From the White House to...? President Obama considers change of address as eight-year term nears its end

Rumours say Barack and Michelle are set to purchase $12.5m property in an area of California known as the 'playground of the presidents'

US Editor

The first family will not be sending out change of address cards any time soon, but speculation about where they will settle once America has elected someone new to take possession of the White House in 2016 is already in high gear. Right now the focus is on a dry but glitzy patch of California desert.

“Not true,” said an aide, but a report in the Los Angeles Times suggested that Barack and Michelle Obama are in the process of purchasing a very modern nest – listed at $12.5m (£7.3m) eight years ago – in a gated community in Rancho Mirage just south of Palm Springs. The area already has the nickname “playground of the presidents”, in part because it is where Gerald Ford pitched his tent when he left Washington.

It is true that Mr Obama, like every president before him, will have to go somewhere. There is no place for a retirement bungalow on the South Lawn.

Sometimes there is little sport in guessing where presidents will wash up, because they already own private, secure homes that have a hold on their hearts. Ronald and Nancy Reagan returned to the ranch they adored near Santa Barbara, California. George HW Bush took Barbara to the spread in Kennebunkport, Maine. The Kennedy compound on Cape Cod in Massachusetts made the White House seem pokey.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was not to return to Arkansas, the state he governed before being elected in 1992. His choice of destination was limited because of his decision to create a philanthropic foundation in New York or, more specifically, the then still struggling Harlem neighbourhood. That meant buying in the suburbs of Westchester.

What would seem like Mr Obama’s most obvious pick? A frequent holiday destination since taking office has been Hawaii, where he grew up. But surely it would be too far from the action. The island of Oahu is meanwhile competing to be chosen as the site of the presidential library that will be built when Mr Obama leaves office. Its main rivals for the privilege are Chicago and New York City. The Windy City, of course, might reasonably expect to have the Obamas in its midst post-2016. It’s where they have their only home right now, but it sits on a crowded residential street with little scope for keeping snoopers – or others who may not wish the former president well – at bay.

Red states are ruled out, of course. Mr Obama is not about to move next door to George W Bush in the entirely pleasant Sleepy Hollow neighbourhood of Dallas, and join his painting lessons. It is also extremely safe to assume that Mr Obama will not be moving anywhere that does not offer easy access to some decent links time. Which brings us back to the house in Rancho Mirage. It has a swimming pool with a 20ft waterfall, two spas, a misting system for those scalding cactus days and a very fine view. But here is the detail that may make us think the Los Angeles Times report is true: the house has its own putting green. With sand trap.

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