How to Buy Real Estate in Palm Springs

Lance Gerber

A burgeoning cultural scene, new hotels, and a fresh crowd are signaling a revival. Here’s how to secure your own sun-drenched, modernist retreat.

No longer considered a resting place for retirees, Palm Springs is undergoing a desert revival distinctly its own. Established in the 1930s as a Hollywood getaway, the area now spans nine distinct cities, including Desert Hot Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, which encompasses the exclusive Thunderbird Heights community, where the Obamas recently vacationed. Today, more and more Angelenos are flocking to the area, much like New Yorkers to the Hamptons.

This year’s events calendar featured the inaugural DesertX, an art biennial emphasizing site-specific installations by 16 internationally known artists like Doug Aitken and Lita Albuquerque. Modernism Week (February 15–25), a citywide design celebration with lectures, tours, films, and a modernism show and sale, is heading into its 13th year. Music festivals in nearby Indio and Coachella bring in a star-studded crowd. (Look out for the remake of A Star Is Born, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, shot this spring at Coachella.) Add to that the annual BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in close-by Indian Wells and the ongoing Palm Springs International Film Festival, and it’s no wonder the valley is fast evolving into a western cultural hub.

L’Horizon, an oil tycoon’s 1952 compound by architect William F. Cody, was refurbished and is now the only hotel in the Coachella valley to join the Leading Hotels of the World collection. New hotel projects under development include those for Virgin, Andaz, and Kimpton brands, and the Parker was recently renovated by Jonathan Adler.

According to local Realtor Patrick Jordan, the region is brimming with available “grande dame estates,” like actor Cary Grant’s former home, which sold for $3.4 million in 2016. Jordan’s firm, Patrick Stewart Properties, which specializes in luxury homes, sold the John Lautner–designed, 23,366-square-foot Bob and Dolores Hope estate to investor Ron Burkle for $13 million last November. Another Lautner gem, featured in Diamonds Are Forever, was sold to Los Angeles fashion designer Jeremy Scott for $7.7 million.

If midcentury modern architecture or a golf resort is what you’re after, specialized Realtors include John Nelson and Cat Moe of Coldwell Banker Residential or Keith Markowitz. According to Nelson, “We’re getting a much younger crowd. It’s no longer a place where your grandparents have a condo.” Nelson recommends homes built in the ’50s in the Vista Las Palmas district by architecture firm Palmer & Krisel, which is known for modular post-and-beam construction with a butterfly roof. The neighborhood, he says, is overflowing with midcentury three-bedrooms with mountain views and proximity to downtown that run $900,000 for a fixer-upper and $2.9 million for a renovated 2,400-square-foot open plan with a pool. Nelson adds, “We’re seeing more people from the East Coast because of direct flights from New York. Our midcentury modern houses and affordability are a big draw.”