April 25, 2024

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An Entrepreneur Toured Over 50 Homes Before a Hummingbird Helped Find the One

When serial entrepreneur Howard Panes was shopping for a vacation home in the Coachella Valley, a hummingbird helped seal the deal for a Morocco-inspired home with a hookah lounge. 

A Florida resident, Panes said he looked at more than 50 homes before walking into a house he thought resembled a “sheik’s palace” in Palm Desert, Calif. 

The house has an interior courtyard with detailed tiling.

Patrick Ketchum

When a retractable glass roof over the home’s interior courtyard opened, Panes said, a hummingbird swooped down, flew all around the house and then stared at him. Then he realized that the street number of the property corresponded to the address of the first gym he owned. “It was my starting point,” said Panes, a co-founder of the exercise equipment company Stealth Fitness. “It was the road map of my life.”

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Panes bought the house for $11.5 million in 2022. He soon realized that he needs to spend more time in Florida for business, however, so he is putting it back on the market for $17.85 million. “I don’t want to leave,” he said, but “here we are.” 

The house has several fireplaces with hand-laid tiles.

Patrick Ketchum

In addition to Stealth Fitness, Panes co-founded Logic Technology Development, an electronic cigarette company acquired by Japan Tobacco in 2015. Two years ago, he co-founded Florida-based Mighty Yum, which bills itself as a vegan version of Lunchables. 

A New Jersey native, Panes said he was initially attracted to the Palm Desert house because of the creativity that went into the property’s Morocco-influenced design and construction. “When I first walked in, I couldn’t believe it was real,” he said. Located in the Bighorn Golf Club with views of the Santa Rosa mountains and Coachella Valley, the roughly 12,925-square-foot house was built in 2011 by a homeowner who was “obsessed with Morocco,” Panes said. “Her dream was to bring Morocco to the desert, and she did that.” 

The house is configured with four bedrooms.

Patrick Ketchum

The home has classic Moroccan design features including the hookah lounge, interior courtyard and a hammam-style spa area, according to the listing. The house is currently configured with four bedrooms, and there are multiple fireplaces with hand-laid tile. There is geometric detailing throughout the house, such as shaped archways, ceiling designs and window framing. 

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Luxe finishes include an elevator lined with mother of pearl and a 75-foot outdoor lap pool lined with black granite. There is also a round swimming pool near an outdoor kitchen and living area. The hookah lounge doubles as a movie theater, with a retractable screen that opens to the outside. 

Panes said he updated water features along with the home’s electrical, mechanical, home-automation and sound systems. A car collector, he also installed a car lift in the garage so it can now accommodate about six vehicles. 

A few months after buying the house, Panes said, he invited 150 entrepreneurs to the property for a three-day business retreat that doubled as a health-related experience with fresh juice and plant-based foods. In addition to workshops for entrepreneurs, he has invited friends to the property for spa days, yoga retreats and outdoor workouts. “The magic of the property is when others come to see it, they get so inspired,” he said. 

A hookah lounge doubles a theater, with doors to the outside.

Patrick Ketchum

Panes said although he intended to spend more time in Palm Desert, he realized he needed to be in Florida more often to work on Mighty Yum. “I expected to have more time for outdoor activities, to enjoy myself and have more relaxation,” he said. Last year, he bought a $20 million waterfront home in Boca Raton. 

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At $17.85 million, the listing is the most expensive in Palm Desert, said listing agent Stewart Smith of Bennion Deville Homes/Luxury Portfolio International, who is marketing with colleague Patrick Jordan.

Jordan said the asking price is based on the uniqueness of the home, with its many handcrafted details. “Originally we talked about $20 million,” he said, but $17.85 million is “a more palatable number for people.” If someone were to try to replicate the property, they couldn’t do it for less than approximately $30 million, he said.

In general, wealthy buyers are coming back to the market after retreating somewhat last year, Jordan said. In 2022, a futuristic home located nearby sold for $42 million.