Do you own a STR in Joshua Tree, Palm Springs or Big Bear Lake?

24 Replies


Do you currently own a vacation rental in Joshua Tree, Palm Springs or Big Bear Lake?

If so, I'd love to have you answer the below questions:

1. What are the 3 best things about having your rental property(s) there?

2. What are the 3 worst things about having your rental  property(s) there?

3. If you could start over, would you still invest in this area?

4. If you were me, someone who is looking into these areas what would you suggest as I begin looking the buying process?

Thanks so much!!!


       I have a few large homes south of Palm Springs, and we have done extremely well.  With that said, there is a constant threat of a change in regulation, and my Palm Desert property will have it's short term license taken away at the end of 2019 (along with all R1 licenses) if the laws stay as they stand.  My first purchase in the area a 6-plex in Palm Springs they outlawed rentals on a few weeks after I bought it.  Definitely an area where you need an ear to the ground with regards to each cities, and not for the faint of heart!

@John D. thanks so much! REALLY appreciate this info. 

Hope they change the 2019 plans and allow you to continue. 



I own 4 of them now in Big Bear Lake

Best 3 things:

They make a ton of money and are booked at almost 100% occupancy all year.

The real estate isn't that expensive although that is quickly changing

The city ordinances aren't as strict as Palm Springs

Worst 3 things:

Very difficult to find reliable vendors, mainly cleaning service

Local crime is very high

11% transient rental tax on gross income

If I could start over I'd still invest there, it has made a great investment so far, but it has been very stressful. I'd be happy to get you in touch with the right people in Big Bear Lake if you message me directly.

      I can weigh in a bit on Joshua Tree as well.  There has been a HUGE influx of vacation rental homes in the J-Tree area, which has pushed prices and occupancy down over the last year or two.  It went from a market I was very interested in, to one I'm not looking at any more, as a result.  There are however a shortage of event spaces in the area, so a large home on acreage where you created an event space might still get you some solid numbers. 

Thanks so much @Kevin Kelsey ! This info is golden. I'm DMing  you now. 

Appreciate it!


Got it @John D. ! Makes sense. I'll DM you also. 



I have a small condo in Palm Springs that I offer as a vacation rental.


-It was affordable to purchase relative to the rates I can charge.

-It's an area that I love, and it's easy to sell/market something that you love. I enjoy going there to work on it.

-I bought in a complex with a tight community where I had existing friends/contacts. This gives me vetted, word-of-mouth referrals, and a support network when I am not in town.


-The city vacation rental rules and regulations are strict and contentious. My HOA requires a month minimum for rentals, so I am technically a "short term" rental and not a vacation rental: I don't have to follow them. If my HOA relaxes their rules, it would be a lot of work and expense for me to get started as a vacation rental. Due to the overall regulation-happy climate, I worry about future scope creep impacting me. Overall, it influences my investment plans in this area.

-The challenges I have had with guests and contactors happen to everyone, everywhere.

-The closest IKEA is Covina? I can't come up with another negative which I guess is a good thing.

I would definitely still invest in this area. I wish I had done it sooner, but I still think there is room for growth. Palm Springs continues to develop and increase in popularity.

My suggestions:

-Have a plan for the off-season. Tourists do come year round, but it helps to have a couple of other sources for renters.

-Don't totally ignore Craigslist. Posting an ad plus cruising the housing wanted section (and carefully vetting people) has gotten me several good guests. There are a lot of senior tourists/snowbirds in this area who get confused/annoyed with Airbnb - they just want to talk to you and mail you a check.  

-Redecorating your home is basically a competitive sport in Palm Springs: There is a lot of affordable, stylish stuff to be found at the thrift and resale stores.

-Don't be afraid of lease land if the numbers work. A good RE agent will be able to advise you on the rules and caliber of the leases in the area.

 Message me if you want to chat more or some local contact referrals.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE DETAIL @Allison V. ! Really appreciate it. 

Have a great day!


@John D. How much has the market increased in the last 2 years? Do you have any numbers on this?   In regards to your comments on event space.  It seems a wedding venue would be popular, no?

Are there any solid wholesalers in either Joshua Tree or Big Bear; there are a lot of run-down houses in both areas. 

I have a relatively new STR in the coachella valley.

1. What are the 3 best things about having your rental property(s) there

  • High daily rate during peak season
  • Good quality guests w/ few issues: High-net worth families, lots of snowbird, Tennis/Golf enthusiasts, Families 
  • Good knowledgeble cleaning crews with STR turnover experience

2. What are the 3 worst things about having your rental property(s) there?

  • Summer & low seasons means big peaks/valleys on P&L
  • Ever looming concerns around bylaw changes (but that's likely in most markets, right?)

3. If you could start over, would you still invest in this area?

  • Yes

4. If you were me, someone who is looking into these areas what would you suggest as I begin looking the buying process?

  • Run your numbers, Use Airdna as a directional tool for returns potential, but back it up with comps of your own. Look at supply/demand (We opted against JT as @John D mentioned it's highly saturated which pulls down your returns and also costs are skyrocketing making the returns lower - good luck finding the mythical $100k home that isn't a shed any longer)

Best of luck Shawn

@StevieAnn Nance I didn't write down the numbers, so I can't give you exact historicals unfortunately.  I'm not sure if any of the data services out there track inventory or demand over time for a particular city.

Yes I believe a wedding type event space for estate style weddings would do well, and I've been considering a project along those lines.

@John D. No worries.  I can see past values on Zillow & Realtor which show 250% increases over the last 2 years.    

I agree that a desert estate wedding venue would do amazing .

