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Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

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Bob Hope's Palm Springs estate listed for $24.99 million

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

Words like “one of a kind” and “unique” get thrown around a lot when talking about multimillion-dollar properties, but there really isn’t a home like the Bob and Dolores Hope estate in Palm Springs.

“It’s one of the most architecturally significant homes in the U.S. — if not the world.”

Brian Thomas Jones
Brian Thomas Jones

The Hopes commissioned Modernist architect John Lautner to build their dream home in 1980. The resulting residence was Lautner’s largest — a 23,366-square-foot marvel with 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and a massive copper roof.

Still owned by the Hope family today, the home was quietly shopped for $50 million last year before officially hitting the market for $34 million in January. Now, it’s listed for just under $25 million after a $9-million price cut this week.

“We dropped the price for the same reason all sellers drop the price of their homes," Smith said. "It’s priced for today’s marketplace."

Patrick Ketchum
Patrick Ketchum

Several potential buyers have toured the home over the past year — and it’s easy to see why. Lautner, one of the last century’s highest-regarded American architects, didn’t just build homes of great magnitude. He paid close attention to the relationship between homeowners, their living space and nature.

“Shelter is the most basic human need,” Lautner once said. “The purpose of architecture is to create timeless, free, joyous spaces for all activities of life.”

The striking California property combines concrete, steel and glass with a curving roof made of copper and it overlooks the entire Coachella Valley.

“It’s the best view of the mountain range and Coachella Valley I’ve ever seen,” Smith said.

Palm Springs- Greater property inventory creates valley seller’s market

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

An increase of property listings is opening up a seller’s market that has dominated the Coachella Valley market, housing reports show.

A short supply of homes – roughly three months’ worth – had cramped the desert over the last year. Real estate agents say a normal market has a six-month supply.

However, in September, more sellers appeared to prepare for the incoming crowd of vacation home buyers in tourist season.

“Now that the summer is over, people always wait until October,” said Kevin Stern, president of Town Real Estate in Palm Springs. “The market is getting a lot of new inventory, and it’s much more competitive.”

There were 2,355 single-family homes in the active inventory, a 7 percent year-over-year increase, according to the California Desert Association of Realtors. The Palm Desert-based organization tracks sales on its Multiple Listing Service.

Rapid appreciation has slowed significantly in the desert. Big price jumps had previously priced many buyers out the market and raised concerns about housing affordability while median household incomes remained stagnant.

The median price of all homes and condos was $255,000 in September, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, an Irvine-based real estate information services firm that compiles monthly reports from public records.

The median price increased a mere 2 percent year-over-year, a sharp difference from the double-digit growth reported early in the year.

For single-family homes, the median price didn’t just taper. The price was $371,000 in September, a 2 percent drop from the same month a year ago, according to CDAR.

“I’m starting to see some price reductions on properties that have been on the market,” Stern said. “People were overzealous, being a little aggressive.”

Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic DataQuick analyst, also said that home shoppers facing historically low interest rates will find sellers to be more realistic with pricing.

Stern is hoping for a strong season of sales. He recently opened a new office in Idyllwild for full-time desert residents needing a cooler place to stay during the hot summers.

Sharon Rogers, president of CDAR, said sales flat-lined in September and August during the slow days of summer, but she expected sales to pick up during the tourist season.

There were 646 home and condo sales in September, down 12.9 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to CoreLogic DataQuick.

In Southern California overall, existing home prices are rising at different rates. The low-end of the market had the greatest gains, increasing 10.9 percent in median price from the last year.

The high end of the market only rose 6.6 percent in median prices, according to CoreLogic DataQuick. But the number of sales greater than $500,000 rose 9 percent compared to last year, indicating that people are buying more high-end homes.

The most expensive house sold for $2.8 million in Rancho Mirage.

In second place was a $2.6 million home in the Indio and Bermuda Dunes area, followed by a $1.8 million home in Palm Springs.

Dominique Fong is a business and real estate reporter for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at (760) 778-4661, dominique.fong@desertsun.com and on Twitter @dominiquefong.

Top 5 September Sales

1. $2.8 million, Rancho Mirage

2. $2.6 million, Indio/Bermuda Dunes

3. $1.85 million, Palm Springs

4. $1.305 million, La Quinta

5. $1.3 million, Indian Wells

La Quinta-Lennar to unveil Griffin Ranch model homes in La Quinta

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

Lennar will unveil six new model homes on Saturday at Griffin Ranch in south La Quinta.

