rancho mirage real estate

Photo: Leaskou Partners

In the winter months, the resort city of Rancho Mirage, California, becomes a popular destination in large part because it boasts one of the warmest winters in the United States. The combination of bright sunshine and snow-capped mountains in the distance create a perfect backdrop for golf, and snowbird recreation. It began to flower in the 1940s and 1950s when Hollywood stars and monied Angelenos sought a warm retreat for the winter months.  Golf, martinis, and afternoons by the pool were the order of the day (and not out of fashion yet). There are nine country clubs in the area including Thunderbird and Tamarisk, the country club designed in 1952, that today’s home is located in.



Photo: Elite Realty Group

Photo: Elite Realty Group

Yucaipa? The close-knit community in California’s San Bernardino County isn’t exactly the vacation destination on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but the town has a lot to recommend it, including great recreation opportunities and a quaint downtown. In fact given the town’s commitment to lifelong learning, health, and wellness, it might just be a dream spot for retirees.


Surely you’ve dreamed of second home ownership but like me, you are a perpetual tire kicker OR you worry that you won’t use the home enough, the maintenance will drive you batty. Second home owners sometimes corner me at parties and say, hey you with your damn fetish for multiple home ownership, it’s helluva lot of work. We just spent our entire weekend painting our second home — thanks a lot.

I get it. We do own a second home — well, lot —that’s part of what I call a condo ranch in Johnson City. It’s a shared ownership ranch because these fingernails don’t chop cedars and split fence. I want a second home with all the luxury, without all the work. I want horses to ride and groom when I fancy, but not every day. Let the ranch manager worry about the Longhorn.

Still: man does not live by the ranch alone.

The Fairmont Private Residences at Ghirardelli Square, which I have raved to you about before, is coming to town. We are having a sip n see party for select readers of CandysDirt.com and SecondShelters.com at a private home in Highland Park to learn the nitty gritty of Fairmont fractional ownership. Fred Karpik will be here from San Francisco answering the tough questions. For example, a friend asked me today something crucial: what are the maintenance charges and how much can they go up? We will be asking all this and more, and of course I’ll blog it all. Current owners will be on hand to tell us how much they like or dislike their property.

Fractional ownership makes so much sense to me. Though we love it, we have been to our Hill Country lot once this year. Our children live out of state and we go visit them, or we visit family on the other coast at the beach house in Maine. What’s happened to our home ownership needs is they have changed. We want less, but more. Like most folks our age, we can travel now that our kids are grown, and our family home is filled with family only a few times a year. Then you get that tax bill as we did today and you say, well, I cannot say what I said. (Maybe — ha — thank you, Angela Hunt.) It may make more sense to have a smaller home in Dallas and a part-time place out where our kids live. A fractional ownership at Fairmont Ghirardelli gets me 35 days a year to visit my son and daughter-in-law; last year, I visited them for a total of about 15 days in Cali. That would give me a place to stay in San Francisco, private storage for a warm coat and wine, a  car with driver in town, and flexibility to use another Fairmont Private Residence Club the other 20 days.

And to be honest, who gets more than 35 days of vacation a year, unless you are retired?

Plus the location of this property in unbeatable — and TOTALLY unaffordable for me if it were not fractional.

I think this makes total sense. We have friends contemplating the same thing as they eye fractional ownership of homes near their flock. Are they an appreciating asset? Probably not. At least you get a deed, and can will your deed to your estate, so your heirs can continue to enjoy it. There is no better legacy than leaving a second home for your children and grandchildren to enjoy. And at this one, Fairmont does all the work, from cleaning and electrical to maintenance and repair. Email me at Candace@SecondShelters.com if you’d like to attend or have any questions about fractional vacation home ownership — or pop us a question right here in the comments!

Late last summer, 2011, we were in Sonoma County, California where I toured a most amazing property called Mayacama. I credit finding this property to my trusted veterinarian, Dr. Barret Jiranek here at Lover’s Lane Animal Medical Center (Dallas). Or maybe I should give my precious Doodle Bree the credit. She had an ear ache, and I took her to see Dr. J before leaving town, like any good mother. He told me his sister lives in Sonoma — “in God’s country,” he said, and told me I needed to cover the development on this blog: 675 secluded acres amid rolling hills and northern California vineyards; wine and golf. Home ownership opportunities. I was intrigued.

