Market Summary: February 17 – March 3

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 11 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $122,500 to a high of $685,000. The sales data reports two (2) REO/bank owned property closing and only one short sale closings. Six (6) of the closings were OVER the $500K mark.

Housing Inventory

At the period’s end there are 121 condominiums listed for sale, an increase of 11 from the previous newsletter (local agent’s are hustling for condo listings!). The inventory of single-family homes is down to 39 with only one home listed under $500K. Residential lots listed for sale are up to 34.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes increased by six (6) to 73. Of the 73 properties in “pending,” 12 are “contingent short sales” and 16 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) decreased by one (1) to 100.

Market Updates and News

President’s weekend and “Ski Week” provided a small “pop” in the market but nothing like in the past few years. This period appears to spreading out similar to spring break with school-aged children having different (and staggered) weeks off. It was a busy period. Around town and on the Mountain employees were all commenting about “working many days in a row” through the period. That seemed a bit unusual and got me thinking that many employers have understaffed this winter season and were relying on key employees to pull successive shifts. Reminds me of the early 80’s.

The Mammoth real estate market continues to have low inventory and the bottom of the condo and single-family segments continue to experience strong buyer interest and resulting offers. But only selected properties are receiving multiple offers. The REO pipeline is dwindling for now; there are plenty of distressed and “underwater” properties remaining in the Mammoth market, but continued government and industry tinkering will delay their entry into the available inventory. Some owners contemplating short sales are now just going to wait for foreclosure (and it appears their personal attorneys are advising them that way), and use/enjoy or rent the property until that time.

Mammoth’s Town Council is quietly going about re-organizing the local government. So far, there have been no apparent disasters from downsizing the local police force (not like Mammoth has ever been a high crime area). The Council recently waived penalties and interest (nearly $100K) on second homeowners found guilty of nightly rentals in the single-family zone. Instead they settled for the $13K in bed tax.

So, the debate continues and more outcry from special interest groups in town. Letters-to-the-editor are printed in the local papers defending one side of the debate or the other, but still no truly compelling arguments either way. Don’t be surprised if the Council just waffles and puts it all to a referendum; and the second homeowners won’t be eligible to vote! Meanwhile, the causal reports I hear from around town is that the nightly rentals in the local neighborhoods continue, but the tenants are well coached on how to behave.

A faction of the June Lake community is leveraging against MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory by taking a strong stance against the proposed  Main Lodge land exchange. The whole Forest Service land swap is expected to be tagged onto a legislative bill(s) in Washington DC. The closing and uncertainty of June Mountain is at stake. The June Lakers want June Mountain open and made viable with capital improvements and “vision,” or sold to another operator. Gregory has promised to re-open the area next year, but most involved believe it will be more muddle-through operation.

MMSA recently helped sponsor a “peer resort” tour of similar, small ski areas in New England. In the meantime, the faction is attempting to block the land trade with efforts in DC and locally. The land trade is mostly a “pie-in-the-sky” issue for most Mammoth-ites who are just trying to pay bills through another almost-drought winter. If Mammoth residents did have a convincing need to see the completion of the land trade, this would be a divisive issue between the neighboring communities. As it is, most people in Mammoth would like to see June Mountain open and vibrant.

As an increasing number of Mammoth real estate watchers go to the website Zillow for “accurate” information, and a seemingly equal number become frustrated over the quality of the information. I hear the “why?” question all the time. My take is for several reasons. First, the quality of the public information available in Mono County has always lagged. Mono is a large geographic county but a small county based on population and tax base. Many consumers are spoiled by the data-rich county public records in southern California. The data has certainly improved in the last decade, but before about 1990 the records are fairly equal to 1890.

The other problem, especially in the single-family subdivisions, is the great disparity in the individual improvements. When many large subdivision tracts are developed, the resulting homes are of similar vintage and size. That helps pin point valuations. In Mammoth, the older subdivision are full of the A-frames and gambrels of a different generation mixed in with today’s trophy cabins. And there can be great disparity in quality of the modern homes too. Or quality of exposure and view. Even the similar condos can have significant differences based on improvements and exposure and setting. So Zillow’s algorithms are challenged by less-than-perfect data and wild swings in variance, all within our 3.5 square mile land mass.

Noteworthy Sales

The closings during the period are rather UN-noteworthy. And still no real definite market direction, up or down. Unless it is a good unit at the Westin Monache.

The REO sale 42 Ref Fir at $685,000. This modern built (2000) 3800 square foot home was located on a coveted corner lot in Old Mammoth and included hydronic heating and a large 3-car garage. No real destruction in the property; paint, carpet and some cleaning and you could move right in. Sold for $180 per square foot. It would cost another $100 per square foot to replace/rebuild it, and add permits and the land cost. No wonder the single-family market is tight.

The sale of Chateau Sierra #60 for $282,500. This 3 bedroom/ 2 bath 1-car garage townhome is one of the “oldie-but-goodies” on Chateau Road. Granted, this property needs a major make-over but these are well-built units with good storage closets, side-by-side washer dryer, etc. And you can actually pull a full-sized vehicle into the garage. And park right in front. And views. And steps to Red Line shuttle. And walk to VONS, etc. These units are often overlooked.

And good Snowcreek units continue to sell with prices stable.

Other Real Estate News

I was emailed the Ragatz Associates Shared-Ownership Resort Real Estate Industry (North America) Executive Summary 2012. I actually read it! My long-time readers know I don’t consider fractional interests and private residence clubs to be “real estate.” I remember one Town Councilman telling me in 2004 that “you better get on board” with this part of the market “because it is the future.”

Well, I didn’t get on board and ironically both of Mammoth’s projects ended up in receivership. But I try to keep an open mind. The Summary shows recent sales have been anemic throughout the industry. They blame; economic uncertainty, lack of financing, decreased cash from home equity lines, declining “conspicuous consumption,” lack of marketing funds, decreasing prices in whole ownership vacation homes, and on and on.

But, “It is widely felt in the resort real estate industry that the shared-ownership components will strongly rebound in the future.” The reasons are all the same reasons we’ve heard before. Mammoth does have two very nice properties, Tallus and 80/50, and prices are down. For those who like luxury amenities and services and have plenty of discretionary dollars these can make sense…

Mammoth needs a big snowstorm. The ski conditions are very good but are more spring-like than winter-like. The weather patterns and snow accumulations are beginning to resemble the late 80’s when a major dump year (1986/2011) turned into successive drought years. And the real estate markets were similar too; moving from a solidly REO influenced market to a somewhat stabilizing market. In the late 80’s the lack of snowfall actually coincided with a rise in real estate values. Meanwhile, Mammoth’s higher elevation has proven to be the ace once again…

Thanks for reading!

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