Market Summary: August 17 – August 31

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 16 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $90,000 to a high of $1,016,500. This is six (6) more closings than the previous two week period. During the period there were no REO/bank owned property closings and one (1) short sale closing. Of the 16 real estate sales, 14 were financeable properties and seven (7) were purchased with conventional loans.

Condominium Inventory

At t he period’s end there are 148 condominiums listed for sale in Mammoth Lakes, an increase of ten for the period. Apparently some sellers were motivated to have their properties on the market for the Labor Day weekend. Most of the new pricing is aggressive to the side of the sellers. There are now 24 condos listed under $220,000 and all but four (4) are 1-bedroom units or Studios. There appear to be a few reasonably priced properties, but again, the low-end of the Mammoth condo market is really tough on buyers, at least for now. I often explain the typical inventory cycle in the local market as “peaking at Labor Day.”

It usually does for several reasons; the late summer and early fall is seen as our most active selling period (the “anticipation of winter” as I call it). So regular sales will reduce the inventory between now and the end of the year. Also, sellers who haven’t sold begin to make the decision to pull their properties off the market as winter nears. Many take advantage of the heavy demand for winter season rentals. Basically, if a owner is going to sell, they normally have it on the market by Labor Day (or earlier). And there is a core group of would-be sellers who just don’t want their properties on the market during the snow season… And of course, sellers with nice properties can always hold-out to the last (pre-holiday) hoping to attract the last minute “desperate” winter buyer, and get a high price too.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down five (5) to 67. Some of the reduction included sales and some included properties pulled from the market. The most recent sales activity is in the $600-700K range. Potential buyers are frustrated with the inventory even in this price range; there is plenty to look at, but the quality is lacking. Few if any are in “turn-key” condition. Some of these are owner occupied (and have substantial equity) but are full of clutter. Their agents haven’t told them to rent a storage unit and hire a painter… I scoured the tax roll on all of these listings and about half of these properties are listed near or lower than what the owners paid for them ~10 years ago. They are “emotionally upside down.” We’ll see how long it takes this group to cut their loses.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up five (5) to 63 at period’s end. Of the 63 properties in “pending,” five (5) are “contingent short sales” and 35 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is even at 87. So Mammoth is beginning to see shades of the “pre-winter” selling season but certainly nothing impressive yet. This broker believes the sales volume would be higher if the inventory was more appealing.

The better properties in all segments are being picked off by the serious buyers. The big question in the coming months is; Will the buyers step-up to higher prices for less-than-quality properties? Or will they say no… And for almost all properties and buyers the clock is ticking; the opportunity to complete remodels before the holidays is slipping away quickly.

Market Updates and News

The period was slow for news out of Mammoth Lakes. Temperatures have remained cooler and have helped keep the fire danger somewhat at bay. The high temperature last Monday was 64 degrees. It feels a little like Fall already. Many are hoping these temperatures will bode for an early and heavy winter. We sure need it… The new Town Council is probably busy reading reams of reports and information. But judging by the Letters to the Editor(s) the nightly rental issue in the single-family neighborhoods remains a passionate debate.

It seems like it could almost be a 50/50 proposition. We’ll see if they think there is a compelling reason to make a change… Mammoth has a new fire chief and is in the process of recruiting a new police chief. Both positions became vacant due to retirements. Mammoth lost some good people… And local air service will include a once-a-week flight to-and-from Las Vegas this winter.

The National Association of Realtors July home sales report had some interesting year-over-year sales information; by price range, the other segments were down or flat in sales except for the $1M+ range which was up 5%. The Mammoth MLS shows there are 24 homes and condos that have sold (closed) over $1M in the past year, and there are currently 10 in escrow.

As Mammoth’s summer winds down, two enjoyable events occur on the same weekend; The Kamikaze bike games come Sept. 18-21 and the same weekend the Southwest Council Federation of Fly Fishers has their faire covering all aspects of fly fishing. What a great weekend to come to Mammoth. Probably get some Fall color visuals too!

Noteworthy Sales

The sales of Snowcreek #527 and #528 for $735,000 and $689,000 respectively. These two duplex townhome units (same owner) have been on the market for years. The “5” series town homes have historically been very popular for their floor plans, the 2-car garages, gas heating, and their lovely creekside settings. But they have become dated on the inside (built in the late 1980’s) and many of them still have the Southwestern pastel-based decor of that era. In the past ten years these units have had to compete with the large (and newer) units built in Snowcreek 5, The Lodges and Creekhouse.

These two specific units are at the far end of the project where it meets Old Mammoth. The owner planted aspens and willows many years ago and the creekside view and setting were compromised over time. Recently, an adjacent town home with an open view and pond setting was listed significantly higher and it sold immediately. Once again, slight changes in views and settings can make all the difference in the world in the eyes of buyers.

The sale of 2 bedroom / 2 bath units at both Mammoth Green and Solstice for $305,000 and $325,000 respectively. These are both Intrawest built properties on the Sierra Star golf course that have been subject to litigation the past few years. The Mammoth Green litigation has been resolved. These prices both reflect a rebound in values, but far from what they were worth at the peak of the market. Or in the case of Solstice, the peak was when they were brand new.

Both spectrums of the lot market experienced sales; an income property lot sold on Lupin for $90,000 and a luxury home lot sold in the Snowcreek Ranch sold for $450,000.

Otherwise, an upward trend in prices showed at Krystal Villa East, The Summit, Seasons Four and a couple homes in the Slopes (one was a real head-scratcher). A somewhat downward or flat trend showed near the lifts at Chamonix and a home adjacent to Eagle Express.

Other Real Estate News

Sometimes I meet people and what comes to my mind is; “they watch too many real estate and remodeling shows on TV.” Rather than ask good questions they think they can just negotiate (from their perceived “position of strength”) like junior Donald Trumps. They learn pretty quickly that Mammoth is well characterized as a “don’t have to buy, don’t have to sell” marketplace. So plenty of what they see on TV doesn’t apply.

But today, and more importantly, this has to do with remodeling. Based on the market conditions, almost everything for sale in the market needs work. Most of it needs lots of work if a new owner wants it to look nice and be done right. The “too much TV” comes into play when they are unrealistic on cost and time frames for their jobs. This impacts buyers and sellers, and preferably they are both enlightened before negotiations.

It can greatly impact value. They both need to be educated in the cost and process. Remodeling (or just making simple improvements) in Mammoth is far more costly and time consuming than on TV. A $20K kitchen that goes into a “flip” might look good on TV but those dollars won’t get you much in Mammoth. Maybe in a cheap condo, or done cheaply… And the Mammoth subcontractors are back in demand.

And who you get your advise from is important too. Just the other day I listened to a local condo manager tell some prospective buyers that “he” could complete the new fireplace retrofit for far less money than I estimated. Well, first of all, he’s not a contractor. But I don’t think he knew the math. I just completed a new install in the last year and have observed many others. There are few short cuts. And satisfying the Building Dept. and the Fire Dept. is never easy or cheap. But the bigger issue is the “cascading” effect; once you start one project, then there are other little projects that make logical or appealing sense to follow. And if the new owner is 3-400 miles away it makes those decisions even tougher, and more time consuming.

Meanwhile, the end result can be fantastic for a new owner. But the right deal has to be negotiated, and the anticipated costs and time frames need to be realistic from the start.

Happy Labor Day!!

Thanks for reading!

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