Then I saw it with my own eyes. I have been to a lot of beautiful properties, from La Jolla to Rancho Mirage to Clint Eastwood’s Tehama. I adore Calistoga Ranch and Costa Rica. Mayacama is definitely one of the most elite and exclusive private clubs in the world, and yes, fractional second home ownership is available!

Whole ownership of any of these properties would be several million dollars.

Mayacama golf is to-die for!

The club is named after the Mayacama Mountains that separate Napa from Sonoma, tucked away, all surrounded by vineyards. If you were to draw heaven, this would be it. Yet it is surprisingly close to San Francisco, even allowing for the usually annoying California traffic. You head north on Highway 101 about an hour north of San Francisco and go about five minutes north of Santa Rosa. You steer up to a gate with guards, take a two mile drive to the clubhouse though a thicket of trees and hillsides that suddenly give way to an open meadow. And there it is.

Mayacama was founded and developed by the Wilhelm family in 1997, along with Forsythe Investments. It was built on land once belonging to Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, an avid golfer who, with a group of friends, envisioned developing a world-class semi-private golf course within the 3500 acre site. Environmental concerns put those plans on hold. The 40,000 square foot clubhouse evokes images of a Tuscan country estate. The villas and casitas are uber first-rate, beautifully designed and decorated.

But here, golf,  is supreme.

The property takes full advantage of the site’s natural elevation, which make the golf course rather challenging. That and the majestic oaks which dictate shot placement, I’m told. The course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, opened in August of 2001 and of course Nicklaud played the first round. It’s the variety of the landscape that heightens the golf experience. In fact, this was where my husband felt the closest he ever has in the U.S. to the U.K., when he golfed at Skibo Castle in Scotland. Mayacama has a strong caddie program so members and guests can uphold the tradition of walking the course.

Say You Own a  Home in the Wine Country

Golf is great, but you are here in the Northern California wine country — partake. In addition to counting more than 30 of America’s leading vintners among members, the club at Mayacama regularly hosts tasting events showcasing some of the area’s and the continent’s finest wines. There is a full time Concierge, beautiful fitness center and spa, tennis courts, Olympic sized pool, play room for children, and one of the highest rated spas in the country: European style, professional masseuse always on duty. Each member also has their own private wine locker, temperature controlled, to store wine they may buy in the area. In addition to being an amazing escape where you can indulge in golf, fitness, spa, Mayacama serves the glorious food of Northern California as well with top-rated chefs in the kitchen.

There are casitas and villas. Casitas are one bedroom, one bath 840ish square feet fully furnished with every amenity: fireplace, living area, kitchenettes, soaking tub and a staple of the region, the outdoor shower. Villas are three bedroom, three and a half bath, 3000 plus square feet of indoor/outdoor living with decks and panoramic views. All lodges are fully maintained with constant maid service, and like most fine residences the staff will prepare for your stay, shuttle you, and store personal belongings. There are 12 casitas and 19 villas and a fractional ownership here nets you 28 days in one of each.

It’s simply heaven.

As my site’s tagline reads, “you can never have too many homes.” Apparently, many buyers and homeowners agree. The latest Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey from the National Association of Realtors reported that vacation-home sales rose 7 percent in 2011.

In all, as I may have told you, vacation-home sales accounted for a healthy 11 percent of all real estate transactions in 2011. Not bad for a still-sluggish housing market.

And look at this gorgeous property I just found in Dana Point, California: $2500 per square foot at The Strand.

Of course, buying a vacation home is one thing. Maintaining it is another. What if you live in Dallas and your vacation home is in North Carolina or Miami or this $25 million number on the west coast? How do you make sure the kitchen sink isn’t leaking or the windows aren’t broken when you’re hundreds of miles away?

Simple. (Well, not that simple.) You hire a concierge service. These services – also known as property management services — will watch over your second home while you’re away, make sure that the grass is mowed and the snow (if your second home resides in a chillier clime) is plowed.

I recently spoke with my mortgage guru Marcus McCue, senior vice president with the Plano office of Guardian Mortgage Company, about the steps owners of vacation homes can take to find the right concierge service for their second residences. Mortgage companies tend to like it when you take care of your property. Not only do many of his customers have second homes, his family also maintains a vacation home in Colorado – one of the top two states for second homes for Texans.

Candy: First, why do you think the vacation-home market has remained so strong even during a slow time for primary real estate?

 Marcus: You have to consider the buyers in the second-home market. They are buying these homes because they want to, not because they need to. The economic slowdown obviously hasn’t hurt these people as much. They still have money to spend, and they want to spend it on vacation homes that they and their entire families can enjoy. Because of this, the second-home market isn’t as impacted by the ups and downs of the economy.