Three models from the Belmont Collection and three from the Pimlico Collection will be open at 10 a.m. for public tours. Griffin Ranch is located at Avenue 54 and Madison Street.

Belmont homes range from about 3,000 to 3,700 square feet and feature a great room, fireplace, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen and master bedroom. Prices start in the $800,000s.

 

Pimlico homes include three- or four-bedroom homes spanning 4,000 to 4,800 square feet with a great room, fireplace, separate den/library and master bedroom. Prices start around $1 million.

A guest suite or casita can be added to homes in both collections.

The Griffin Club anchors the guard-gated community. Tennis courts, a putting green, swimming pool, gym, dog park and a venue for entertainment are included.

La Quinta-Low inventory prices out many desert homebuyers

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

Alina and Pedro De Anda are outgrowing their one-room casita in a corner of a quiet gated community in La Quinta. With an energetic 2-year-old son and another child on the way, the couple would like to buy their first home.

The dream three-bedroom home would be somewhere safe, near great schools and close to plenty of family members who love to dote on their son, Ryan.

And it would be affordable.

But finding that ideal house in the Coachella Valley's second-wealthiest city isn't easy. The July median price of a house in La Quinta was $330,000, roughly on par with Palm Springs but lower than country club-dense neighbors Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage.

Soaring home prices over the past year started to break speed this summer. But the effects of two years' of rapid price appreciation are starting to show. More first-time homebuyers, some of them young families burdened with debt, are being deterred from the desert real estate market. Though they earn steady incomes and plan to invest many more years in a permanent home, they say the valley is becoming more unaffordable.

"We're right about at the tipping point," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. "Something's got to give at this point. Either home prices have to slow down, or incomes have to rise very rapidly, which is unlikely. We could have another bubble forming. … The most likely scenario is a home price appreciation slowdown."

Housing affordability in Riverside County is roughly equal to the months just before the recession, according to the California Association of Realtors. The organization of real estate agents calculates affordability based on assumed down-payments, the national average interest rate, mortgage payments, approximate property taxes and insurance payments. Monthly payments can't exceed more than 30 percent of a household's income.

About 41 percent of households in the county can afford to buy a $320,000 single-family home, the median price of the region. About 63 percent of households can afford their first entry-level homes, which typically are eligible for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and assistance from first-time buyer programs. Similar percentages were last reported in 2008. But median incomes have stayed largely stagnant.

"We're coming out of the recession with more people needing affordable housing, and there isn't enough," said Fred Bell, chairman of the Coachella Valley Housing Trust and a longtime veteran of the desert's building industry. "It's got swept under the rug. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't afford those homes."

Now or never

First-time buyers wrestle with the pressure of buying now.

Buyers are wary of purchasing a house they can hardly afford after seeing the country emerge from its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. They see their debt, the tight lending standards, their small-but-growing savings in the bank. But they also see signs the real estate market is leaving them behind.

Since 2012, Coachella Valley home prices have jumped 18-33 percent as the economy corrects itself, according to DataQuick. Fewer foreclosures, a short supply of homes for sale and high demand from second homebuyers willing to pay all-cash also fueled the price jumps.

In July, the median price of a desert home was $276,000. Experts say the 7 percent year-over-year increase marks the return of a more "normal" market. And it's nowhere near the height of $400,500 during the building frenzy. But it's an uptick that still worries buyers such as De Anda.

"I feel like it's a good time to buy," Pedro De Anda said. "In our position financially, it's not, because we'll get into something and we won't be able to afford it, and next thing you know we're on the losing-our-house list."

While home prices have skyrocketed, Coachella Valley median household incomes tumbled and largely stayed stagnant from 2009 through 2012, the most recent year available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Five cities reported income drops of 7 percent or greater during that period: Indian Wells, La Quinta, Cathedral City, Indio and Palm Desert.

Outgrowing the casita

The casita is sparse, but family life is tight-knit. One corner of the fluorescent-lit room has a large bed. The other is filled with toys. Ryan's crib is against the wall, under Blue's Clues stickers. Family photos lean against one of the windows. There's no kitchen; they use the one inside the main house.

Pedro De Anda, 30, grew up in Coachella and Indio. After he married Alina in 2011, they moved to the La Quinta casita. Both work full-time; he's an insurance salesman, and she's a case worker at Martha's Village & Kitchen. While they paid off debt on student loans and credit cards, they began looking for a home. "We had just gotten married, and we were thinking, 'OK, where are we going to live? Are we going to try to find an apartment, or are we going to try to get into a house?'" he said.

