California Dreamin’ in the Coachella Valley

Hot Southern California destinations for living, retiring and investing.

Renowned for its fusion of midcentury-modern design and desert, Palm Springs and the broader Coachella Valley became famous as a luxe escape for 1950s and ’60s A-list celebrities like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

Today, Coachella has a second wind, thanks to the eponymous music and arts festival that has brought a new generation to the region. With more than 350 days of sunshine annually, the golf-centric destination (122 courses) is a haven for B.C. homebuyers looking to escape winter’s wrath.


John Rayson and his wife, Vivian, divide their retirement years between Indio, California, and their Kootenay Lake summer home. In 2009, they purchased a 1,488-square-foot single-family home for $245,000 (all prices in U.S. dollars) in Sun City Shadow Hills, a 55-plus gated community for active adults. The amenities (two golf courses, a lit 18-hole putting course, sports courts, pools and spa) were part of the appeal; plus, they knew four Cranbrook couples who bought in the same development.“We put $35,000 [of upgrades] into it and it’s worth approximately $310,000 now,” John says, estimating a tidy 10 per cent return if they sold today.


“The market has transitioned slowly over the last couple of years from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market,” says Ed Borquez, a realtor with Sheri Dettman & Associates in La Quinta, who often represents Canadian buyers. With low inventory pushing home prices up, Coachella real estate is a promising bet.

“The supply ratio has gone down considerably, as well as the amount you can expect the seller to discount. Properties are taking half the time to sell,” says Bourquez, who often coaches clients to offer close to asking price these days.

Villas of Mirada, Rancho Mirage. Photo courtesy of Coachella Valley Real Estate


Along with the robust resale market, many new developments are popping up–especially in Palm Springs, the hottest market in the region. According to Borquez, La Quinta has some of the most expensive developments, and Indian Wells has the highest percentage of well-off retirees, followed by Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. Though the average valley detached home price is $395,000, Bourquez says, “One million gets you either a new or newer, very well-built home in some cities, or an older golf-course home,” with new golf-course homes priced closer to $1.2-million.

Like many second-home buyers, Canadians here (60 or 70 per cent of Borquez’s clients, for example) tend to pay in cash rather than through loans. With sellers receiving multiple cash offers, Borquez suggests winning strategies for his clients, like paying towards the seller’s closing costs.


In June 2017, North Vancouver residents Candace and Andrew Denis bought a 1,900-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home for $348,000 in La Quinta’s PGA West gated community, overlooking the Stadium Course.

“La Quinta is a bit of a premium, but we bought while we’re still working,” says Candace, who has covered regular costs and $25,000 in renovations through renting the property. Their homeowners’ association fees are relatively steep (at $550 per month), but worth it, she says, for cutting-edge amenities like concierge service, an open-air bar with a fire pit, kids’ splash pad, drive-in golf cart movie theatre and dog park.

The lock-and-leave security of a gated community is attractive, particularly if a home will be vacant for any period. Borquez cautions investors seeking strictly cash-flow properties–wherever they buy–to verify that short-term rentals are permitted, because they’re not allowed in every area or development.


Nine distinct cities stretch south from Desert Hot Springs: Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes, Indio and Coachella. WestJet files direct to Palm Springs from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton; by car, it’s a 21-hour drive (2,221 km) from Vancouver to Palm Springs. Here are some of the hottest new projects.

Palm Springs
The Downtown Project by Grit Developments: Phase 1 of this urban community puts you in reach of the nearby Palm Springs Art Museum, shopping and cool eateries like Haus of Poké, Stout Burgers & Beer and Il Corso.

Desert Palisades: Three minutes from downtown Palm Springs, this midcentury-design community has 110 custom homesites along the Chino Canyon, with sweeping views.

Rancho Mirage
Del Webb at Rancho Mirage: Ten different single-storey detached home options here all have open, lifestyle-driven designs, some with perks like a gourmet kitchen or golf-cart garage.

Lido at Terra Lago: With lakefront single-family and paired homes, this community counts a golf course, pool, fitness centre, clubhouse and playground  among its lifestyle perks.

Palm Desert
Genesis Palm Desert: Part of the Millennium gated community, this group of semi-custom single-family residences includes a dog park, swimming pool and exercise facility.

By Tracey Rayson