The LA Times hears from local real estate agents (who "spoke on condition of anonymity") that the First Family is in contract on a 8,200-square-foot contemporary mansion in the exclusive Rancho Mirage, Calif., neighborhood of Thunderbird Heights. The White House has refuted the rumor, which seems to have started with a visit President Barack Obama made to the area in mid-June—the third such trip in a year—interfacing with world leaders and "mixing business with golf." Listed in March of last year for $7M, the home is in contract for $4.25M.
The two biggest pieces of wishful thinking underpinning this completely unsubstantiated rumor are the fact that Gerald and Betty Ford lived just down the hill (precedent!) and that White House decorator Michael Smith owns a home in the neighborhood (a buddy!). As to the circa-1993 seven-bedroom, the listing notes that it's got "spectacular views," "privacy," two spas, a pool with a "rock formed lagoon," a putting green, and a "motivated seller."
The home was formerly owned by police drama novelist Joseph Wambaugh, and is listed in Property Shark as belonging to a William A. Robinson, but in any case was last sold for $4.9M back in 2001. It was put up for all of $12.5M in 2007 and has since ridden the Great Recession down to a fraction of that, getting taken off the market and relisted three times. Local HOM Sotheby's agent Carl Blea once told the Desert Sun that the current owner spent an oof-eliciting $10M on renovations. So if the rumors are true, then good on the president for waiting for the right time to buy.
What does more to shut down this tale than the White House's denial of the story is how hard it is to picture the Obamas setting down post-presidency in a hyper-ritzy gated community like Thunderbird Heights. Especially given the fact that POTUS has waxed poetic about returning to New York City, and should probably just move to Brooklyn.
UPDATE: TMZ has dropped the inevitable truth bomb, citing "sources close to the president who are familiar with the situation" who say that the Obamas have never even seen the house, and "will NOT live in the desert when his presidency ends." Moreover, White House decorator Michael Smith toured the place at the request of a prospective buyer, and "didn't like the house AT ALL. It's pushed up against the mountain, it doesn't have a lot of light and it's just not that stylish." Sounds about right!