The question has stayed on his mind over the past three years. The De Andas have grown closer to nearby relatives from both sides of the family who invite them to Christmas feasts and other family traditions. Ideally, they wouldn't have to move too far.

"I try not to think about that we live in such a confined space," De Anda said. "A lot of people feel like they need their space. … We don't really spend much time in here, so I don't think we feel claustrophobic. It's not like, oh man, I want to get out of here. I like living here."

The couple likes to go for drives, checking out neighborhoods they know are too expensive for their budgets.

"I do think about with our new baby coming, what's that going to be like," Pedro De Anda said. "We definitely want to think about getting a bigger place to live."

Tipping point

The homes that would have been affordable for families instead went to many cash buyers and investors during the recession. Many are still holding onto those homes.

Investors bought hundreds of desert homes, many from foreclosures and short sales. Homes were a relative steal: Prices had plunged to less than half the peak of the 2006 boom. The resulting swell of investor purchases shrunk the housing inventory and contributed to a sudden spike in home prices across the desert.

The largest bump came in 2012, when institutional investors purchased 11 percent of the valley's home sales, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine-based real estate firm. That summer, desert home prices jumped 23.5 percent compared to a year earlier. The median price was $210,000 in July 2012, up from $170,000 the year before, CoreLogic DataQuick data show. Investors have since pulled back on purchases

Downtown La Quinta hit hard by thunderstorm and rain

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

Monday's rain swamped the city of La Quinta turning normally busy roadways into muddy rivers and lakes. 

The heavy downpour left people with no way to get in or out of the downtown area because the major roadways were impassible.

Firefighters performed dozens of water rescues when drivers along Avenue 52 got caught in the fast-rising waters between Washington Drive and Cetrino across from the SilverRock Resort.

Patrick Tomlinson of Cal Fire said firefighters pulled 16 people from approximately 8 flooded vehicles Monday morning. 

Tomlinson said, "The fire trucks were able to drive up and put them into the cab of the truck and pull them out.

One of those motorists was Jennifer Rubadou who said, "It just all of a sudden was a big flood so cars started getting water over them.  So we stopped.  We actually went up.  We were one of the smart ones who went up on the cement." 

Nobody was injured there. 

Washington Drive was flooded in several places as was Calle Tampico.  

Both roadways were closed to all traffic for more than an hour Monday morning because of the deep water that had collected on them, and was flowing dangerously fast.

One motorist, Daniel Butcher, said he had to swim to safety after water surrounded his car on Washington Street.

Butcher said, "I was submerged two hours up to the window.   I had to jump out the window and swim over to the people over there.  It was that deep."

A parking lot was flooded outside La Quinta City Hall as dozens of vehicles were left to flood.

Some were city-owned vehicles.  

Others appeared to belong to employees, who gathered outside to look a

Rancho Mirage- Mission Hills to host LPGA qualifier

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

A field of 285 golfers, believed to be the most ever in a first-stage qualifying tournament, will begin play today at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage in the first step toward qualifying for the LPGA Tour.

The field is full of mini-tour players, 69 amateurs and international golfers from 31 different countries looking for a chance to join the LPGA in 2015.

The top 100 players and ties after four rounds will advance to second-stage qualifying action in Florida. They will be joined there by players who were exempt from the first stage. Last year, four players made it through first, second and third stages to earn LPGA playing cards.

Two desert players, Simone Strauss of Palm Desert and Alana Erlandson of Palm Desert, are in the field.

Among the other notable names is Alison Lee, now at UCLA and one of the country's top collegiate golfers. Lee, who will be a sophomore at UCLA this fall, has already played in the Kraft Nabisco Championship played on the same Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills. Lee is still listed as an amateur for the week, so if she doesn't make the LPGA she can return to UCLA. The same is true of Doris Chen, who plays at USC and is also one of the nation's top collegiates.

Also in the field is Naree Song of South Korea, known locally for having played in the 2000 Kraft Nabisco, along with her twin sister Aree, when the Songs were just 13.

Tee times run from 7 to 8:50 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. on the first and 10th tees of the Dinah Shore Tournament and Palmer courses at Miss

La Quinta’s new movie theater draws praise, complaints

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

La Quinta’s new 12-screen Cinemark Century Theater hasn’t shown a single film yet, and it is already getting mixed reviews.

Some people are happy to know the ragged construction fence will be gone once the complex is built along Washington Street.

But a few others are vehemently opposed to the project, saying the increased traffic and bright lights will become an annoyance when the theater opens next summer.

