There’s a common story among Coachella Valley residents, often shared over cocktails at the club or on the putting green. It begins a couple of years back, when they came to the desert for a few days on vacation and fell in love with the area. It continues with them spending a few months here the following year. Then, by the end of the story, they’ve become the proud owners of their desert dream home.
When these valley visitors went searching for the perfect residence, they turned to real estate professionals to help them. Here’s how these experts match their clients with the right home.
Finding the Ideal Community
“I absolutely love what I do,” Valery Neuman says. “I love architecture and I love homes. It’s a passion for me, but I’m people-driven. I get to know people, and that’s how I match them with homes.”
Part of Neuman’s expertise — based on 24 years of experience — is helping people find their dream home, even if initially they’re not sure what that is. When clients contact her, she says, “my first step is to listen. I ask them what they like, what they do not like, and what they have seen that they sort of like. It’s deductive reasoning. I’ll ask, ‘How many bedrooms do you want? Do you want a golf course? Do you want it to be private or public? Do you want a yard? Do you have animals? Do you have children? What’s important to you?’ ”
While Neuman feels that every home she sells is a perfect match, there is one that stands out. Sometimes, she explains, finding the best house isn’t just about the structure or the number of bedrooms. It’s about finding the right community.
“A lovely family was coming from Florida and wanted a Guy Dreier–designed property,” she says. “They just made me love them so much.” Their adult son has special needs and they were looking for a community where he would be fully accepted. “They said, ‘He’s 36 years old, and wherever we go, he goes. We will only move to where he’s welcomed.’ ”
After seeing several homes, the family chose a property in Bighorn Golf Club.
“They wanted the club to treat their son as they would anybody else,” Neuman says. “The club opened their arms to them. They said, ‘If he’s part of your family, he’s part of our family,’ which I thought was pretty great. And everybody welcomed him. They were very excited.”
Neuman says part of making a successful match is understanding the clients’ needs fully. “When I’m selling someone a home, I feel like part of the family, and I look through their eyes as if it was me. I care about people, and I was so touched by this family. They’re so lovely and nice and treated me beautifully.”
There can be some hurdles when searching for the right home, Neuman says, such as price, or “when the husband wants one thing and the wife wants another. First I’ll listen to both — obviously I can’t make the decision for them. I’ll say, ‘It’s now time for the two of you to come to an agreement on what your wishes are.’ I laugh about it with them.”
Home buyers, she advises, should look for a broker who knows the local inventory well. In addition, it’s important to find an experienced professional who’s easy to work with. Last, she says, writing out a wish list — everything from number of bedrooms to the type of yard — is the best way to ensure a great fit.
Firm: HÔM Sotheby’s
Contact: 760-861-1176; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.valeryneuman.com
Specialty: Luxury real estate throughout the Coachella Valley
Matching Personalities to Places
Terri Munselle focuses on finding her clients the best match by knowing the local market inside and out. “People are coming here from all over the world to buy homes, and they’re not always clear on what’s available,” she says. “As Realtors, we have to ask them a lot of questions. To many people, Palm Springs is just Palm Springs, and they don’t realize that each community has its own flavor, and then each country club has its own flavor. I’ve golfed out here since the late 1980s, so I know the personality of just about every club. I usually pick the area first, then the home.”
She also stays involved in the community. “I had a client recently asking about the culture in our desert. Beyond the clubs, you’ve got to know about other activities in the area: Modernism Week, the McCallum Theatre, and the CV Rep theater,” she says. “Once you assure people that they can find the activities they want in the valley, it makes house buying simple.”
Munselle recently handled a match for a couple from the Midwest who were looking “for a particular style of home that had a particular style of infinity pool,” she says. “We looked and looked and looked at some homes under a million dollars. Nothing was hitting the spot. Nothing resonated.”
Finally, Munselle showed them a club home in the $2 million–plus range. “When the client walked in, she said, “Oh, my gosh! This is the home!” Munselle says. “They just didn’t know how much they should spend for what they were asking. It can also go the other way: People coming from Hawaii might not know that they can get a lot for their dollar here. You really have to help clients understand what the dollar buys in this area.”
Choosing an experienced agent is crucial to saving clients time, too. “You have to match the personality of the client to the personality of the area/club. When my buyers arrive on a plane, we’ve already narrowed the search down by email to maybe five to 10 homes,” Munselle says. “By the second or third day, they are saying, ‘Do I want to buy this home or that home?’ It’s an easier decision; clients don’t want to look at 4,000 homes — they want to look at the 10 they might like. The key is having deep knowledge of this area.”
Firm: The Munselle Group, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Contact: 760-772-2411; email@example.com; www.themunsellegroup.com
Specialty: Country clubs, luxury,and desert resort homes for seasonal and primary residents
Delivering a Lifestyle Experience
When shopping for a new home in the Coachella Valley, buyers should “choose an agent who knows the area well,” Sandi Phillips says. “I have been in the desert for 19 years, with lots of experience and knowledge to share with my clients who are purchasing homes here.”
