By Bruce Cathcart

Is Coachella Valley Real Estate “Drying up”? Sadly, the answer is yes if we are talking about the landscaping (and possibly inventory, but more on that later). It may come as a surprise to learn that it’s not directly because of the drought in California. Thanks to our past Water District Executives and Directors we currently have an adequate water supply for the Coachella Valley. You see every year here in the desert is a drought and these folks planned for that by securing rights to the Colorado River water to replenish our aquifer as necessary. Unfortunately our state governor and the politicians in Sacramento who decided that taxpayer funds should be allocated to a “Bullet Train” instead of being spent on Desalinization and Water Reclamation plants have imposed upon Coachella Valley Residents a 35% reduction in water consumption to make up for their poor “choice”. Since the average homeowner’s landscaping in the Coachella Valley accounts for approximately 70% of their water usage it seems like this is the most obvious place to start cutting back. While we don’t really have a choice on whether or not we will reduce our water consumption, we do have choices on how best to do so and at the same time hopefully preserve or even improve our home’s value.

Before I share with you some ideas on this, let’s take a quick look at the real estate sales activity for the month of May. So far 2015 is sales got off to a slow start lagging behind last year’s numbers. While April sales were a slight improvement over last year’s sales we were all hoping for an even stronger May to make up the difference for the lagging sales in our first quarter of 2015. Here’s what happened.

According to the Desert Area MLS (as of 06/01/15) there were 889 pendings of residential properties here in the Coachella Valley in May. There were 1,012 pendings in the previous month (April) which means activity is slowing down following our normal seasonal sales pattern. Checking the pendings from May of last year (2014) there were 892 pendings for the month which is almost exactly the same as this year. Checking the actual sales data, in April there were 857 solds and in May we had 804 solds reflecting fewer closings than in April and again following our normal seasonal sales pattern. When compared to last year’s solds in May we had almost exactly the same amount with 807! So we failed to improve over last year’s numbers and now even if we continue to match last year’s solds for the rest of the year we will still end up selling significantly fewer homes here in the Coachella Valley in 2015 than in 2014. Unfortunately our downward trend continues.

Our inventory of homes for sale dropped significantly with 4,934 homes available as of May 1, 2015 compared to 4,567 as of June 1, 2015. That’s an 8% drop in inventory in just one month and while there are still over 600 MORE homes on the market compared to the same time last year this could become a major factor later this year if the trend continues. When real estate inventories dry up, sales volume slows down and prices usually go up! This is definitely something that we will watch closely over the next few months.

What are the choices that we the homeowners here in the Coachella Valley are being forced to make to reduce consumption by 35%? I could fill a book on this subject, but for today I’ll just talk about grass. You know, the green stuff you water, cut, and throw away each week. To keep the lawn or not to keep, that is the question. Some of our local water districts offer rebates to assist homeowners who want to reduce their outdoor water usage by converting their lawn to desert-friendly landscaping, installing smart irrigation controllers and replacing inefficient spray nozzles. If you decide to keep your lawn you will need to reduce the number of days, the number of times and the amount that you water it. You will also want to fix any leaks, water only at night and utilize the smart controllers and efficient nozzles. Reseeding with a more drought resistant grass like Bermuda and not reseeding with annual Rye this fall are also good ideas. If you decide not to keep your lawn you can chose to replace it with artificial turf, “desert landscaping” (rocks or decomposed granite), or simply stop watering it and let it die. Artificial turf is extremely costly but works quite well for small areas. Desert landscaping makes the most sense since it can usually be done by yourself at a reasonable cost and frees up Saturday morning if you mow your own lawns! Either of these options will help maintain the value of your home in the Coachella Valley now and beyond the drought years. If you opt to just let your lawn die and if it is your front lawn, be aware that you may incur the wrath of your neighbors as it definitely will not improve your home’s appearance or maintain its value. Choose wisely!

Join me each month this year as we keep a close eye on our Coachella Valley real estate market. If you have a real estate question or concerns please email me at the address below.

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at laquintapalms@dc.rr.com or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.

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