City leaders have so far sided with those who think the theater complex is beneficial to the community, with the Planning Commission recently approving the project’s environmental review and necessary permits.

Construction should start within 60 days, according to Bill Sanchez, project manager for Washington Park, a commercial plaza located south of Highway 111.

“We’re hoping this will be the catalyst to get our center … and whole Highway 111 corridor going again,” Sanchez told The Desert Sun.

The environmental study looked at the potential impacts of a theater and restaurants, and found the project would “not have a significant impact on the environment,” according to a city staff report.

The traffic impact analysis determined that 4,842 daily trips would be generated by the project.

But residents such as Judie Harrison question the findings, saying the “lighting alone far, far exceeds anything that has been accepted in the valley.”

Harrison, who lives in nearby Lake La Quinta, also argues the area is already busy from the nearby St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, and nationally recognized events that are held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and at Indio’s polo grounds.

“The impact during these times is going to be mind-boggling,” Harrison said of traffic for those events.

Sanchez said street modifications of turn lanes on Highway 111 and Washington Street will help ease traffic flow.

Plans also include a traffic light near the church.

“The site will have access from Highway 111, Washington Street … and Avenue 47,” Sanchez said. “That will help traffic disperse to different directions. They won’t all be funneled.”

Palm Desert-Investor buys Indio, Palm Desert land slated for homes

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

An investor has bought two large swaths of land slated for single-family homes in north Indio and at The Campus at University Park in Palm Desert.

WSI Mojave Investments LLC purchased the Monte Vina community in Indio for an undisclosed amount, according to Province West’s Libby Wickland, who brokered the transaction. The gated community formerly owned by The Lissoy Family Trust includes 101 finished lots and 195 semi-finished lots off Avenue 44 and west of Harrison Street. The average lot size is 8,200 square feet, which offers a glimpse of how large these future homes might be.

The same investor bought The Campus, a section of the University Park master planned community that could one day serve as the gateway to Palm Desert. The Campus, previously owned by Highpointe Communities, has 196 single-family and attached units that are fully improved and ready for a builder to begin construction. The homes border the desert campuses of Cal State San Bernardino and UC Riverside.

The investor will hold onto the two communities during the improving real estate market until it can sell the land to a builder, Wickland said.

La Quinta-Water agency to consider mandatory cutbacks Tuesday

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

Coachella Valley agencies are considering various ways to conserve water during the state's extreme drought, including looking at landscaping water use.

The city of La Quinta, which already replaced the grassy borders at Civic Center Park with desert landscaping, is now looking at doing away with the lush grass surrounding city hall.

"We're going to be looking at a number of different areas where La Quinta can help reduce the amount of water use in our city and … turf is part of that," Mayor Pro Tem Lee Osborne said Monday. "We have to look at everything."

Tim Jonasson, public works director, said the city plans to partner with the Coachella Valley Water District, which provides water to the city and its residents, to replace its turf in the city.

The water district board of directors meets Tuesday and will be asked to impose mandatory watering restrictions in addition to increasing its water conservation program funding by $540,000 — including $130,000 more for turf replacement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January and, on July 28, the State Water Resources Control Board imposed emergency measures that require water agencies and water users to increase water conservation or face potential fines.

The Palm Springs-based Desert Water Agency on Aug. 5 adopted mandatory water restrictions, prohibiting customers from hosing down driveways, prohibiting the watering of lawns and outdoor irrigation between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and limiting the service of water at restaurants to only those who request it.

CVWD is being asked to approve similar water restrictions.

"With people being aware of the drought, we're anticipating it will increase interest in our (water conservation) program. We're expecting … more people to take advantage," district spokeswoman Heather Engel said Monday.

Engel said La Quinta could choose to participate in the district's rebate program directed toward large landscape users that include homeowners' associations, businesses and cities. The program also has a separate category for residential only.

Tuesday's discussion will include increasing the maximum rebate for the large landscape users from $10,000 per project to $25,000 per project. Users are allowed up to two projects.

La Quinta already converted its civic center park border to desert landscape a few years back, Jonasson said.

Rancho Mirage has also removed turf in the city by partnering with the CVWD on a "special cost share" program outside the realm of the rebate program, Engel said.

Jonasson said La Quinta had hoped to replace the turf around city hall this year, but couldn't afford the $477,000 price tag, so it's being pushed to next year as part of the capital improvement program.

He said he envisions the city working with CVWD in a similar fashion as Rancho Mirage as to not compete against HOA's for money.

