Market Summary: May 4 – May 18

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 10 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $160,000 to a high of $890,000. This is five (5) fewer closings than the previous period. Of the 10 closings, only four were cash purchases, including the $890,000 sale. During the period there was one (1) REO/bank owned property closing and one (1) short sale closing. The short sale closing was put to contract on August 2 of 2013, so nine plus months… the evidence continues that some short sales have the potential to close fast and some much slower. Short sale uncertainty remains.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end there are 106 condominiums listed for sale in Mammoth Lakes, down two (2). Even after a very poor winter season, the condo inventory is going backwards which is not what it should be doing this time of year. If this continues, potential buyers will remain frustrated and will have to be ready to pounce on any quality offerings. I had multiple offers and a bidding war on an attractive new listing during the period. It also means that some buyers will over-pay for marginal properties. The Fall selling season will be fun…

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up two (2) to 51. Again, this should be time of year to see new listings, but it is not happening. And there is demand through the entire price range/ spectrum of properties. In the last week some of the aggressively priced recent listings have made minor reductions. There is plenty of fishing going on.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up again by one (1) to 70. Of the 70 properties in “pending,” five (5) are “contingent short sales” and 31 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is a push at 87. The Eastern High Sierra real estate market is chugging along…

Market Updates and News

The month of May is usually a slow one here in Mammoth. Many locals residents take their annual vacation to the tropics or elsewhere. Visitors take-in a some quiet spring skiing or some fishing. I’ve noticed lots of Colorado license plates with snowboarders so they are obvious here to play on the pipes and parks. The intense heat of the recent week in Southern California has driven up occupancy a bit this past weekend. Many of the local restaurants are closed-taking their spring break. But the next month is typically a slow season as many are busy with graduations and weddings.

Two growing trends in the local real estate market have become increasingly obvious in the past month; rental vacancies and remodeling. Many years ago I dabbled in managing long-term rentals but I always watch the classified ads, the board at the Post Office and the For Rent signs around town. The rental market has busted open nicely for those looking for a new place to live. Conversely, those landlords desiring stable rents and occupancy may see a few months (or more) of vacancy. The summer rental shuffle has started early and strong. And after a sub-par winter there will also be serious exodus.

Empirical evidence shows the construction business is perking up. There are some new homes under construction but the focus is on remodeling, especially condo remodeling. With no significant amount of new condos being constructed over the past few years, and minimal quality resale offerings, many buyers and new owners are turning to the older units and moving forward with major remodels. Local tradesman were noticing how fast drywall materials were moving at the lumber yard. And the new fireplace ordinance has also triggered a “domino effect” of remodeling.

Speaking of the new fireplace ordinance, the Town Council recently relaxed the time frames into reality. The Mammoth Lakes Board of Realtors (MLBR) petitioned the Council over the un-workable timeframes in the new ordinance and the Council agreed. Now new owners will basically have four months to open a building permit for their fireplace retrofit and two years to complete it. This makes much more sense.

The local fireplace/wood stove contractors are already backed-up. But to ask a second homeowner to sort through these decisions on a short fuse was simply untenable. The result will likely be more extensive and more intelligent remodels that will benefit everyone from the owners themselves, the local construction industry, and the end users.

And speaking of the Town Council, the candidates were asked to respond to real estate related concerns by the MLBR and some responded quite intelligently (and a couple barely at all). The core questions centered on “improving the second home owner experience,” and improving the aesthetics of the town, and nightly rentals in single-family neighborhoods. Expending trails and special events were the focus of improving the second homeowner (and visitor) experience for the majority of the candidates.

Improving the aesthetics of town was focused on eliminating the dilapidated buildings on Main St. (No one really had anything to say about my pet peeve; the proliferating sign pollution the Town has allowed.) And nightly rentals in the single-family neighborhoods remains a non-issue although the candidates are pro-enforcement and one candidate said she would “never support overturning the current ordinance.” So this issue seems to be losing steam once again. One thing is clear; they are all supportive of more local taxes like the TBID. They want to nickel-and-dime us into having a good time.

Years ago I anticipated that the small and affordable new personal jets (like the Honda Jet) would be frequenting Mammoth Airport. The recession slowed the personal jet trend down and they never really appeared. But in the past month there have been numerous sighting on the tarmac. The “wealth effect” is clearly evident here in Mammoth.

Noteworthy Sales

The sale of 230 Ridgeway at $890,000 was a very good buy in the residential market. This modern 3,000 square foot custom home was built in 1999 and was in “hardly used” condition. Located in one of Mammoth’s premier residential neighborhoods and backing to the Town’s “Bell Parcel.” The ~$1M home market remains strong in Mammoth and there are homes currently listed in this price range that can’t even come close in footage, construction quality, condition and location. A good buy.

The sales of Snowcreek #561(at $310,000) and Snowcreek #889 (at $362,000). Both are 2 bedroom / 2 bath “flat” units. Some agents (and their buyers) think these are apples-to-apples in comparison, but they are not. They are different floorplans. The later phase units have 250 more square feet and the bedrooms and baths separate away from the living area giving each more privacy. The recent sales of these Snowcreek phase 4 units have included some very dated and worn properties in some ho-hum locations in the project. Snowcreek overall remains very popular with current buyers.

The sale of Mammoth Estates #115 at $500,000. This 4 bedroom/ 3 bath townhome was in beautifully upgraded and improved condition. But this is a well-worn 45-year old condo project going through many needed capital improvement projects. Yes, it does have a Village proximity and location. This is $316 per square foot. This is a prime example of buyers willing to pay an outstanding price for a highly improved property. Sales like this justify the remodeling trend and expense.

Other Real Estate News

The serious drought winter has dampened the impact of the Digital 395 improvements but internet service in the region continues to improve dramatically. I recently moved my brokerage south down Old Mammoth Road and included in the move my long-established Verizon DSL service. I moved further away from the Verizon “CO”-central office, and technically should have lost internet speed. But surprise, my internet speed has now doubled.

My new business neighbor was installing a T1 line this week for really impressive internet capacity. This was an impossibility until recently. And Suddenlink is about to start offering 50 megabits service to Mammoth residences. And Crowley Lake residences are rejoicing about the new internet service offered by Verizon. Previously there was no service available in that area.

While negotiating multiple offers on a new listing last weekend, a young agent who was in the fray told me that “the condo market is rising 2.5% per month.” She was obviously telling her clients that because it just rolled off her tongue. I didn’t ask her for any proof and I didn’t offer any argument. At this point in my life I prefer to just be an observer of this behavior. I wonder if she realized that 2.5% per month means ~30% in a year. Also, she probably didn’t process that I’ve been selling real estate in Mammoth since she was in diapers and I’ve heard all of the BS…

Reality is closing prices are still all over the board; some up, some down, and some just as they were a year ago. There are no “screaming deals” in the market and buyers will pony-up extra dollars for properties in buffed-out “turn-key” condition or with special settings or fabulous views. And yes, one could cherry-pick a few instances to display at 2.5% monthly rise, but in most cases the buyers were either oversold or their agent negotiated an excellent price.

Thanks for reading!

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