Get the Star Treatment at ModMansions
By Kevin Perry
When you buy a car, you consult a mechanic. When you need surgery, you seek the advice of a doctor. So, when you’re thinking of renting a house, there is no better contact than ModMansions founder/partner Jim Murphy.
“By training, I’m a civil engineer and I’ve traveled all over the United States,” Murphy narrates. “When I flew into town, I set foot on the tarmac, took one look at the mountains, and right away I knew I had to make my way to Palm Springs to live here.”
Chalk it up to a case of love at first flight. “It was honestly a real force of energy,” continues Murphy. “There was a spiritual draw that spoke to me. The energy came up through my foot and into my whole body. I said, ‘That’s it, how do I figure out how to make a living here and just exist?’”
A year and a half later, Murphy officially made Palm Springs his home… and quickly began making it homey for other eager visitors.
“ModMansions is different than other property management firms. The big difference is that we own all the houses that you rent. All the houses you see on the website, as a civil engineer, I’ve designed them or I’ve built them or I’ve decorated them, and we manage them. So when you call us, you’re dealing with the owner.”
Murphy and his husband Hal Keasler pride themselves on being great hosts, great handymen and, most importantly, great neighbors. “We are here, we are in Palm Springs, we’re literally minutes away from every house, and we’re very attentive to our clients. Their vacation experience is top-notch in a well-appointed, modern, clean, well-built house. We’re professional, we’re engaged, and their experience is our main concern.”
When Murphy and Keasler founded ModMansions over a decade ago, it was already a star-studded affair. “We had the Alan Ladd house,” recounts Murphy, “we had the Betty Grable house. It wasn’t actually Betty Grable’s house, but it was the woman who first had insurance on her legs and her breasts to body-double for Betty Grable. So we had all these Hollywood connections.”
But Murphy has more than just actors in his cast of legends; his homes also satisfy guests’ cravings for architectural royalty. “With the proliferation of midcentury modern style, we have a Wexler, and we have a Jack Meiselman.”
With esteem like that, you would think ModMansions would be the talk of the town, but sometimes the message gets lost in tech-nation. “We advertise primarily on VRBO, Home Away and Air BnB, but what’s happening on those platforms is that they’re completely obliterating our brand,” Murphy explains. “The platforms charge a whole bunch of different service fees. Whereas if you know us, or you contact us directly through the website or at our phone number, we don’t charge those. It’s a $500 savings. With some houses, that could be a whole additional day’s stay, that could buy a whole bunch of martinis, it could be a night out to dinner, it could mean a whole bunch of ways to enjoy Palm Springs.”
To streamline their hospitality, Murphy and Keasler are opening a new HQ called ModPods. “It’s actually a historically designated building. It’s the old Cork ‘n’ Bottle building, an art moderne building (art deco style), and I’m currently restoring it right now.” Murphy continues, “It’s really gonna become our office space but also a co-work space in downtown Palm Springs.”
Never one to rest on his considerable laurels, Murphy recently acquired the crown jewel in his Inland Empire empire. “We just purchased the Howard Hughes estate in October,” reports Murphy. “It’s a little bit too big for a vacation rental, but it lends itself beautifully to an executive getaway. With magnificent views, the ability to cater, a big ballroom, the ability to sleep 18 to 20 people and still have all your privacy.”
Sealing the deal, Murphy concludes, “They’ll have their strategy meetings in the morning and then they get to do things all afternoon in Palm Springs. So it’s kind of a work/vacation.”
Speaking of the V-word, what does someone as driven and dedicated as Jim Murphy do in his downtime? Answer: he lifts people up. “We try to go full circle; it’s not just about creating successful companies as much it is giving back to the community. Not just the local community of Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, but the larger LGBTQ community as well.”
Summoning his passion for philanthropy, Murphy beams, “We have set up a foundation for all of these houses to fund an educational foundation for underrepresented LGBTQ youth for college and technical training, any type of training they need to advance and better themselves.”
Word of Murphy’s selflessness rippled across the pond and caught the attention of The Financial Times of London. “I ended up being listed as one of 2016’s leading 100 LGBTQ executives in the world for my efforts here in Palm Springs,” he notes with earnest humility.
Eager to shine the spotlight on anyone but himself, Murphy changes the subject to his favorite topic of all: his guests.
“We have met the most fascinating people,” exclaims Murphy, “that come back year after year after year. Our service is that much better because we really get to know our clients. We have so many repeat clients and we store bags, we store bikes, we store golf clubs, because people trust us. There’s nothing more important and valuable than that trust.”
When visitors place their faith in Murphy and Keasler, they reap the dividend of a tailor-made vacation experience in Palm Springs. “We take that extra step and make sure that their house is the right house.”
To live like a King or indulge like a Yaas-Queen, hang your hat at ModMansions. Welcome home, supreme.