Palm Desert-Four local eateries to open in Palm Desert

by Steve Enlow - DRE #01368794

As confidence in the food service sector surges, four restaurants are planning to open locations in Palm Desert this fall.

Palm Springs mainstay deli Manhattan in the Desert and Shogun, a high-end Japanese steak and sushi eatery, are taking the two restaurant spaces that are vacant at 74-225 Highway 111.

Meanwhile, Mexican restaurant Pueblo Viejo Grill is preparing its second Palm Desert location. And Thai Smile is moving from Rancho Mirage to the El Paseo shopping district.

Coldwell Banker Commercial Lyle & Associates' Steve Lyle, who handled three of the four transactions, said the improving economy and the success of newer eateries including Si Bon in Rancho Mirage and Mastro's steakhouse on El Paseo have given other restauranteurs more confidence to expand.

"There is a major shakeup occurring in the restaurant scene in Palm Desert this summer," Lyle said. "Once all the dust settles there will be an impressive new line up of eateries with a vast assortment of new and unique menu items to enjoy."

Manhattan in the Desert owner Jamie Pinto said his new restaurant will have the same pastrami, brisket and other popular Jewish fare as the current deli, as well as a full bar.

"It'll be very comfortable, but it'll have a very high-end feel as far as the ambiance goes," said Pinto, who hopes to appeal to workers and visitors at nearby financial businesses.

Owner Ocean Properties Development remodeled the building, which was constructed in 1948 by Russell Henderson, one of Palm Desert's founders. Some local preservationists objected to the overhaul before it got city approval in 2012.

It was last home to the original LG's Steakhouse, which occupied the west side for 20 years before closing in 2011. The east side was a Kaiser Grille, which morphed into a seafood restaurant before closing about five years ago.

Pinto, who bought Manhattan in the Desert 3½ years ago, started looking for a second location in response to inquiries from customers who would regularly drive to Palm Springs from Palm Desert or points east.

Construction is under way at the new location, and Pinto is hoping to have it open by Oct. 1. There will be about 60 employees, including a few who now work at the East Palm Canyon Drive location.

Next door will be Shogun, a chain that owner Bruce Kanenobu launched in Pasadena in 1980. The former LG's location will now feature several teppanyaki stations and a sushi bar along with traditional dining.

"I like the El Paseo name, and Palm Desert is very nice," said Kanenobu, who also said he's vying for an upscale vibe for his space, which is a little bigger than Manhattan in the Desert's.

A couple miles to the west is 72-650 El Paseo, a spot in the Palms to Pines shopping center that has sat empty since TGI Friday's closed about eight years ago.

Alba Cruz wants to change that by opening another Pueblo Viejo Grille location. The family-run business is already on Highway 111 in Indio and at Cook Street and Gerald Ford Drive in Palm Desert.

Not long after opening the Palm Desert location in November 2012, Cruz said her uncle noticed the building was on the market and hinted the family should take a look at it.

The building needs quite a bit of work after sitting empty for so long, she said. They're keeping a few elements but lightenin­g up TGI Friday's dark wood.

The family is projecting another Nov. 1 grand opening date for the newest restaurant, which will serve chile verde and other regionally familiar favorites. With seating for 220 diners, it is twice as large as the existing location.

"We'll be able to do the big parties," Cruz said. "We had people who wanted to rent out the whole restaurant, but we wanted to be able to stay open for other business, too."

Meanwhile, Thai Smile of Rancho Mirage has signed a lease on the former Firecliff restaurant spot at 73-725 El Paseo, which closed this summer.

The restaurant is leaving the Rancho Las Palmas Shopping Center at the corner of Bob Hope Drive and Highway 111, where it has been for about 12 years. That plaza is undergoing a revitalization, and Lyle said the restaurant's building would be torn down.

At 3,500 square feet, the new space is nearly double the size the old one and allows the addition of a full bar.

"I think this is going to bring some new people to El Paseo, because Thai Smile is not very expensive," said Lyle, the real estate agent for owner Matthew Creighton.

Lyle said the relocated restaurant, to be named Thai Smile El Paseo, is expected to open before the end of the year.

The new restaurants come on the heels of the June closure of the Elephant Bar and Tony Roma's on Highway 111.

Meanwhile, the Chop House at 111 and Portola Avenue is being converted by its owners into a Kaiser Grille, like what used to be in the space Manhattan in the Desert has leased. It's expected to open in late August.

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Steve Enlow - BRE #01368794
Desert Sands Realty
78000 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 202
Palm Desert CA 92211
(760)880-3675
Fax: (760)262-3232