Market Summary: January 29 – February 12

The Mammoth MLS reports only 12 sales/closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $91,300 to a high of $1,000,000 even. Only one sale was an REO property and three (3) were short sales. The highest priced sale of the period is the last developer-owned unit in the The Lodges / Snowcreek Phase VI.

Housing Inventory

At the period’s end there are 163 condominiums listed for sale, a slight decline over last period. There are 59 single-family homes on the market in Mammoth Lakes proper, a push. There are now 33 residential lots listed for sale. The two awesome side-by-side lots in the Bluffs mentioned in the last newsletter are already sold and closed. No one can say wealthy buyers/investors aren’t watching this market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes increased to 77. Total number of pendings in the Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) increased to 92. Despite the typically slow time of year for real estate sales and the lack of quality snow conditions, property continues to sell albeit at a snail’s pace. Price remains the priority for buyers, but location and affordability are a close second and third.

Market Updates and News

A few years ago my quote on short sales was “life is too short for short sales.” At that time many of the agents that are now short sale “experts” didn’t even know what a short sale was. As the dynamics of the market have changed, so have the dynamics of short sales. Lenders have become more amenable to and “geared-up” for short sales. We’re even seeing some banks paying sellers to do a short sale! Agents and the public have become more educated. There are more and more “third party negotiators” involved in transactions. Some agents have become true short sale experts (God bless them).

Here is my current take on the state of the short sale market in Mammoth; Buyer and seller better have a strong stomach for the transaction, there is plenty of uncertainty. The buyer needs a strong commitment for the property but also the mental capacity to “walk away.” Those are obviously conflicting. Most Mammoth short sales are taking on average 5-6 months to complete. The market value can decline during that period. The seller must bear his soul to the bank. Most of the properties were originally purchased as second homes or as investment properties, and the owners still have income and wherewithal. All of this convolutes the process.

One thing that really helps is if the listing agent is one of the true “experts” (I’m not). Conversely, some savvy buyers have figured out ways of grinding more out of the deal at the end, but it takes a strong stomach, tenacity, and the attitude of being able to walk from the deal. I’m watching this trend carefully because I might try it on my own account in the future (but if you want me to represent you in that type of transaction you better be prepared to fund my bar bill). Meanwhile, I’m focusing on REO and open market transactions, and sleeping well at night.

This weekend’s issue of The Sheet featured some 2011 stat’s from a local appraiser; median sales prices for Mammoth homes and condos dropped in 2011 from 2010, a 10% drop for homes and 13% for condos.

And of course Ted had to call me for a couple of quotes. He finished the article with “The middle-tier in the condominium market is taking the biggest beating,” Oster continued, “and there’s gonna be a lot of people who won’t like that [assessment], but tough s%$t, that’s the truth.”

Speaking from first hand experience, I have a bunch of (potential) sellers who are sitting in that part of the market with nothing super-special to offer, competing (and lower priced) units on the market, and declining sales comps, and they’re in denial. If this trend continues 2013 will offer some great buys; these ho-hum middle-tier condos will be priced like crash pads.

Noteworthy Sales

The aforementioned sale of the last Chadmar built town home in The Lodges for $1,000,000. These units were originally priced much higher (in the hey-day) but this sale gives us hope that maybe Chadmar will re-start some construction at The Creekhouse (Snowcreek Phase VII and one of the most beautiful locations in all of Mammoth)… Certainly tough to built in this economy but we will always remember Tom Dempsey slugging through the early and mid-90’s–slowly producing more units in Snowcreek Phase V, keeping the momentum going and people employed… And those units are still very popular today.

The sale of a 1 bedroom + loft / 2 bath at Mammoth Creek Condominiums for $322,000. This property has Mammoth Creek frontage and panoramic views–what a setting! The market has once again shown a $50-75,000 premium for a very special location and view.

On the flip side the sale of the premier 3 bedroom / 2 bath condo at Eagle Run (truly spectacular views) for only $450,000 displays the damage pending litigation can do to values and the great buys that can be had when a seller has both equity and strong motivation.

Other Real Estate News

Mammoth is about to see what the aggregate effect of low-snow is to the real estate market. So far the market has faired okay. We have about a foot of snow predicted in the next few days but then President’s Weekend and “Ski Week” are upon this. This has become the kick-off of the spring selling season, and it has been prime-time the last few seasons. For years I reminded my associates (but they didn’t listen) that Mammoth real estate sales were always “a function of people being in town,” so be prepared.

We need people in town to sell property. And great snow brings them to town. I’m also reminded of the old Intrawest saying, “Selling is the transfer of enthusiasm.” And great snow gets people enthused. Meanwhile, the fall-out from this season’s near-record low snowfall will have broad impacts on local business owners, the Town, and owners of properties really dependent on transient rental revenue.

This last week’s sham $26 Billion Foreclosure Relief settlement means next to nothing for Mammoth except the likely end to the continued postponement of Trustee’s Sales (foreclosures) and the true potential for a rise in Notice of Defaults filed on (long) delinquent property owners. This could mean more REO inventory later in the year, but then again it is an election year, anything can happen.

Thanks for reading!

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