Market Summary: December 1 – December 15

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 15 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $117,500 to a high of $985,000. The market remains slow but consistent in the past months averaging right at one closed transaction per day. Twelve of the 15 closings were under $351,000, During the period there was one (1) REO/bank owned property closing and two (2) short sale closings. Of the 12 property/closings that have financing available, 7 of them were financed with conventional loans and one with owner financing.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end there are 93 condominiums listed for sale in Mammoth Lakes, and that is up 3 from the last period. There are now nine (9) condos listed for sale under $200,000, so the new inventory was in the low price range… There is some interesting disparity in the new listings too. Two of the new listings (just in the last few days) are 1-bedroom units at Sierra Manors. Both are corner units, both have equal locations in the project.

One is listed at $150,000 and one is listed at $89,000. Quite frankly, from the photos, the one listed at $89,000 looks much cleaner. These units were originally built (1967) with free standing fireplaces (wood stoves) so they are not subject to the new TOML fireplace regulations. The cheaper unit doesn’t even have a wood stove (it was removed) which in these units could be quite effective with a modern electric heating appliance.

There is more disparity in the Mammoth condo market; of the 93 condos on the market there are significant groupings from individual condo projects. For instance, there are 11 Mountainback units currently listed. Mountainback is a large project in a nice location between the Village and Canyon Lodge and it is well maintained and operated. There are no known “issues” with the HOA. The relative number of units on the market appears to be coincidence. But these units will start to “compete” with each other and the prices/values are likely to soften.

This is quite the opposite of what is happening in other projects. There are eight (8) units listed for sale at White Mountain Lodge. That’s as many as the rest of the Village including the Westin Monache. Again, we’ll likely see price competition(especially if the snow doesn’t cooperate and rental revenues potentially decline). There are eight (8) units listed for sale at Juniper Springs Lodge. So that’s 30% of the condo inventory from only three projects (out of ~90 total projects in Mammoth).

The flip side of that phenomenon is the lack of any inventory in certain projects. Snowcreek Phase 5(aka The Fairway Homes) is one. This time last week there were no units listed for sale in there (and it is a very large project). A nice 2-bedroom / 2-bath town home came to the market this week and it  appeared priced right. It sold within a couple of days. There are only five units listed for sale in all of Snowcreek (not including the five(5) new, developer owned units at Creekhouse)…

We haven’t seen a Viewpoint condo on the market in a long time. Who knows what it would sell for. The 1970’s “Dempsey-built” projects (Seasons Four, Horizons Four, Discovery Four, Sunshine Village) are scarce on inventory. And lots of potential buyers are looking for these… There are currently only two (2) condo short sale listings on the market and no REO listings.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down big to 38. Down not because of sales but properties coming off the market. Unattended homes don’t show very well in the winter. A few of the dogs have sold but most of them are still sitting. There are currently NO short sale and NO REO homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down five (5) to 45 for the end of the period. Of the 45 properties in “pending,” nine (9) are “contingent short sales” and 19 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) decreased by nine (9) to 72. The velocity of sales is grinding down. And the mixed messages of market direction continue.

Market Updates and News

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is pulling out all of the stops to make the holiday skiing the best it can be despite limited snowfall. The skiing this past week was fun but the open terrain was limited. They are working hard (blowing snow) to get the face and “access” runs open. (It truly is amazing how much snow they can make.) The crowd is coming. Soon there will be too many people on too few runs. The top will be unskiable for any sane person. But here we go. Maybe all of the frustrated vacationers will get excited about buying local real estate… June Mountain reopened this past week. It has to be dangerous.

The macro and micro markets face tremendous uncertainty. The (hyper) inflation/deflation debate amongst the pundits is heating up once again. But it doesn’t appear to be on the minds of most buyers and sellers in Mammoth; most are just making “life moves”; buyers continue to want an escape place and sellers are moving to the next phase of their lives. The “Dodd-Frank” conundrum is hitting the mainstream media and the ultimate consequences are still unknown. For certain, the cost (both dollars and effort) of borrowing will go up. And the cost (dollars and effort) of any financial transaction (including buying and selling real estate) will go up. And what if banks start charging depositors to hold their money?… Plenty of other uncertainties on the horizon.

