Last January, as the peak of the pandemic began to recede, Dave Andrade took a trip from his home in Santa Cruz, Calif., about an hour south of San Francisco, to the desert community of Palm Springs, where friends had recently moved to escape big-city life in the Bay Area.
“After three days of this trip, I was like, ‘I love it. I could really see myself living here,’” he said.
Mr. Andrade, 34, grew up in Santa Cruz and went to college in San Francisco, where he lived for about a decade after graduation. He returned to Santa Cruz in 2019 to be closer to family, and then to ride out Covid lockdowns. But he didn’t have many friends nearby, and he didn’t want to return to the Bay Area.
Like San Francisco, Palm Springs offered a thriving gay community, with a more relaxed vibe and much more affordable housing. “I had lived my entire life in this 75-mile radius in Northern California,” he said. “I realized I wanted to try something different.”
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In March, Mr. Andrade contacted Kevin Koerner, a friend who was a broker with Compass, to help him sift through properties. Mr. Koerner warned him that places were going fast. Palm Springs, historically, has been a destination for buyers “looking for places to get away for the weekend, or a week, or to come here in the winter,” he said. But a new wave of buyers had descended on the desert, looking for permanent homes, as jobs went remote.
Mr. Andrade set a budget of about $350,000 and began looking for a home with two bedrooms, so friends and family could comfortably visit. He also wanted an enclosed yard so his 3-year-old corgi, Gus, would have space to run around.
He considered condominiums and manufactured homes, sometimes called mobile homes, where the owner buys the building but pays a monthly fee to the mobile-park operator to lease the land beneath it. Mr. Andrade had grown up in a manufactured home in Santa Cruz and had most recently lived in one there, which he sold in the spring for $578,000 — “grossly overpriced,” he said — as he hunted in Palm Springs.
“Dave came into the market at the right time,” Mr. Koerner said. “He was in a financial position where he was able to do exactly what he wanted to do.”
His plan was to bank the difference between the Santa Cruz sale and the Palm Springs purchase, and live off the profit. “To me, it just makes sense not to spend more for a roof over my head than is absolutely necessary,” said Mr. Andrade, who worked in tech for years and is now self-employed.
Among the homes he considered — all of which had a pool and spa in the complex:
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