The Agents

Palm Springs Life asked some of the Coachella Valley’s leading real estate specialists about their properties and passions.

May 28, 2020
real estate agents


The Elrod House. The Robert Pond Estate. Darryl Zanuck’s Movie Colony compound. Like the homes they’ve sold, John Nelson and Cat Moe have made a name for themselves in the Coachella Valley real estate scene. And they’ve had a blast doing it.

“One thing that has always been intriguing to me about real estate is that it never feels like a job,” Moe says. “It’s more of a lifestyle. And you get involved with people’s lives. You learn about where they’re coming from. You’re exposed to such a variety of lifestyles and environments. It just never feels like you’re going to work.”

Though they sell everything from Old Spanish to midcentury modern, almost 90 percent of their business falls in the luxury second-home, or even third- and fourth-home market.

It’s not unusual for the duo to work with a client for three or four years before they finally find the perfect property for them here in the desert.


“I love the clients, the daily challenges, and matching people with properties that they love,” says Nelson, who also has a passion for knowing the history and architectural significance of the homes they deal in. “He’s like an encyclopedia of real estate,” Moe adds, laughing. “He knows who owns what and who owned what at one point. It never ceases to amaze me.”


When Valery Neuman fell in love with the desert and moved here from Newport Beach with her husband, Don, everybody golfed. But as it turned out, she wasn’t the best golfer. “So we always say real estate is my golf game,” she laughs. “I quickly fell in love with it and, thank goodness, because I would have died if I didn’t.”

Though she’s known for selling in the Hideaway and The Madison Club, two of the most exclusive private residential clubs in La Quinta, Neuman lists properties throughout the valley, and her clients range from young entrepreneurs and CEOs to presidents and celebrities.

It’s a market Neuman has mastered, understandably, considering her love for architecture, interior design, and everything else involving real estate. “I love putting the deal together,” she says. “But it’s more about the people for me, to be honest. It’s matchmaking—I love matching people with their wish list. That’s a big deal for me.”


If it’s not the right house, Neuman will tell you; being “super honest” has earned her countless referrals. The fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and listens, laughs, and has a lot of fun along the way doesn’t hurt either.


To some, he’s the “King of Clancy Lane,” a prestigious neighborhood with luxurious contemporary, Spanish, and Mediterranean homes in Rancho Mirage. But if you ask Dave Kibbey himself, an overtly humble real estate agent with more than 20 years of experience, he’ll likely tell you everything he’s not.

“I’m not really a country club guy or the Palm Desert guy or the Rancho Mirage guy or the Ironwood guy or the Bighorn guy,” he admits. “I really have focused in on the desert as a whole.”

The Coachella Valley native’s interest in real estate took off when he began buying rental properties and flipped homes after selling his termite and pest control company, then dabbling in retirement. “I became really passionate about real estate and architecture,” he says. “I decided about three years later that I wanted to start representing clients.”

And that’s where his passion for the industry lies. “It’s not about the money anymore,” he says. “I’ve done well for myself, but I would say 10 years ago, I realized that my focus — in order to be the best I can be in this industry — is to help people. Anybody who has worked with me will tell you the same. I can show somebody 30 homes, and if they want to see five more, then that’s what we’re going to do.”


Kibbey may not consider himself the “King of Clancy Lane” (though he tends to specialize in high-end sales and has listed quite a few homes there), but he’s 100 percent honest, 100 percent of the time. “That means,” he says, “I walk away if I need to.”


If you ask Michael Horne what it’s like to work alongside his father, Bob, as real estate partners, he claims there’s never been an ill word between them. “We’re legitimately a team, a partnership,” he says. And they appear to be perfectly in sync: The two had 150 transactions last year and have been the top agents in the gated retirement community Sun City Palm Desert since 2002.

Michael left his corporate job with about 20 years ago and joined his father, who was already in real estate, so he could get back to the “people.” Ultimately, it’s the clients they work with who make their specialization different from other markets.

“I think, especially with the 55 and older communities, there is a level of excitement and achievement for when they’re buying,” Michael says, “meaning you’ve worked your whole life to get to this stage. And that’s a fun thing to be a part of.”

Like his father, Michael focuses heavily on customer service. (Bob brings more than 30 years of retail management experience to the industry.)


He enjoys “problem solving,” whether it’s educating a client about what makes one location better than another or getting a house ready to show and figuring out the pricing, photography, staging, etc. “I don’t really consider [real estate] a sales job,” he says. “One of the results of the process is a sale, but I never feel that way.”


“Art and architecture are serious passions of mine,” says real estate agent Keith Markovitz. So serious, he and partner Todd Monaghan have made buying and selling unique, interesting architecture their life’s work — from the stunning Ken Kellogg Doolittle residence in Joshua Tree to the Dinah Shore Estate in Palm Springs to the former midcentury modern home of actor Laurence Harvey (a record-breaking $9.5 million transaction, the highest in the history of the Old Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs).

“If it’s architecturally significant, that’s what drives us,” Monaghan says. Markovitz agrees, adding, “A lot of people think all we do is sell $5 million houses, but the reality is we like properties that have some sort of interesting architecture and design. We’re big art and architecture junkies across the board.”

Markovitz, who has worked in real estate his entire career, formed TTK Represents with Monaghan in 2008, and the two have spent the last decade building a team of professionals — Susan Canavan, Chris Menrad, Rick Distel, and Joan Fidalgo — to help expand their business, as well as their passion for architecture, valley-wide.


“It’s important to us to be the masters of the area we’re in,” Monaghan says. But helping people and building relationships, he adds, is equally intrinsic to what they do. “You don’t get to care for yourself at all in this transaction,” Markovitz says. “If you do, it better be dead last because, frankly, the client’s needs are the most paramount part of the entire business to us. You can’t be in this to make a sale.”


Beverly Bell attributes most of her success in real estate, and her life in general, to the choices she has made. “I think choosing real estate as a career has allowed me a lot of personal fulfillment,” she says. “You have the opportunity to learn and meet challenges, and you have to master new technology. When I started out, computers weren’t even thought of at the time.”

Bell moved to the desert from her native Canada in 1986 with her late husband, Ben, and two children. The couple formed a real estate team and quickly became known as leaders in the Palm Springs luxury home market, with many of their clients being celebrities or major players from the entertainment industry. She even played a cameo role in a film shot in one of her listings, as well as appeared in television commercials (that she wrote) for almost 20 years.

“I love to sell high-end,” Bell gushes. It’s a fitting niche for one of the founding members of Desert Estates Network, an exclusive group of luxury real estate professionals.


“And I still get excited when I close a deal. Each client is a new story to add to the thousands that came before. But I never forget there’s a human side to real estate. I’ve made that a big choice in my life as well, to give my clients real personal attention. And I think the key is that I just really like people.”