Locally, Mammoth is on the upswing. Some think it recently “couldn’t go much lower” but they probably weren’t here in the 80’s and 90’s when the economy sucked (and there was NO summer business) AND every time you turned around the earth was rolling by and we were the laughing stock of California. But the Town’s financial house is shaping up and the local government has been purged of all excess and can now rebuild in a logical and efficient manner (If we could only do this on a State and Federal level).

Local businesses don’t want to face another low-snow winter, but that is a Serenity Prayer issue. We’ll see, it isn’t even winter on the calendar yet. The State needs water, and if we don’t get it, we will all suffer. Overall tourism remains strong for Mammoth as well as the demand to make it a second home. As long as life in southern California continues at a manic pace, the demand for Mammoth will continue.

Noteworthy Sales

The REO sale of Westin Monache #605 for $209,000. This plain Studio unit does have the right exposure and view and is located on an upper floor. The recent upswing of Studio values may have hit a plateau. There are three other Studios units available at the Westin from $209,000 to $249,000. And some recent resale quality 1-bedroom units have come back to the market with sellers not really excited about their true return on investment (ROI). It appears that after all the Westin and management (rental) related fees, the owner’s net-of-gross runs bout 40%. It would appear that as prices go up (or having a “dog” unit) the ROI could actually go negative. (It’s been a few months since I used the “mal-investment” term.)

The short sale of 635 Monterey Pine Road for $985,000. This large but older home right at the Eagle Express base was one of the modern day short sales that took forever to complete. From purchase contract to close was 14 months. It was repeatedly noticed for Trustee’s Sale. The similar house right next door sold last year at right around the same price. That new owner has put what looks like a good million dollars into the remodel. But this is a fabulous location in the eyes of many so it is probably money well-spent.

The sale of Sunshine Village #106 at $158,000. This 1-bedroom + loft / 1-bath is the floor plan many buyers are looking for today. But this sold cheap. Why? This unit is located right on Meridian Blvd. and the parking for the unit is down the road and into the parking lot. Educated buyers come to appreciate the value of parking right in front of their unit. Uneducated buyers learn the lesson quick during the first snow storm. And in heavier winters the walkways to these units become completely buried because the Town has the snow storage easement right there. This buyer got a “good buy” for now, but they will learn why some day.

The sale of Snowcreek #977 for $580,000. Wow. This 2- bedroom / 2-bath townhome has the nice “decks front-and-back” floor plan and a great Sherwin view and lots of nice upgrades. But the unit listed this last week is the same floor plan, newer (with original granite kitchen and baths), nice condition, and was listed for $449,000. Somebody paid plenty for some Gucci upgrades and a view.

So, some downward trending sales at Mountain Shadows and Chateau Sierra. Some upward trending sales at Aspen Creek, Sierra Manors, and Mammoth Ski & Racquet. And “pushes” at Silverbear, MeadowRidge, San Joaquin Villas, Solstice and Krystal Villa East.

Other Real Estate News

The CEO of Vail Associates was on CNBC the other day and was quite exuberant about the ski conditions in Colorado. With poor conditions in the west, the resorts in the Rockies will have an excellent holiday and then pick up significant booking momentum for the balance of the winter. He spoke about the variety of resorts they own and the success of the Epic Pass (their multi-resort MVP pass). And he was asked whether they had their eyes on any other ski resorts. He said yes and had a look of excitement on his face. But he wouldn’t divulge their names.

A new battle in the Sierra is brewing; The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to place several Mono County species on the Endangered Species list. This could potentially impact certain development/construction projects, grazing (which is extensive in the County), public access to affected areas, and the stocking of trout. This could be good or bad. The region is already tightly scrutinized by the Forest Service, BLM, LADWP, The Sierra Club and others. We’ll have to see how all of this plays out. But the “big playground” is likely to come under further protection.

Thanks for reading!

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