BY BRUCE CATHCART

Summer came early this year to the Coachella Valley and it looks like it plans to stay late! I for one am anxiously looking forward to Fall and some cooler temperatures here in the Desert. Despite the heat, our summertime sales have been steady which I’ll cover in the sales data below. For this week’s article I thought I would share a little history about shopping for homes for sale or rent in the “bad old days” before the internet and modern real estate search engines were developed and then I’ll suggest a few tips on how to take advantage of the new technologies to help buyers and tenants in their search for a home.

When I began selling real estate back in 1982 buyers had very limited access to information regarding homes for sale or rent. Typically buyers either read real estate ads in the newspaper or drove around neighborhoods looking for “for sale or rent” signs and then had to call the listing agent for more information about the house. Eventually a buyer would pick a real estate agent to work with and then relied on their agent to do all of the searching. You see, there were no computers or internet in those days. Once a month (with bi-weekly updates) the local Board or Realtors or Multiple Listing Service (MLS) would publish a book about 2-3 inches thick with all of the listings in the Valley. Only licensed Real Estate agents who were members of this service could obtain these books of listings filled with “proprietary information” which could then selectively be shared with their clients. As agents we had to be diligent in our search and communicate regularly with our clients since they were dependent upon us to find the right home for them. By the mid 1990’s that all changed when the first MLS began publishing their agent’s listings on the internet and real estate search engines (like Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, etc.) gave buyers and renters the ability to search homes on their computer independent of their real estate agents.

Before I offer up a few tips on how Buyers and Renters can take advantage of the internet and new technologies in searching for a home, let’s take a look at the sales data for homes in the Coachella Valley for the month of August.

According to the Desert Area MLS as of 9/1/17 there were 799 pending transactions of residential properties here in the Coachella Valley in the month of August.  That’s down from the 860 pendings in the previous month (July) but up again when compared to the same time last year when we had only 779 pending sales.  In July there were 789 solds and we were back up a bit in August with 811 solds. This slight increase in sold properties is not normal for this time of year and a sign that demand continues to increase here in the desert as buyers are willing to brave the extreme heat in order to find a home. This is another increase over last year when we sold only 727 homes in August 2016.  Our year to date sales total for 2017 stands at 7,316 homes compared to the same time period last year when we had sold only 6,443 homes. Statistically we ended our first eight months in 2017 exceeding last year’s sales by over 13%. We are continuing this trend for our third straight year starting off with higher volume of both pendings and solds. According to the Desert Area MLS “Statistics” the average home sale price and median home sale price for ALL HOMES in the Coachella Valley are up about 8% this year when compared to the same time period for last year. This is an excellent trend for our valley and even though I estimate that the majority of the homes here in the Coachella Valley are still about 15% below the high market values that we experienced in 2006-7, this positive data indicates that the Coachella Valley real estate market and home values here continue to improve. Our inventory of homes for sale was down slightly this month with only 3,172 homes available on September 1, 2017 compared to 3,292 homes available on August 1, 2017. While we usually experience a “seasonal” drop in inventory this time of year as many sellers take their properties off the market for the summer months, this is the sixth such drop in as many months in the total number of homes for sale in the Coachella Valley. With home sales staying strong this year through August I now believe that there is a shortage of homes for sale in our market place, especially in the lower more affordable priced homes. As this trend continues, and if the interest rates remain low, we should see prices continue to move higher into the fall.

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Today’s buyers have a veritable overload of information and tools on the internet to assist them in their home search. Tip #1 is when a buyer (or tenant) first starts shopping for a home is to have fun! Simply Google “Homes for sale (or rent) in [the city of your choice]”. All the major search engines and some Realtor websites will pop up. Click, pick, browse and “window” shop. Tip #2 is when you start to get a little serious select a trusted real estate agent to work WITH. Your agent will help guide you through the search process and help you to understand the information that you are seeing online. Your agent will show you different properties and help you to refine your search for both what you are looking for and where you want to find it. Perhaps most importantly your agent will be able to enter your search parameters into the local MLS which will automatically send you an email alert and property details of homes matching your desires within minutes of them coming on the market. Other search engines have the ability to do this, but they rely on the MLS data being streamed to them which can oftentimes be inaccurate or outdated… so why not go directly to the source? Tip #3 is to continue having fun while working WITH your agent to find the perfect home. If you choose to go “old school” and still drive around neighborhoods looking for signs, I suggest you download on your mobile phone one of the many apps currently available that gives you all of the information on every home listed for sale or rent in the MLS by simply touching the onscreen image of the home as you drive by it! When you find something you like text your agent and set up a showing. The best part about working with a trusted real estate agent is that their services to a Buyer (or tenant) are free! So take advantage of their services. I am sure the will have many additional tips to help you in searching for a home.

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 bycathcart@laquintapalmsrealty.com or visit his website at www.laquintapalmsrealty.com.