Market Summary: April 28 – May 12

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 18 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $160,000 to a high of $1,292,500. That is the same number of closing as the previous period. The sales data reports two (2) REO/bank owned property closing and two (2) short sale closing. This period there were six (6) closings above $600,000. And the absence of closings under $160,000 is indicative of the sheer absence of listings (condo) under that number. The bottom end of all segments is cleaned out.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end there are 112 condominiums listed for sale, an increase of only one (1) from the previous newsletter.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is even at 36 with still only two (2) homes listed under $500K.

Residential Lot Inventory

Residential lots listed for sale are down significantly to 30. There is evidence that an “investor” is purchasing quality residential lots in the $350K to $450K range. These lots are all in premium neighborhoods/locations and have quality (flat) building sites. My bet is we will see some new “spec” home listings this summer.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes decreased by eight (8) to 71. Of the 71 properties in “pending,” 16 are “contingent short sales” and 25 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) decreased by seven (7) to 99. The spring sales push is obviously over. Whether the lackluster ski season or the lack of inventory is to blame is anybody’s guess.

I see and hear plenty of interested (potential) buyers and many are truly “Mammoth” people and not the hit-and-run investor types. Some of the more attractive inventory does sit on the market. And quite frankly, we are heading into a “time out” period for many; lots of people are gone away for Mother’s Day, graduation obligations are here, early summer vacations, etc. I’ll even be on the ocean soon!

Market Updates and News

Mammoth’s weather has vacillated between spectacular and downright crappy in the past two weeks. That and marginal spring skiing has made it truly the dog days of spring. The US Ski Team has been here as well as many PSIA (ski instructors) types. Mammoth is one of the few ski areas in North America that even has any snow pack let alone lifts operating. The fishing-oriented periodicals had plenty of trophy trout photos from the opening weekend, but general consensus was the crowds were light(er).

The Mammoth REO pipeline will soon flow to a trickle and I would expect it to remain there for the balance of 2013. But don’t believe that the slow flow doesn’t reflect a shortage of financially distressed or underwater properties. The fix is definitely in. And in the predominantly second home market of Mammoth, the dynamics are different from others. At this point, I truly have no idea what will happen to all of these properties.

The California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights has thrown a big knuckle ball at the whole system. And as long as the perception is that property values are going up, then everybody appears to be happy with the status quo. Meanwhile, most distressed homeowners are passively squatting and enjoying the free ride and/or pursuing additional benefits (like rental income) from “their” property.

The short sale market has become a quagmire too. Short sales are taking forever again. They get bounced around from one department to the other with more delays and more distortion including dabbling/hungry real estate agents performing inadequate broker price opinion (BPOs) evaluations. Many of these are “drive-by” BPOs; nothing like getting a true value of a property by driving by it.

Sometimes I think the banks would be better off just using Zillow. Thankfully, most owners who are thinking of short-selling are now just moving into squatting mode anyway. What’s the hurry? The banks certainly aren’t… And the more I experience the current bank/REO/short sale environment the more I believe it has become one big federally subsidized/sponsored government work program/project for the marginally-employable types.

Now, for some quite interesting and very good news on the Mammoth real estate front. John Hooper recently purchased (closed) the Solstice II property. This property was one of the last remaining holdings of Intrawest and is located on the Sierra Star golf course just west of Minaret Road. It basically is the second half (or more) of what is the Solstice condominium project. This was one of the last developments in the recent boom cycle and the balance of the project was never built. The land is zoned for condominiums.

Mr. Hooper has been a long-time developer in Mammoth and has built the largest number of single-family homes in town. He has also built small condo projects and other mixed-use properties. He built the Greyhawk subdivision. He is known for solving design problems, building efficiently (including maximizing density) and having market foresight. He is obviously making a move to get back into the development game and that can mean jobs, positive activity, and new product for buyers and the real estate industry. Stay tuned. Mr. Hooper doesn’t normally sit on things…

And out this weekend is a report from John Burns Real Estate Consulting about how cuts to police department budgets can be detrimental to local real estate values. Hmmmm… the study focuses on larger and more defined metropolitan areas and certainly appears to have credibility. But what did the Mammoth Town Council just do in the last year?… dramatically cut the police department budget.

So far those cuts haven’t visibly affected life and real estate values in our “high-crime” small town (Mammoth’s version of sequester?). The Council will argue back that the department was bloated and we need to “discover”  the right size and budget. And so far I haven’t heard of any owners wanting to sell because of the police cutbacks. On the contrary, most buyers are looking here because they consider it “very safe.”

Noteworthy Sales

I’m pressed for noteworthy sales in this past period. Just good sales through the entire spectrum of the market. A couple of “that sold for that” sales; more evidence of buyers paying big $$, a couple of hundred thousand dollars+, for an extra bedroom and an expansive view. Conversely, there is also evidence buyers will pay little or nothing extra for a view…

All phases of Snowcreek continue to sell at solid prices, but the newer units (with forced air heat) tend to sell even better… Buyers continue to show that they will pay very premium prices for older condos in highly upgraded conditions… Demand in the sub $500K single family remains high when a buyer pays that kind of money for “small, weird and worn.”
But for now, no clear up or down trend in the Mammoth market. But more inventory would help us know for sure.

Other Real Estate News

VONS supermarket in Mammoth can play a major role in a local resident’s life. God knows I’m in there enough. In the 80’s it was where many of the hot local ladies worked. Year-in and year-out they have done a great job. Sure, there are those moments when it is way overcrowded, or out of something. But it is also reported as the highest grossing store in the chain. And now I have two things to report.

First, a multi-million dollar remodel has begun. The pharmacy/sundries area is expanding east into the mall (remember when O’Kelly & Dunn was there? or The Boulangerie?) Starbucks will expand there too. The deli and prepared foods area will expand. I’m sure there will be more. There is also a major facade/facelift happening. So far access hasn’t been a problem, but this summer may be a challenge. It is all suppose to be completed by Labor Day.

But secondly, VONS has expanded to an online “just for U” program. This is a modern personalized coupon program that tracks what you buy and frequently offers bigger discounts on those items. As a regular shopper you’d be foolish not to play along. I do. But I found the checkers making a mistake on one of my favorite and specially discounted items (it’s a produce item). Not a big deal, but I hate being scammed on these types of promotions too. So I made a comment on the VONS website about it.

I gave the store “Excellent” reviews in all matters but that the checkers were missing their codes. (I sometimes make complaints just to see how companies respond. Verizon for instance, is like having a lobotomy.) Well, within 24 hours I had calls from two Mammoth store managers including the general manager. Talk about impressed!! They were polite and apologetic and wanted to solve the problem. And on and on. So, a word to the wise, if you have a problem here in Mammoth at VONS, speak up. The customer service is outstanding.

Thanks for reading!

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