Candy: That’s exactly what we heard at NAREE. The second home market can be rather insulated. It’s easy to enjoy a vacation home while you’re there. But what about when you’re not? That’s the challenge, right, maintaining these homes when you live across the country from them?

Marcus: That can be a challenge. You need to hire a concierge or property management company to take over the day-to-day maintenance of these second homes. You can do little when you live hundreds of miles away. You can’t just leave and forget about that second home once your vacation is over. Who knows what can happen to that property when you’re not there?

Candy: A woman in Dallas has a second home in East Texas, very remote, and the thing BURNED — she didn’t even know it ’till she drove out there! What can the owners of vacation homes expect their concierge services to do for them?

Marcus: Basically, they do everything that you do for your primary residence. There’s the basic upkeep, of course, but they are also there to handle any emergencies. Maybe a front window gets broken. They’ll take care of it. If there’s a leak in your home, they’ll handle it. Need someone to open the gate for a furniture delivery? Your concierge has the keys.

Candy: What about handling rentals? Many owners of vacation homes rent out those homes when they’re not using them. Concierge services can help with that, too, right?

Marcus: Definitely. Good ones screen renters and set up their schedules. They collect the rent and arrange for cleaning afterwards. Plus, they check the home for damage after a stay.

Candy: What questions should vacation-home owners ask when they’re investigating concierge or property management companies?

Marcus: First, ask a company how long it’s been in business. You want to work with a service that has a lot of experience. The more experience a concierge service has, the more prepared it will be to react to any problem. Also, make sure to ask how long a concierge service has worked in your vacation-home market. You don’t want to work with a company that may have many years of experience but has never tried to rent out a condo or home in your vacation home’s neighborhood.

Owners should ask, too, for a complete rundown of concierge services’ fees and what services come with these costs. They should ask how a concierge company will market their vacation homes. That’s important when it comes to securing renters. Finally, ask services how often they’ll check on your vacation property. Ask if they’ll do a complete walk-through after each group of renters checks out.

Candy: Do you have anyone you recommend?

Marcus: There aren’t any nationwide concierge services so you need to find one near your vacation home. In Colorado, I can recommend The Grand Concierge in Winter Park and Frias Properties in Aspen.

Candy: Thanks, Marcus. This conversation makes me want to take another vacation. I think it’s time we checked out YOUR second home in Colorado!

If you have questions about buying, financing and maintaining a second home, feel free to contact Marcus McCue at 972-200-3380, marcusmccue@gmc-inc.com or on Facebook.

Photos by Mike Maez, courtesy Gooding & Co.

Last year, about this time, I was in Pebble Beach at the venerable Concours d’Elegance which takes place in the center of second home nirvana: Pebble Beach and Carmel. Family matters kept me away this year, but I hear the crowd was even bigger, better and richer this year: Jay Leno’s Fiat 500 Prima Edizione sold for 10 times its expected worth. Twenty-four collector cars sold in excess of $1 million, highlighted by the summit of the weekend on Sunday evening when the von Krieger Special Roadster, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K, sold for $11,770,000, a double world record for a Mercedes-Benz and a pre-war car at auction.

In a way, collectible cars can be like second homes and certainly cost more than a mansion. Leno’s small white coupe was initially valued between $25,000–$35,000 but grabbed a final total price of $385,000. I mean, that’s a condo at the beach, right?

That was just one standout in a weekend of record-breaking sales. Gooding & Co., the largest auction, came away with nearly $115 million in sales, up from about $78 million last year. And I’ve read that sales at the five biggest auction houses at Pebble combined (Gooding, RM, Mecum, Bonhams, Russo and Steele) totaled $260.3 million, up from $197.5 million last year.

“This is proving once again and more than ever that the world of people who are collectors who are well-heeled are realizing there is a limited number of these types of cars,” McKeel Hagerty, the founder of Hagerty Insurance, said in Forbes.com

No, this proves once again that luxury is nowhere near dead and the well-heeled are buying — three hundred thousand dollar cars (that’s about the average selling price at Concours), mansions and vacation homes. Sellers have to make sure they are finding these buyers and changing marketing skills to capture the affluent. What better place to capture them than Concours?

