We’ve seen our share of tumult in the real estate market, but we’re here to share some sage advice with those of you in the market to buy a new house. If you know real estate history, these “new rules” should sound familiar.
Like the industry itself, the rules of the game change and tend to surface about once in a generation.
Experts such as Wessman Development Vice President Michael Braun understand the cyclical nature of the housing game, the underlying economics, and the reasons that make the Coachella Valley considerably different from other housing markets.
Industry colleagues offer the following rules to optimize your home-investment return when the next great rebound occurs between 2010 and 2012, as Braun predicts it will.
1 — ACT NOW!
We may never again see the deals available now in the Coachella Valley. Developers are completing most projects at a loss. Once this window closes, almost everything will be built without frills. Buyers are already telling builders that that is what they want. It’s back to the 1950s. Braun cautions, “Wise does first what fools do last.”
2 — LET THE SUN SHINE IN
Full- and part-time residents understand the importance of sunshine. Boomers will become the desert’s biggest market and drivers of an early housing recovery, according to Braun and other experts, including Del Webb’s Francine Wallace and Ponderosa Homes’ Cindy Douglas. No more shoveling snow, rainy overcast days, and bone-chilling weather. This group wants golf, tennis, swimming, gardening, and fun with visiting grandkids. They want the California desert.
3 — REMEMBER: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Location is still king of the real estate game. The desert will continue to grow and the cost of gasoline can spike again at any time. “Stay away from the boonies,” Braun warns. The farther out, the more likely there will be repossessions, causing further instability.
4 — THINK SAFETY
Gated communities and neighborhoods with reputations for safety are location pluses,
along with emergency response times.
5 — GO FOR THE GOODIES
Almost everything on the market comes equipped with upgrades and amenities that future developments will not offer as standard. Look for those granite countertops, top-of-the-line appliances, double ovens and extra stove burners, stainless steel sinks, solar heating, tankless water heaters, 24-inch tiles, shutters, custom garage doors, high-SEER air conditioning. Energy-efficient, or green, houses should retain value no matter how long it takes the market to regain its health.
Outside, look for covered patios with built-in barbecues and outdoor fireplaces, as well as pricey native landscaping and designer garage doors.
Clubhouses, walking and riding paths, fitness centers, lap pools, spas, golf courses, and riding trails and stables make up some of today’s competitive lifestyle packages.
6 — GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY
With interest rates at a historic low and property taxes and interest still deductible, think of a step up or a second home as your hedge. Many buyers at Griffin Ranch are plunking down $1 million or more in cash. Manager Rod Dargatz explains these second- and third-time buyers and owners of multiple houses figure that no matter what happens, they will have assets when the market turns around.
7 — THE BOOMER STRATEGY
Boomers who own and want a second home here for eventual retirement have time on their side. Those who buy now can defer the sale of their principal residence until the market changes and there is a better field of qualified buyers. Those who wait a few years could wind up with much less house and possible inflationary costs for upgrades.
8 — BUY AMERICA
The days of buying in Mexico have been temporarily interrupted by drug wars. Still, housing prices there have increased, although cost of living remains less expensive. You can’t get Medicare in Mexico and ex-pats must pay into the Mexican Social Security system to have access to local medical coverage. Emergency care at best can be problematic with complications.
9 — WATCH THE LOONIE
The Coachella Valley market has never looked better for Canadians, whose loonie is the strongest it has ever been against the U.S. dollar. The vacation home has become a doable dream. Canadians cannot obtain U.S. loans, but they can take out a line of credit at home. Eleven percent of all international buyers in the United States are Canadian, and 47 percent pay cash.
10 — FIRST-TIMERS, BE CREATIVE
There is great value for young families entering the market. Interest rates are low, and amenities offerings are high. Look for existing inventory and get in even if it is the smallest house available. Buy close to work; consider the likelihood of another hike in gasoline prices. Smart singles and the “creative class” are co-purchasing condos and larger homes with lots of bedrooms. Many of them offer great separation for privacy and room to conduct business at home.
LET’S GO HOUSE HUNTING!
Here’s a sampling of Coachella Valley developments packed with goodies for a range of desert home buyers.
Avenue 54 and Madison Street
La Quinta, CA 92253
Merv’s La Quinta legacy blazes its own trail
Griffin Ranch offers country club living without expensive fairway maintenance (but many great nearby golf courses). It caters to horse owners who appreciate access to a stable, riding trails, and show ring.
Youngish entrepreneurs, inventors, doctors, and trust-fund babies are writing checks for large-lot (and amenity-loaded) houses priced from $775,000 to $1.6 million with normal upgrades. The nucleus of Griffin Ranch is the 24,000-square-foot clubhouse offering dining, spa treatments, swimming, and tennis.
Griffin Ranch was designed for kindred spirits of the late entertainer, who raised purebred Arabians on this land (once his personal estate). Trails meander through the ranch, and residents who pony up can park their horses at a plush stable where a misting system keeps their pampered steeds cool.
60800 Trilogy Parkway
La Quinta, CA 92253
Serious golf for boomers 55 and up
It must be comforting to buy a house built by a company that was founded in 1886 and has bragging rights to the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam. Trilogy in La Quinta is a magnet for boomers who enjoy golf and the country club lifestyle. It’s a treat for duffer pals to retrace Tiger Woods’ footsteps on the links that hosted two Skin Games in this enclave for those 55 and better.
