School, Jackson Middle School, Manzano High School
Something to try – Visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History to learn about the past, present, and future of nuclear science. The museum includes both permanent and temporary exhibitions to educate history buffs and budding scientists of all ages.
The Ventana Ranch neighborhood is a large development that attracts young families and empty nesters and is also one of the safest neighborhoods in Albuquerque. Ventana Ranch is a little farther out from the city at around 25 minutes northwest of downtown. But many residents are willing to trade a slightly longer commute for a great neighborhood with inexpensive housing.
Ventana Ranch is bound by Paseo del Norte Blvd NE and Irving Blvd NW and is just five miles from Petroglyph National Monument. The neighborhood is also home to the west campus of Central New Mexico Community College.
- Population – 10,000
- Home Price – Median home price is $220,000
- Rent Prices – Median rental price is $1,500 per month
- Employers – Central New Mexico Community College, Honeywell Aerospace,
- Schools – Ventana Ranch Elementary School, Tony Hillerman Middle School, Volcano Vista High School
Something to try – Take a shopping trip to the Cottonwood Mall, which features many familiar brands, restaurants, and locally-owned shops.
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