The Snowcreek Effect

While Mammoth real estate sales have been slow this spring, there is one disproportionate standout–Snowcreek condos. Several Snowcreek transactions have passed though my office in the past weeks, and it is a telling trend. My readers from the years past know that I was critical of buyers “just buying anything” in the sales surge from 2002-2005. But rushed and rising markets with unsophisticated agents and impatient buyers tend to create these results.

My philosophy was (and still is) to buy properties that will still sell even in the slowest of markets–the best properties, in the best locations, and hopefully with views and sun. And if some paint, carpet, and décor will really make it pop, then okay. Just don’t buy based on the paint, carpet and décor (many did). The problem is that many of the agents that were selling through this last market surge had never seen a slow market. And some that had simply forgot the lessons of the past. The value of being in the Mammoth real estate business through the 80’s and 90’s was seeing what sold during the slow times and what didn’t. We’re back to that kind of market.

So it is no surprise that I’m seeing Snowcreek condos still selling. These are not just the new ones. These sales are occurring in the older phases–units along the riparian corridors and other quality locations, units with views, units with good prices. These properties historically transacted even in the slowest of markets. These properties fulfill the basic desires of the real Mammoth buyers–quality natural environment and settings, a “resort” feel, views, sun, solid management, etc.

The Mammoth condo inventory is telling the story right now. There are “bunches” of inventory in some projects, and virtually none for sale in others. For instance, one of my pet projects over the years is Chateau Blanc and Chateau Sierra (originally Chateau Blanc 3 & 4). Out of a total of 60 units in the two projects, six have been listed for sale since January 1, 2006. All sold and there are none available on the market today. Despite being almost 40 years old, these units were originally well-built, they are spacious floor plans (most with garages), are in low-density developments, most have nice views and sun, the projects have nice common areas (with pools) and are well maintained. They also have a convenient location. Go up the street to Woodlands and there are eight units for sale (out of 57). Woodlands is a solid project, but this trend happened in the 90’s too.

There is no database to go back and scour to confirm this, except for the sales in those years, and all of the information is on paper in ringed binders. The information is mostly in the heads of the agents who experienced those times and made mental note of what sold and what didn’t sell. For me, just the mention of a property, or driving by it, or walking into an open house, gives me that instinctual feel. Usually it is the memory of having a similar property listed for years–-and after years of work and frustration, coming to the realization to why it hasn’t sold. And then some subsequent agent gave it a go with little or no luck. And then came the frenzy and it, or its like, sold in a heartbeat.

The bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about this named “Blink”. The book explored the value of rapid cognition by those working in specific fields or having repeated experiences. It’s all about rapid conclusions, intuition and gut feelings–what strikes in the minds of experts within the first two seconds. Some describe it as focusing on the relevant facts. For me it is immediately recognizing the curable and incurable defects. I’m always amazed when I witness people walk past a killer view and say, “I really don’t like the color of this paint.”

So as I have been saying in the past months, we’re back to fundamentals. Buyers should be seeking out the best properties at the best prices. Sellers with compromised properties need to get their prices down or plan to be listed for a long time.

Meanwhile, as a follow-up to an earlier discussion, we’ve closed some escrows in the Fairway Homes I (Snowcreek Phase 5, HOA 1). This is good news. This might be a good place to look for an exceptional buy on a quality property in the months ahead.

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