@StevieAnn Nance ah I thought you meant the increase in rentals, not the increase in median price or similar.  Yes prices have definitely shot up, as has short term rental supply.  While demand is definitely increasing the few owners I know up there have said supply is increasing faster.


While we no longer own any Vacation Rentals in Big Bear (we used to have 4) I have been selling to investors for the last 12 years here as a Realtor.

1.  Our crime rate is about as low as it gets. With 70% of the homes up here sitting empty during the week there are very few break-ins.

2. We are a 3 1/2 season resort so that you have rentals almost all year long with the right property and amenities.

3.  BB is way ahead of most cities with the city ordinance so as long as you play by their rules and collect the taxes there are no surprises such as the case with PS

Our prices have risen in the last 3 years so great deals are more difficult to find.

@Jim Gordon thanks for the info!

Can you DM me your email address? Would love to get a trip to meet up in B.B. and chat more about STRs there.



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I own a VR in Joshua Tree.

1. What are the 3 best things about having your rental property(s) there?

- Tons of tourism

- Easy going house guests choose a destination like JT; they just want to hike and relax!

- We love the area ourselves

2. What are the 3 worst things about having your rental property(s) there?

- It's hard to find quality help

- Summer is HOT

3. If you could start over, would you still invest in this area?

- A million times over ;)

4. If you were me, someone who is looking into these areas what would you suggest as I begin looking the buying process?

Start four years ago. ;) Just kidding (sort of). Find a good agent and be ready to move quickly when an opportunity arises. If possible, buy IN Joshua Tree.

Oh, and my husband and I are starting a VR management company in JT, so if you're not from town, we've got you covered!

My girlfriend and I moved from Los Angeles to 29 Palms, which is one town east of JT.  It does not have the hippie-chic of Joshua Tree but like JT a few years ago, things are changing quickly. And prices are rising. One good thing is that the city of 29 Palms is friendly to VR and has established a coherent process to follow. JT is unincorporated and administered by San Bernardino County. 

29 Palms has its own entrance to Joshua Tree National Park on Utah Trail.  And while the downtown is not as humming as JT, that entrance is buzzing during the season. We don't have the iconic Joshua trees -- JT is at a higher elevation and a bit cooler, this is apparently all the difference for the trees -- but we have the same magnificent views and basic housing stock of JT. Ranches, some mid-century moderns, random adobes and homestead cabins. To the east is the modern day Pioneertown of Wonder Valley. This desert community is experiencing something of a quiet and slow-motion revival as one-by-one ramshackle cabins and homes are being renovated. 

Is there an oversupply of VR's in the region? That is the looming question. Supply and demand are our eternal taskmasters and we must listen to them. No one knows the future. We do know that the Park is booming and grows in visitors each year. 

Currently, it seems desert life is right in the center of the Zeitgeist. Perhaps that's a trend. But I don't think so. The reason I don't think the appeal will fade is that the desert offers something people in any city would kill for: views. 

You can see to the horizon in the desert.  Many homes come with astonishing views.  If you are up the hill in the Hanson Tract as we are, you look from the back at the hills of the Park and from the front down at the twinkling city below. If you live in town, many have views of the hills.  Desiring a view is not a trend. It's an established aspect of human nature that goes back to pre-history. That's why I don't think the desert's appeal is a trend that will pass.  

For the time being, homes in 29 Palms are more affordable, allowing vacation rentals to be competitive on pricing when compared to Yucca Valley and JT. But yes, the possibility of a glut in vacation rentals is real. An economic downturn could curtail the disposable income that drives tourism and demand could dry up. Owners could get hurt if they're relying on that income to pay their bills. Travel is a luxury, not a necessity.  

For now, I see 29 Palms as a sort of Bushwick to JT's WIlliamsburg in Brooklyn and a place to enter the RE market in California that still makes sense.  For Californians considering investing out-of-state, this might be an in-state option closer to home. Anyway, I'm a believer. I recently began working at 29 Palms Realty as a new agent there and I invest locally as well.  Feel free to contact me with questions. If I don't have the answer, I'll help find it. 

Tom Murtagh

Ca. BRE Lic. # 02041938

818 825--0640

I own 2 in Big Bear Lake and managing 10 others.

3 best things: Money in all seasons,  love visiting up there, love the local people I have met. 

3 worst: Just like anywhere- help is hard to find, too many people buying thinking they can make the Big Bear money and charging too low when they see it's a lot of work. 

Would absolutely buy in again.  But now looking to buy in Joshua Tree to diversify. I know- 3 years too late- but JT tourism continues to grow. They are even paving streets now! 

after looking into Joshua Tree the last few days I may just stick to Big Bear. The problem is Joshua tree has no big weekends or weeks. Big Bear the 10 days  from Christmas to New Year's you literally can quadruple your price and easily boom all nights. I get from  $800 to $1,600 at night. And while summer is 199 a night winter for the same place can be $300 a night. Joshua tree doesn't seem to have those big guaranteed windfalls or all season rentals Joshua Tree pretty much dies off in the summer, even if you have air conditioning, you're charging a lot less, and your air conditioning is sucking up all your profits. And Christmas and New Year's I'm not seeing nearly as big of a bump as big bear gets. In Big Bear I'm renting out 200 to 225 nights a year, and I'm just not sure I would get that in Joshua Tree. Maybe I'm wrong and I would love to hear from more Joshua Tree people about that.

I'm not sure where you are seeing J-Tree occupancy dropping through the floor in the summer, but I know owners that are PACKED throughout the summer.  Kids are off from school so more weekday stays from LA and SD families, plus it's not as blazing hot as the Coachella Valley.  Add a small pool and clean up.

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