Trilogy exerts a relaxed, fun atmosphere that attracts young family members and grandkids by the droves. In fact, young visitors pine for the remaining homes in the final phase, which sell for between $259,000 and $600,000.
Eco-friendly materials and solar power, Energy Star appliances, dual-pane windows, and high–performance insulation reflect the community’s “green” values. Think lower energy bills, an energy rebate, and an appreciable tax credit.
287 S. Cahuilla Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Walking the Palm Springs walk
Sophisticated world travelers enchanted by the way Europeans often live right in the middle of a village or in the heart of a major city have found their Palm Springs pied-à-terre at St. Baristo.
The enclave of Spanish-style houses — within the shadow of Mt. San Jacinto — is a few short blocks from the heart of Palm Canyon Drive in the historic Tennis Club district, surrounded by charming homes and inns.
Homes are loaded with upgrades such as granite-covered kitchen islands, stainless steel appliances, custom entry doors, and custom stained-wood garage doors.
Residents can walk to fine, legendary restaurants; Palm Springs Art Museum; Palm Springs Tennis Club; and O’Donnell Golf Course. The few remaining homes are in the $1 million range. St. Baristo is the ultimate Palm Springs address when it comes to “location, location, location.”
ANDALUSIA AT CORAL MOUNTAIN
Madison Street and Avenue 58
La Quinta, CA 92247
Country-style living for the active set
The Andalusia region in southern Spain inspired the setting and the six model houses in this luxury community, which features oversized garages, hand-made iron entry gates, and impeccably landscaped garden areas.
Aesthetics aside, residents appreciate the activity-driven lifestyle, which includes the Racquet Club & Fitness Center with nine lighted tennis courts (including two clay courts and one with stadium seating); a four-lane, cross-shaped pool; a children’s wading pool;
and a spa.
Golfers tee off on the 18-hole Rees Jones championship course, the renowned golf architect’s only Coachella Valley design (a second will be developed soon). Likewise, hikers and bikers enjoy the scenic multipurpose trail that winds around Andalusia’s interior perimeter and passes over its Mediterranean-style entrance.
Houses range in size from 2,895 to 5,089 square feet and cost between $1.1 million and $2.1 million.
VILLAS AT PARADISO
82-429 Puccini Drive
Indio, CA 92203
Big houses and large spaces
There are places where the “creative class” and large families who work and live in the East Valley gravitate. It’s all about space.
Ponderosa Homes’ gated Villas at Paradiso, on the north side of Interstate 10 between Jackson and Monroe streets, attracts homeowners seeking up to six bedrooms and 5.5 baths.
Self-employed professionals who work from home use the extra space for offices and workout rooms. They include some stay-at-home dads who juggle careers and childrearing.
There’s room for a passel of kids and a live-in nanny or granny,
a new high school less than a mile away, as well as a “tot lot” and a small park in the neighborhood.
The 2,500- to 3,522-square-foot houses cost between $300,000 and $380,000.
MASTERS AT THE GALLERY
73772 Monet Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92211
Home cooking Palm Desert style
The builder called it Masters at The Gallery, but many of its Palm Desert owners think it should be called Masters at The Galley.
Culinary kitchens at this gated, Tuscan-style neighborhood draw hard-working healthcare professionals, upper-management types, and storeowners interested in healthy home-cooked meals. Cooks regularly show off in open kitchens, virtual staging areas for great-room entertaining. Cooks can color-select their appliances: upgraded five-burner gas cook-top, convection and self-cleaning upper ovens, built-in microwave, and energy–efficient dishwasher.
Other gourmet goodies include large separate pantries, dual- compartment cast-iron sinks, maple cabinetry, recessed lighting, and under-cabinet lighting.
Houses are priced from $365,000.
THE VILLAGES OF CAMPANILE
405 Via Milano
Cathedral City, CA 92234
Fit and nimble in Cathedral City
Traffic ease and accessibility and a place to relax, work out, or walk safely fill the bill for 30- to 50-something residents at The Villages
of Campanile, a trio of Tuscan- and Spanish-style neighborhoods.
It’s a respite for people who want to ditch the car and walk off some stress at the end of the day. The houses are charming and have the signature details crafted by developer Wessman & Gonzales.
Campanile offers greenbelts and paseos to stroll, front porches on which to relax, and a well-appointed athletic center. After a workout, a refreshing pool awaits. The cozy outdoor area with a fireplace makes a great place to socialize.
DEL WEBB SHADOW HILLS
81-485 Camino Montevideo
Indio, CA 92203
Indio’s active senior lifestyle
Del Webb remains a gold standard for affordable, active retirement living. Located in Indio on the north side of Interstate 10, Shadow Hills houses range in price from $189,000 (two bedrooms, two baths) to more than $400,000 for a luxurious 2,951-square-foot spread.
Gated and guarded, Shadow Hills is situated around an 18-hole golf course with another one in the works. The clubhouse has indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and bocce ball courts, 40 social and activity clubs, a library, performing arts stage, a ballroom, game rooms, and an amphitheater. A smaller clubhouse is planned for the next phase.
Typical buyers, including many from Canada, focus on the surfeit of activities and accessibility to attractions, healthcare, and shopping.