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Coachella Valley home sales skyrocket as city buyers flock to the desert during pandemic

In any other year, living in a bustling city would be exhilarating, with exciting possibilities and new people around each corner.

But for many in 2020, living in a city is exhausting, crowded, and cramped.

"In Chicago, there are just so many people no matter where you go," said Susan McKenna, who is moving to La Quinta from Chicago. "We're just looking forward to being able to go outside and walk and just not have to worry about having so many people."

Like so many others, McKenna found that the new reality created by the coronavirus, with stay-at-home and physical distancing orders, amplified the need for more space at home. After four months cooped up in her house, she said she felt boxed in, both physically and mentally, leading to the move out west.

Many city dwellers are looking to move out of busy metropolitan areas, and because of that, Coachella Valley real estate is a hot commodity this summer.

Debby Romness, a sales agent with Pacific Sotheby's International Realty, met with News Channel 3 at one of her listings in The Vintage, an exclusive country club in Indian Wells reportedly home to some famous residents.
She said homes in all price ranges -- from $300,000 condos to $10 million estates, like the one shown in the video -- have been seeing a flurry of activity.

"I've sold here for 16, 17 years, and I've never been this busy in the summer before," said Romness, who also pointed to buyers telling her about the need to get away. "I think it's scary right now in the city. There's tons of traffic, it's dirty, it's congested, there's riots, there's COVID. It just doesn't feel safe. And this feels better here. Not that we don't have our problems like the cities, but it feels good here."

And the sales feel good too. Romness said last June, Pacific Sotheby's did about $36 million dollars in sales across the Coachella Valley. This year, the month of June brought in $41 million for the firm.

The Coachella Valley is seeing a strong seller's market, and real estate industry experts note that record low mortgage rates below 3% are spurring people to buy and in turn, driving up that demand. Real estate sales agents said some houses new to the market are getting multiple offers on the day it's listed -- a phenomenon that agents here haven't seen in a long time.

The California Desert Association of Realtors tracks inventory, and the association's most recent desert housing report shows the number of available homes falling each year, settling to an extreme low for the summer of 2020. With inventory numbers that low, and demand this high, experts say homes that are priced right are selling like hotcakes. The flood into our desert is apparent; other counties aren't seeing nearly the same buying frenzy.

"The LA market and Orange County in particular -- they have a more stagnant market at this time," said Robin Dufault, the 2020 president of the California Desert Association of Realtors. "We're surpassing them in sales … in number of sales, so their prices aren't going up."

With COVID-19 safety restrictions leading people and companies to realize the newfound ability to work from home, workers are seeing they can move anywhere and capitalize on getting more bang for their buck in the desert.

"This is kind of one of the last bastions of affordability in Southern California, and it really is funneling other people here from other counties," said Stephen Powell, a broker with Fathom Realty.

Powell has had a phenomenal few months. Pent-up demand from the shutdown coupled with his 3D virtual tour capability for his listings (no virus risk this way) has led to 100% sales for all of his listings.
He said homes are closing faster than usual too.

"It's a great time to put your home on the market, especially now, and [with] low inventory, the chances of you getting what you want for it or what the market will bear for it is greater now than at any other time," said Powell.

Aside from getting away from the crowds, more space means less risk for loved ones. According to Homesmart, with the high risk of COVID-19 in nursing homes, more families are looking for larger spaces so they can be the caregiver.

Experts said they expect this real estate frenzy to continue into the fall, when they anticipate more sellers putting their homes on the market.

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Angela Chen

Angela comes to the Coachella Valley as KESQ’s morning anchor after teaching graduate school classes at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication. Learn more about Angela here.


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