This increase in sales volume came despite lower volumes: according to Hagerty,  882 lots of cars sold in 2011 at an average price of $223,950. This year fewer autos — 754 — sold for an average of $345,272. The mood at the auction we hear was “nuts”. And of course Jay Leno, who recently took a salary cut as TONIGHT laid off staffers, helped feed the frenzy. Last year, when Leno walked in, it was as if like stood still to greet him.

This year seemed to be the Concours of the Movie Star:  Steve McQueen’s 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Coupe was sold by RM Auctions for (GULP!) $11,000,000–a world record for the sale of an American car. Like Ferratis? A 1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider set another world record, going at $11,275,000. Then there was that tip-top seller, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that once had been owned by the legendary Baroness Von Krieger.

photo by Mike Maez, Gooding & Co.

On Saturday, Jay Leno surprised the audience by making a special on stage guest appearance with David Gooding and Auctioneer Charlie Ross, auctioning his personal 2012 Fiat 500 Prima Edizione to benefit the Fisher House Foundation. Talk about top brass, more metal was onstage than in the cars: the United States Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Leon Panetta and Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Raymond Odierno introduced Fisher, a non-profit organization that provides a wide range of services and support to the families of wounded American solders. Leno’s Fiat 500, valued only between $25,000–$35,000, sold for $385,000 and pulled in an additional $215,000 of charitable contributions. Thanks, Jay.

Including these results, Gooding & Company has auctioned off a grand total of more than $30 million in collector cars over the years, generously benefiting charities that impact various great causes and foundations world-wide.

And, of course, it takes place in Pebble Beach every August. If you want to go and stay there in August of 2013, I suggest finding a place NOW.


The Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square offers sweeping views of San Francisco Bay. The waterfront project is in a historic part of the California city on the sea that has always captured my heart. I’m here checking out this amazing property that is available as a fractional ownership for a smidgen over $200,000 for a two bedroom, even less for a one-bedroom!

“We were looking at buying property for a second home in a few places, including Phoenix and Palm Springs,” says Canadian Ron Deyholos. “But my wife is not much of a golfer, so we started to look in San Francisco because we really like the city.”

The couple recently purchased a share in a fractional unit in Fairmont Heritage Place, and love it primarily because they have no headaches or upkeep. This came painfully to my mind as I landed at SFO this morning to news that not one but BOTH hot water heaters were dead upstairs and oh yes, it’s 107 in Dallas and one A/C is out. Great.

It’s about 70 degrees here in San Fran.

Located near Fisherman’s Wharf, the waterfront project is a collaboration between JMA Ventures, LLC, and the Fairmont Hotel chain and is part of the historic former Ghirardelli chocolate factory complex, which dates back to 1893. The red brick exterior walls are original to the chocolate factory, and later I’ll show you how cleanly and cleverly they preserved the original windows but made them more efficient. The development offers 53 one-, two- and three-bedroom homes right in the heart of the city. A courtesy car is about to whisk me off to Inman’s Real Estate Connect at the Hilton in Union Square.

The project is right on the water, offering beautiful views of the Bay across to Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. Plus there’s a fire pit, boutique shops, restaurants and pubs on the street level, so you feel very much in the city.

Fractional ownership gives the buyer a one-tenth deeded ownership of the unit and entitles the buyer to 35 nights per year with benefits, like reciprocity at any Fairmont and Raffles Hotels and Resorts or other Fairmont Heritage communities worldwide. Want to spend more than 35 days per year on vacation? You must be French. Fairmont lets Heritage place owners stay at Ghirardelli for $100 U.S. bucks a night. There are heavy duty discounts available on all other Fairmont properties, too: little bird told me 20%.

What I’m liking and here to really check out: the private residents’ club gives you a five-star experience in your second home. Which is exactly what you want in a second home, not more headaches. Some of these units are in the toney Exclusive Resorts collection. Other benefits I’m checking on for you: the car shuttle, owners’ storage facilities for, say, wine if you hop up to Napa or Sonoma, exercise facility, daily housekeeping (will there be turn-down service? I love turn-down service), great dining, shopping and grocery provisioning. I’m told I’m six quick blocks from Safeway and Trader Joes!

We have a friend in Dallas who owns one of these fractionals –he has a child living in the area, as we do. Also a lot of Canadians are buying in San Francisco  — two lovely gents just popped by my two-bedroom unit for a look/see. Western Canadians love the Fairmont brand, they told me,  and have access to about 12 Fairmont hotels, including the famous Whistler. They were quite impressed with the kitchen. Me, I can hardly wait to draw a bubble bath… and forget about everything that’s breaking in Dallas.