Once she’s contacted by buyers eager to find their dream home, “first and foremost, I meet with my clients and find out what criteria they are looking for in a community, whether it be the golf experience, tennis, or social outings,” she says. “Once I know the lifestyle they are looking for, I can determine what criteria they’re seeking in a home and show them properties according to their wants and needs.”
Her expertise encompasses the entire valley, with a particular emphasis on La Quinta, whether working with potential home buyers or sellers. Her matchmaking skills came into play during a recent sale to a couple in the market for a new home, even though they weren’t really sure what they wanted. “One of my favorite matches was a couple from Newport who were in town for the weekend, ‘just looking,’ ” Phillips says. “They lived on the water in Newport and said it would be hard to give that up.”
Phillips took them to see a number of smaller places, but listened closely to what the couple really wanted — to be near the water. “I suggested we see one of my listings that was a larger, just-completed custom home with a beautiful, stunning lake view. I was writing up their offer that night at 7 p.m.,” she says. “They still own it, and whenever I see them, they thank me for showing them their dream home here in the desert.”
Firm: HK Lane Real Estate/Christie’s
Contact: 760-567-5506; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.sandiphillips.com
Specialty: Luxury estates and properties from Palm Springs to La Quinta
Paying Attention to Detail
When you’re as experienced as Deirdre Coit, “you kind of get a feel” for matching people with their dream home. “But first, I find out what the client’s lifestyle is all about,” she says. “Are they golfers, for example? I try to figure out if they need to be in a club or they need to be in single-family development. Then I try to figure out what price range they want to be in, and how big a house they want.”
Many of her clients are doing their own Internet research, Coit notes. She welcomes the feedback they offer and then takes it to the next level to find the best home. “Clients come in with an idea of what they want and what looks good to them,” she says. “Sometimes, though, you have to explain to them why homes they find might not be right for them. Maybe it backs up to the road. There are particulars — maybe it’s windy — but they don’t always know those things. That’s why they still need to use a Realtor.”
One of Coit’s favorite matches came from a longtime customer. “I had a single male client, and we looked at every club in the desert,” she says. “I ended up selling him something at the Quarry. He was there for several years and then decided he wanted to be closer in, so I sold him a very large house at the Bighorn club. He was there for several years. Then he met someone, and they got married.”
They listed the Bighorn home and set out to find a new home for the couple. “The sale at Bighorn was the most expensive house that year in the valley,” she says, “and then we went over to the Reserve a couple weeks later and bought the best house they had there. It was completely opposite from the type of house they lived in, but they loved it. It was a very warm contemporary. It was at the top of the cove, and it looked down the fairway. There was just something private and wonderful and incredible about this house.”
Even though the couple hadn’t set out to buy a contemporary-style house, Coit says, “most people, when it comes down to it, are flexible in the end, because they realize that the house has everything else, and it’s OK. They are less flexible about bedroom count, though: They know what they need.”
She urges potential home buyers to ask for referrals to agents for the best possible match. “It’s important to get somebody who really knows what they’re doing. Not only are they going to find you what you want faster but they’re also going to be better at negotiating,” she says.
Firm: Canavan Coit Inc.,
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Contact: 760-835-1006; email@example.com; www.canavancoit.com
Specialty: High-end homes on golf courses and in single-family developments
Making a Personal Connection
For Lori Ebeling, making the perfect home match is all about putting herself in her clients’ shoes. “I imagine that I am buying the house myself,” she says. “I think that’s the most personal way to approach a customer — to really listen and absorb what they want.”
To achieve this, Ebeling says, she asks lots of questions. “I ask my clients about their comfort zones and their entertainment style for family and friends. I ask about the view they are looking for, the amount of sun they would like on their pool, southern exposure, and everything that is important to them. I need this information to show them just the right house.”
One of her most successful matches was for a couple from Canada. “They were looking for a second home, focusing mostly in La Quinta, but after learning more about their lifestyle, their family, and what was important to them, I realized where we needed to go,” she says. “They totally fell in love with the home, a Guy Dreier original. Plus a perfect combination is my design partner, Frank Gill, who customized the home to their family, and they could not love the home more. We had dinner the other night with them and they could not stop talking about how much they loved their home. I like that.”
Making the perfect match can have its roadblocks, she explains, but time irons out most of the issues. “Clearly the biggest challenge is people knowing what they want and establishing a price range to achieve all their goals,” she says. “Because we are a resort destination and there are so many buyers from out of town, it’s a learning curve and often a bit of an adventure. I know it’s going to take a while to find the perfect match, too. I don’t pressure my clients to make a quick decision.”
Finding the right home is like “searching for the perfect black dress,” Ebeling says. “We might find it right away, but until we look everywhere, they don’t know it’s the perfect one. Then once we complete the process, they love it even more because they know it’s the perfect one for them."
Ebeling advises prospective home buyers to choose “a well-seasoned local agent who really knows all the desert cities and our new residential purchase agreement competently,” she says. “They also need to be informed about HOA fees and leased land versus fee land. These factors and a dozen others illustrate the need for a competent, experienced Realtor.”
Firm: Coldwell Banker
Contact: 760-831-1501; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.loriebeling.com
Specialty: All styles, from condominiums to single-family homes across the Coachella Valley