Palm Springs Never Goes out of Style

Golf, Hollywood and Mid-Century Modern homes give this popular city its quintessentially California vibe

By Shivani Vora

Photo: Teigan Media

Located about a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is a desert city in California’s Coachella Valley, a region with nine towns including La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells. With a full-time population of around 48,400 residents, it has long been a getaway spot for Californians who enjoy the warm weather and outdoor pursuits such as golf, hot springs and hiking.

Views are also part of the draw.

“Palm Springs is surrounded by mountains on all four sides, and you see them, along with towering palm trees, from nearly every vantage point,” said Brady Sandahl, the founder of Brady Sandahl Real Estate Group, a subdivision of Keller Williams Realty in the Coachella Valley. “The setting is pretty incredible and hard to match.”

Palm Springs became a popular vacation destination in the 1930 and ’40s, Mr. Sandahl said, when Hollywood’s elite including John Wayne, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra began frequenting it as a weekend escape.

 “They loved the proximity to L.A. and their sets, and many of them bought homes,” he said. “California can get fog along its coastline, but Palm Springs boasts mostly sunny days, which only upped its appeal.”

Famous for its Mid-Century Modern homes, the city has always been an affordable place to buy a vacation property, compared to pricier areas such as Malibu and Santa Barbara, according to Stewart Smith, a partner with the Palm Springs real estate firm PS Properties. In the wake of the pandemic, however, he said that the real estate market has seen a surge in residential sales with higher prices following soon after.

“People wanted out of large cities and craved space, and Palm Springs offered a value for your money,” Mr. Stewart said. “Once the market exploded, the scenario changed.”

Below, everything to know about living in this vibrant Coachella Valley desert city—and its iconic homes—today:

Photo: Teigan Media

Architecture, History and the Allure of Mid-Century Modern Homes

Palm Springs is synonymous with Mid-Century Modern architecture, an aesthetic defined by high-ceilinged homes with floor-to-ceiling windows, post-and-beam construction, smooth angles and clean, minimalistic finishes.

The movement dates to the mid-1950s when local developer Alexander Construction Company embarked on a multi-year venture to build more than 2,200 homes in the Coachella Valley. Many are situated throughout Palm Springs and designed by the architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel, founders of the firm Palmer & Krisel, in a mid-century modern style. In fact, Mr. Krisel is credited for creating Mid-Century Modern’s signature butterfly roofline where a roof inverts upwards, similar to the wings of a butterfly.

Some “Alexander Homes,” as they became known, were also built by other architects such as Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison.

“Homebuyers took to Alexander’s, and they became highly sought after,” Mr. Stewart said. “A lot of the nicer homes were and still are in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood and snapped up by celebrities like Dinah Shore, Dean Martin and Kirk Douglas.”

The draw to Mid-Century Modern homes hasn’t waned today. Mr. Sandahl said that Palm Springs’s home buyers—since the pandemic and for the decade leading up to it—seek out these bright, airy properties and often update them with the latest technology and new fixtures. Recently built houses are also inspired by the style. “It’s a look that’s as relevant as ever,” Mr. Sandahl said. “The glass in your home overlooks your swimming pool, manicured backyard and the mountains. The artwork of the destination comes into where you live.”

But while the mid-century modern architecture in Palm Springs may be the most iconic and get more than a fair share of publicity, Mr. Sandahl pointed out that the city’s housing stock consists of properties in other architectural styles including Mediterranean, Spanish and traditional.


Home prices in Palm Springs have appreciated between 25% and 50% over the last three years, according to Valery Neuman, a broker associate and founding partner for Compass in Palm Springs. According to the company’s data, the median listing price for a property in July 2022 was $836,000, an increase of 30% compared with July from the year before.

Ms. Neuman said that upscale homes start at $1.5 million and go up from there. They typically span 3,500 square feet and have three to four bedrooms, a spacious backyard with a swimming pool and a two-car garage. The most prestigious neighborhoods include Old Las Palmas, Indian Canyons, Vista Las Palmas and Movie Colony.

“On the top end, sales can hit $20 million, and new construction and mid-century modern homes command the highest prices,” Ms. Neuman said. “Also, it never really happened before, but now, with inventory being limited, properties see multiple offers. It’s a competitive market.”

Mr. Smith agreed and said that prices per square foot have jumped since the pandemic started from between $400 and $500 to between $600 and $700. Mid-Century Modern homes sell for a premium of $1,100 to $1,200 a square foot.

But the market is slowly turning in the favor of buyers. “Inventory is increasing, and interest rates are rising so people aren’t going to find it as affordable to finance a home,” Mr. Stewart said.

The Culture and Amenities

Golf is a mainstay in Palm Springs with more than 100 courses within an hour’s drive of the city, according to Mr. Sandhal. Examples include the ones at Big Horn Golf Club and Thunderbird Country Club. Other attractions in town include hiking and biking trails, and two parks—the 22-acre Ruth Hardy and DeMuth, spanning 61-acres; both offer tennis, and Demuth also has a dozen pickleball courts. Downtown Palm Springs is lively and full of stores and high-quality restaurants in a variety of cuisines while the Coachella Valley is home to multiple casinos and the McCallum Theater, which hosts concerts and shows throughout most of the year.

Mr. Stewart pointed to Palm Springs’s robust lineup of cultural events. These include Modernism Week, held twice annually and dedicated to mid-century architecture and design and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, held eachJanuary and drawing in a glittery crowd. Palm Springs VillageFest happens on Thursday evenings and is a traffic-free street fair in downtown with more than 180 vendors.

Public schools are solid, according to Mr. Stewart, and except for a few steamy months during the summer, the weather is pleasant for most of the year. “There’s every imaginable diversion here for people of all ages,” he said.

Flight accessibility is also strong into Palm Springs with an international airport that operates nonstop flights between destinations all over the U.S. and Canada such as New York, Boston, Dallas, Nashville, Toronto and Vancouver.

Who Lives Here

Forget the retirees who used to be the primary residents in Palm Springs. Ms. Neuman said that the demographic today skews younger with people from all over the U.S. and Canada. “Celebrities are still part of the mix, but it’s not uncommon now to have buyers ranging from [their] 20s to [their] 50s,” she said. “Most still come from Los Angeles, but Covid has definitely brought in diversity from other cities.”

These buyers are mostly buying vacation homes, according to Mr. Smith, but some, especially families with younger children and couples with the option to work remotely, are moving in full time. “There’s a real sense of a permanent community now. Palm Springs didn’t really have that before.”

Via Mansion Global

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