Market Summary: July 15 – July 29

With only 7 reported sales/closings in the last newsletter, the 22 closings of the last two weeks brought the market back to average activity for the past month. Of the 22 closings in Mammoth Lakes, the Mammoth MLS is reporting a price range from a low of $54,000 (a manufactured home) to a high of $1,750,000. The sales data reports only 2 REO/bank owned property closings and 5 short sale closings, so again “distressed” sales continue to make a decreasing amount of the total in the local market.

Housing Inventory

At the period’s end there are 167 condominiums listed for sale, an increase of six (6) from the last newsletter which just evened-out the decrease from the prior newsletter. We’ll note the increase but the condo inventory remains historically low for this time of year. The inventory of single-family homes decreased by 1 to 62. Again, a historically low number. Residential lots listed for sale increased slightly to 45.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes decreased again by 9 to 73. So fewer properties went to contract during period but closing activity was strong. Of the 73 properties in “pending,” 38 (more than half) are “contingent short sales” (which means they are pending short sale transactions). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) decreased to 90.

Market Updates and News

As we head into the later part of the year the short sale element of the market should continue to grow but will also provide some unique market pressures. As we head towards winter, Mammoth buyers become increasingly anxious to have their new “cabin” settled; escrow closed, minor repairs or remodeling completed, provisions in, etc. The uncertainty of short sales including the timing of the sale will make many buyers nervous and impatient. This will be fun. Many short selling sellers may also get impatient (panicked) if the politicians don’t appear to be extending the Debt Forgiveness Act (the clock is ticking).

Meanwhile, one aspect of this short selling maniacal era is becoming more pronounced; some (many?) distressed property owners are being forced to think in the short term rather than the long term and that is moving them away from considering a short sale. The most distressed have already filed for personal bankruptcy. There are many Mammoth residents squatting in their homes while in prolonged BK. But many have reasoned and intend to “just ride out” the free rent rather than trying a short sale.

A free place to stay today has become far more important than their future credit scores. Maybe this is a new version of “extend and pretend.” For some it will amount to years of free rent. Non-owner occupant distressed owners may not need the free rent but some are collecting rent and the interim cash flow is helping, a lot. And some can collect rent and work a short sale at the same time. I just closed one (for a client) just like that.

The  Bankruptcy Court has sent the Town and mega judgment holder MLLA back to the mediation table. MLLA had rejected the recent mandated mediation. They claim they have negotiated in good faith. But now the Court has forced them back to the table, and it might be more like the craps table if they don’t agree to something. As we learn more and more about municipal bankruptcies we discover that these bankruptcy judges have quite a bit of latitude in decision making… But this bankruptcy has brought out the real estate vultures.

Some (potential) buyers are of the mind-set that the BK has made every property owner in Mammoth desperate to unload their property. Yes, there are distressed and motivated sellers in the marketplace, but no panic selling. And many of these vultures aren’t even “Mammoth” people–they don’t ski or ride or hike or fish… they just think negative headlines drive screaming deals.

Attempts to revive June Mountain continue but it isn’t looking good. Efforts this week included the attempt to petition Senators Boxer and Feinstein to block the Main Lodge land swap that will be tagged onto some legislative bill down the road in Washington DC. But here’s the problem, those same Senators were the ones who backed and pushed the National Wilderness Preservation System that President Obama signed in 2009. The NWPS re-designated a good portion of Mono County into “wilderness” designation including a good deal of the area between Mammoth Mtn. and June Mtn. I don’t think the Senators are friends of June Mtn. They want the exchange and they don’t call it a swap for nothing…

The Mammoth Community Water District is reported to have filed nearly 30,000 pages of environmental and planning documents with the court in its litigation with LADWP. In the meantime there is growing public and political pressure that LADWP is “wasting resources” with this litigation. Let’s hope the court agrees.

Noteworthy Sales

The 22 closings during the period give me anecdotal evidence that there is no clear direction in the Mammoth estate market, not even in different segments of the market. Maybe the Town’s bankruptcy has sent all of this into a tizzy. I’m seeing high prices (these are closings!), I’m seeing low prices (closings and listings). I’m seeing lenders agreeing to bargains in the short sale market (and maybe they would have been better off foreclosing). I see a small unit (upper floor, pool view) at the Westin selling for less than a small unit in a 40+-year old low-end project.

The closing of two similar homes on the same street are noteworthy. Located in a nice area of Old Mammoth, both have been on the market (off and on) a long time. They sold within $25,000 of each other. One has always been priced higher because if its condition and setting. The other has just been on the market a long time. But the price came down on the nicer one (my opinion) and it sold. And then the other one sold! Both in the the upper $700K range.

The REO sale of a downstairs 2 bedroom / 2 bath at Eagle Run for $395,000. This particular unit has some compromised access in heavier winters but this signifies some upward price movement in this project. And then the sale of an oversized 2/2 at Juniper Springs Lodge with the ski run view for $385,000.

The REO sale of a 3 bedroom / 3 bath 2-car garage home on John Muir for $431,000. More price support on the low-end of the single family home market. Many agents would refer to this as ski-in and ski-out. I always ask, “Can you do it with your wife and kids?” If the answer is No then it isn’t really isn’t ski-in and ski-out.

Another sale at Creekhouse (Snowcreek Phase 7), this large, premier unit recently closed at $960,000. It was originally listed at $1,845,000 and was on the market for 1,254 days.

The high-end sale for the period is a lovely Rosassen built home in Starwood (Sierra Star) that had been on-and-off the market for years and had received numerous offer over the years. The sellers finally came to terms with a buyer. The agents earned their money on that deal.

Other Real Estate News

Out on my mountain bike this week I observed some new trail map signage at some of the transition hubs on the town’s periphery (I actually saw the workers installing one of them). The new ones I noticed were on the old blue diamond dirt trails in Shady Rest and along the paved portions of the lower Mammoth Creek trails. A couple of years ago Mammoth passed a small incremental sales tax (Measure R) with the revenue specifically allocated towards trails.

One of the priorities was to adequately sign the existing trails especially the transitions from the paved trails to historic dirt trails and roads that are prime for enjoyment. I spent much of the 80’s lost on many of these trails. In the 90’s I paid for signs and posts which a local mountain biking enthusiast installed (many of them are still there). Now we have great new signage with maps so even the novice can go out and enjoy these trails. It will only get better. BTW, biking around town is a great way to see and know real estate, at least in the summer.

Speaking of trails, the new paved trail that essentially goes from Whiskey Creek to Horseshoe Lake is totally completed (except for removal of all the construction company leftovers). What a great trail. I see lots of visitors coming down the trail (after riding the shuttle up) with both smile and fear on their faces. The Lakes Basin is a great place to ride around, and now there is a safe downhill too. One of the most entertaining things in Mammoth has become watching people ride bikes who haven’t ridden a bike in a long time… it’s just like riding a bike… well, for the most part.

Looks like Mammoth may be getting another new Chinese restaurant (okay, we’re deprived). The sign is up “Chinesse WokN,Rolls” but no real word about the plans yet. Mammoth would love to have a good hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant.

Thanks for reading!

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