BY BRUCE CATHCART
It is a good thing that I’m a whole lot better at predicting the real estate market here in the Coachella Valley than I am at predicting the weather! September 1st started off with 115 degree heat and led me to believe that summer would be long in leaving this year… but boy was I wrong. The last 3 weeks of September have been October like with daytime highs under a 100 degrees and cool nights and mornings. Perfect weather to get scalped! Coachella Valley residents know that modern day scalping does not refer to a hair lifting experience but rather the annual ritual practiced in our valley each fall on thousands of lawns and golf course fairways. It involves cutting the warm weather Bermuda grass extremely short and removing all of the built up “thatch” (old clippings that are not removed with the normal mowing) in preparation for the over seeding with annual Rye grass. Rye grass grows well in the cooler weather and gives our Valley that rich emerald green look throughout the winter months when the Bermuda grass goes dormant. This process is highly recommended if you have a lawn and plan to sell your home during the upcoming “season” as nothing enhances the curb appeal of a residential listing like a perfectly manicured carpet of verdant green grass in front of a desert home. It seems to draw thirsty buyers like an oasis! Unfortunately the traditional scalping techniques used here in our valley release huge amounts of dust and pollens into the air that irritates thousands of residents who suffer from allergies and asthma. Is there a better way to scalp your lawn that can reduce the release of the dust and pollens into our air… or is scalping even necessary?
Before I answer these questions let’s take a look at the sales data for homes in the Coachella Valley for the month of September.
According to the Desert Area MLS as of 10/1/17 there were 804 pending transactions of residential properties here in the Coachella Valley in the month of September. That’s up ever so slightly from the 799 pendings in the previous month (August) but up again when compared to the same time last year when we had only 786 pending sales. In August there were 811 solds and we were down quite a bit in September with only 668 solds. This significant decrease in sold properties is normal for this time of year as our cooler “shopping weather” has yet to return and many homebuyers are more focused on back-to-school sales than buying a house. This is consistent with last year’s home sales in September (2016) when we sold only 650 homes. Our year to date sales total for 2017 stands at 8,035 homes compared to the same time period last year when we had sold only 7,168 homes. Statistically we ended our first nine months in 2017 exceeding last year’s number of sales by just under 13%. The big news is that our total dollar volume of sales is up over 1 Billion Dollars when compared for the same nine months last year. This is a huge increase and a sign that not only are we selling more homes this year, but the homes are selling for considerably higher prices. According to the Desert Area MLS “Statistics” the median home sale price for ALL HOMES in the Coachella Valley is up about 5% but the average home sale price is now up over 20% this year when compared to the same time period for last year. At this rate it won’t be long before the Coachella Valley home values are back near the high market values that we experienced in 2006-7. Our inventory of homes for sale was back up slightly this month with 3,227 homes available on September 30, 2017 compared to 3,178 homes available on September 1, 2017. This reverses the six month pattern of a steadily lower number of homes for sale each month here in the Coachella Valley. Typically our inventory of homes for sale begins to grow at this time of the year… we’ll just have to watch and see if this pattern continues. If it does our market should return to equilibrium where the inventory is adequate to meet the demand. If that becomes the case then home prices may have reached a plateau and should stay stable for the remainder of 2017. Next month’s statistics should tell the tale.
Traditional scalping involves turning the water off for a few weeks prior the actual cutting of the grass. At that point we watch goggled and masked gardeners and maintenance crews; or rather, we watch what looks like Tasmanian Devils whirling across our lawns and golf courses in a cloud of dust as they scalp the Bermuda grass. Is there a better way? Much to the delight of allergy and asthma sufferers, there is! It is called “smart scalping” and the concept was started here in the Coachella Valley back in 2000. Instead of cutting the water off to the Bermuda grass it is gradually turned off and then the grass is dampened right before the scalping begins. Results from test areas showed that the dust and pollens being released into the air were reduced by 90%. This is now common practice on almost all of our Coachella Valley golf courses. Unfortunately most gardeners for individual homes, Home Owners Associations and apartment complexes do not practice smart scalping and continue to scalp the old fashioned way. This season watch your gardener and see how he scalps your yard. If appropriate, maybe you can make a difference by bringing smart scalping to his attention.
But do you even have to scalp and over seed your Bermuda grass each year? I have learned that if you are not fanatical about having that lush green Rye grass and don’t mind a little yellowing in January and February our winters are usually mild enough to maintain Bermuda grass year round. The secret is to properly fertilize your lawn at the appropriate times of year and do not over water. I am told that the best fertilizer to use is a dry granular slow release fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio of Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium. This is written right on the bag (usually 12-4-8). The best and correct time to fertilize your lawn is every 2-3 months starting in March, but never in December, January or February. Try it this year and see if this works for you. It will save you on water, scalping and mowing costs… but alas, it will never be as pretty as Rye grass!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.