Market Summary: December 15 – December 29
The Mammoth MLS is reporting 13 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $195,000 to a high of $825,000. Without the small surge of “have-to-be-in-for-Christmas” buyers, it may have well-been a very slow period. But for now the market remains consistent at about one closed transaction per day. Of the 13 closings, eight (8) were cash transactions, three (3) were funded with conventional loans, and two fall into the “other” classification. During the period there were NO REO/bank owned property closing and two (2) short sale closings. Both the short sales required less than 90 days for bank approval and closing (escrow). Maybe the short sale pipeline is becoming un-clogged.
At the period’s end there are 92 condominiums listed for sale in Mammoth Lakes, down one from the last period. Condo inventory will be interesting to watch in the next couple of months. This time of year is typically when many listings will expire and the sellers reason that it is prudent to wait until spring to re-list. Conversely, the current, poor snow conditions are killing rental demand; both present and forward. Those condo owners who wouldn’t normally list their property during the “cash flow” period may very well consider it, especially in light of the overall low inventory. We’ll see if it is a good time to get out. A few big snowstorms could change the dynamics, but unfortunately that is not in the forecast.
Single Family Inventory
The inventory of single-family homes is stable at 39. There were a few price reductions and withdrawals in the period. And a couple of re-lists. The low-end of the inventory remains sparse. Now that the pre-holiday rush is over, and the snow conditions are poor, there is likely to be some shake-out throughout the market.
The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down seven (7) to 38 for the end of the period. Of the 38 properties in “pending,” seven (7) 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 eight (8) to 64. The velocity of sales continues to wind down. It will be very interesting to see where we are in a couple of months.
Market Updates and News
Mammoth is experiencing a very subdued holiday period. “Beach weather” in So Cal never helps Mammoth, especially this time of year. Snow conditions were fabulous this time last year. But we have basically had 12 months of high-pressure dominated weather. There are runs open at MMSA but just too many bodies on too few runs. And the warm weather is now hampering snow making and more and more rocks are showing every day… The calendar is playing some of the ebb-and-flow of holiday visitors.
This weekend was a big transitional period, seems people either had Christmas week off or this next week off, but not both. The town remains solidly booked for the next week but the skiing and snowboarding will be a bust. Owners will be up and many visitors will try to cancel their reservations. The weather is slated to be in the mid-50’s throughout the period. Too bad there isn’t 5+ feet of snowpack, it would be delightful…
The California Legislature has provided real estate owners, specifically those in common-interest developments (condos), one more turd for 2014. The Davis-Stirling Act (originally from 1985 but with important add-ons and revisions over the years) which has greatly improved the operations of HOAs will go bye-bye on Jan. 1. The Act has been especially helpful here in Mammoth in condo real estate transactions. For many years (decades) getting any HOA information out of sellers was difficult, much to the detriment of buyers and brokers.
The Act ultimately established the “HOA designated clearinghouse” for all information. That keeper of the information is typically the HOA accountant. Today, the buyer receives (through the escrow from the accountant) a package (now usually a DVD) that includes CC&Rs and By-Laws, all financial records including P&Ls, budgets, reserve studies, etc., minutes of general membership and Board meetings, copies of insurance policies, etc. This has been a God-send for condo transactions in the modern era.
The provisions of Davis-Stirling aren’t going away entirely. The Legislature has simply decided they needed to be codified in a more user-friendly form. But apparently, according to those who have read the new law, that isn’t what has happened. Some are calling it a “disorganized mess” and “full employment act” for HOA attorneys and “a circuitous morass of vague and/or complicated language with poorly defined or undefined terminology.” Well, look at the bright side, at least the California taxpayers haven’t had to spend a $1 billion to set up the website…
Rumors are flying around Mammoth that the Ski Area is purchasing a couple of the known So Cal ski areas. Many ask “Why?”… they can’t even keep June Mountain open? But adding very accessible ski slopes to the MVP crowd would certainly add numbers to the MVP total. This could be one more reach to add value to the total MMSA enterprise. And as we are seeing, season passes are great insurance against drought for the ski resorts. But for the consumer, having more resorts under a single pass is nice insurance too. If my pass was good in Colorado, I’d be making plans for a mid-January trip right now.
And here’s a link to my latest Q & A that appears in this week’s issue of The Sheet, the Year In Review issue.
The sales through the period were rather un-noteworthy. There is always the “close-before-Christmas” phenomenon. I say that and people think I’m crazy. But it happens every year. It is some form of twisted gratification. Some years there are minor wars that occur because of some hiccup in a transaction. And the better the snow conditions, the more heated it can become. So this year was pretty mellow… but just thinking back about episodes that involved radical threats, calls from attorneys, early occupancy negotiations, all sorts of out-of-the-ordinary real estate gyrations, and on and on. If you only knew…
The closed sales in the period did have more up-and-down valuations. Good buys (lower prices) were had at White Mountain Lodge (a 2 bedroom / 2 bath), The Summit, Diamond Run and Snowcreek 4. Higher valuations were seen at Snowcreek 5 (2), Chateau Sans Nom, Silverbear and Woodlands. Only one single-family property closed during the period.
Other Real Estate News
Wells Fargo bank has been on the hot seat lately. The media has been documenting their “pressure-cooker sales culture” with first-hand reports from previous employees and customers. Really no surprise here, the mortgage/banking business is competitive and has a dwindling market. But if you have ever done business with me, either as a buyer or a seller, you know that the Wells Fargo name has very positive connotations here in Mammoth. It is not “steering,” just sanity. And the reward (beyond a successfully closed transaction) is no more than an occasional trinket.
The primary reason has to do with the two loan officers that have represented Wells Fargo here in Mammoth for the past 25 years. They simply get the job done, and professionally. There is no high pressure. The scourge of any real estate transaction in Mammoth is having the loan hung-up with some out-of-town lender. This becomes especially true in the condo market. The local Wells office has worked diligently to get “project approvals” on almost all of the condo projects in Mammoth. This has proven critical over the years. They will also tell you upfront if they can’t do a loan.
And yes, Wells has pushed better deals/discounts for those borrowers that open or have accounts (they like the direct payments). Or even better in the Mammoth market, they offer great deals for those clients who maintain substantial deposits with the bank or are involved with the “wealth management” division. And yes, I used to get some solicitation calls from them (I am a customer) until I told them to stop. But the positives have always outweighed the negatives. I’ve never heard any complaints form my clients.
At the end-of-the-day, buyers have an advantage when they are represented by the local Wells office because listing brokers know there won’t be problems (with the loan). Sellers should, and will appreciate that. And the buyers won’t have to have a lobotomy wondering why their loan isn’t funded… But there’s always “somebody’s cousin in the business”…
Happy New Year!!
Thanks for reading!