State of Coachella Valley real estate

POSTED: 09:23 PM PDT May 02, 2013 

Home prices are up year-over-year in the country.  In the Coachella Valley, the story is somewhat similar.  But even more importantly, it is changing the way people are buying and selling their homes.

The McPhersons of Palm Desert are relocating after nearly five happy years in the desert, and grateful they're doing it now.

"Of course you want the best price for your home, so real excited," says Denise McPherson.  "Seems like a really good time to be on the market right now."

Across the Coachella Valley, real estate tracking firm Realty Trac shows the median home price up year-to-year.  Cathedral City is up about 10 percent, Palm Springs is up almost 26 percent, and Thousand Palms is up almost 29 percent.

However, growth is more modest-- even sluggish-- in mid-valley cities like Rancho Mirage (up 3.5 percent), Indian Wells (up 2.8 percent), Palm Desert (down 3.4 percent) and La Quinta (down 14.1 percent).

"When we moved here from San Francisco it was at the bottom of the market," says Pel McPherson.  "Things have changed quite a bit, so we're in a better position than a lot of people here are."

Realtor Paula LaBellarti of Keller Williams Rancho Mirage explains "We have less than three months inventory.  Normal is six months."

She says that is helping move homes fast across Southern California.

"I don't think it's a bubble because it's happening rather slowly, not quickly like it did last time."

But the rising prices are also changing people's attitudes about moving.  Some are taking out home equity loans to pay for new construction, rather than invest in a new home.

"At the end of the day I'll be able to put in the money here, have the bigger space that we need, be able to get my money back because of the market condition, AND not spend as much as I would have buying elsewhere," says Los Angeles homeowner Alex Griswold of his family's renovation.

According to real estate tracking firm Redfin, in March, 52 percent of homes listed for sale in Los Angeles were under contract within two weeks.  Many of those homes had multiple offers coming in above asking price-- something not seen since the housing bubble burst six years ago.

"It's a frenzy," says Los Angeles realtor Ben Lee.  "I will have people calling me before (a home) hits the market trying to get in, get their clients an advantage. I'll have multiple buyers lined up outside."

"It's happening a whole lot in Los Angeles," adds LaBellarti.  "And what happens in LA happens here six months later."

Denise McPherson says their home has "only been on the market a couple of days."  But the family has already shown it to several potential new owners.

"There are a lot more buyers than sellers, so getting multiple offers, we're hoping that's what we will get."