Market Summary: January 18 – February 1

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 15 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $115,000 to a high of $4,250,000 (residential). That is up six (6) from the period before. There were three (3) REO/bank owned property closings and one (1) short sale closing reported. Of the 15 real estate sales, 13 were financeable properties and seven (7) were financed. Mortgage rates continue to drop and loan officers report that they aren’t necessarily seeing a rush to purchases but certainly a new rush for refinancing. Perhaps all of those cash buyers the past couple of years are moving in that direction. This period last year had nine (9) closings.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory was up 16 to 155. Many of these are brand new listings to the market. Quite frankly, there are some attractive condo properties coming to the market at fair pricing; not that a buyer can’t negotiate. I last reported on an influx at Juniper Springs Lodge and Snowcreek. There are now 11 JSL units on the market and that does not include one widely marketed For-Sale-By-Owner. And there are some appealing properties showing up in the Snowcreek phases. This period last year there were 84 condos in the inventory.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes has swung the other way and is down eight (8) to 52. This decline in inventory is mostly a move in actual sales–properties going to escrow. The $600-900K segment saw plenty of post-holiday action. The single-family inventory was at 39 a year ago.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up two (2) to 58 at period’s end. Of the 58 properties in “pending,” six (6) are “contingent short sales” and 26 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up three (3) to 78. Total pending sales in Mammoth was at 48 a year ago.

Market Updates and News

The current market conditions are somewhat baffling. The Mammoth real estate market is very active especially considering the time of year and the marginal ski conditions. The (in)famous Intrawest sales adage was “Selling is the transfer of enthusiasm.” Enthusiastic agents are one thing, but when people have had epic ski days of powder, or windblown, or just great family fun on the sunny slopes, the enthusiasm for purchasing is for real. But right now there is simply solid interest and activity. And that is unusual for January and considering the absence of the great skiing and snowboarding Mammoth is known for.

But it takes willing buyers AND sellers to make a market. And that is where the Mammoth market is at. The condo inventory has risen in untypical fashion for this time of year. Casual conjecture would point to dwindling rental revenue as the reasonable cause for many. I have a couple of condo listings where the sellers are simply older and “it is time.” Some of the more recent quality condo listings are well priced to sales of the past six months, so they can’t be considered “fishing expeditions.”

The single-family inventory is up year-over-year but stable in total numbers. Five of the six sales over $550,000 during the past two weeks were single-family homes. Ten of the 12 properties in escrow over $1M are single-family residences. Again, willing buyers and sellers. The strong activity in the $1M + range is now moving down into the $600K to $900K range. Meanwhile, my blog post from last weekend highlighted some of the homes under construction in Mammoth. The local contractors are taking advantage of the almost summer-like weather.

And the almost bizarre appeal for old duplexes continues. There are a number of these historic duplexes in both Old Mammoth and the Sierra Valley Sites (aka The Ghetto). For years these properties had almost no market demand when brought to the market. In the past 18 months the buyers are willing to compete and even overbid for these properties. They rarely make pure financial sense (ROI). And they typically need significant repairs and updating. And because of their age they often have major repair items lurking. But this week proved more of the same…

Mammoth received some incredible media coverage on FOX News in the past few days. The proposed Wounded Warrior Center facility is sponsored by Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. They have started an ambitious fund raising campaign but admittedly are looking for a “big bucks” sponsor. This type of coverage certainly can’t hurt. The cause is great and could bring Mammoth significant notoriety. But the video clips showing spectacular ski runs in the background can’t hurt either. Just add more snow.

Speaking of snow, the snowmaking crews are keeping it together. And next week’s national snowboard event (U.S. Grand Prix) will be pulled-off. But the snowmaking has saved the bacon. And President’s Weekend is booked solid.

In my last newsletter I pondered whether we would see any distress from the oil fields of Bakersfield. There is substantial property ownership in the Mammoth region from that area. Some are wealthy oil and agriculture/livestock types. Many others are recreationalists looking to beat their summer heat. So this past week there was a recent high-end purchase flow back to the market, sure enough the tax rolls show Bakersfield. But even worse is the national news coverage of Kern County’s fiscal emergency. Amazing. Almost everyone who comes to Mammoth drives through Kern County. In Mono County where we depend so much on tourism we’ve envied Kern County for their revenue streams. The grass is always greener…

Noteworthy Sales

The big sale of the period was a brand new 6800 sq ft home built at the end of upper John Muir right on the Ski Resort boundary. It was on the market for two weeks and the buyer paid $4,250,000 and closed in six days… I hope the occupants are accomplished tree skiers.

But this sale is interesting to me for this; in the mid-1990’s I listed this vacant residential lot for the long-time owner. This was a terrible time for real estate values. Intrawest hadn’t “arrived.” I listed the lot for $19,900 and a local real estate broker bought it for $17,500. He turned around and sold it three years later and sold it for $89,000. He was a genius. Then came the the goldilocks era. That owner sold it at the peak of the market for just under $1,000,000 to an investment group. That seller was a genius. The investment group started a foundation on the property but soon abandoned construction. They recently came back and built this large “modern mountain mid-century” home on the steep lot. And it sold in a heartbeat at a massive price for the Mammoth market… gotta love the real estate game.

The REO home at 265 St. Anton Circle closed for $400,000 cash. This 3 bedrooms / 3 baths /2 kitchens home was thrashed. This is a “take-it-to-the studs” remodel. Everybody was guessing about $200,000 to make it right. More savvy lookers were saying “why don’t I just go buy a $600,000 home?” …But this has been true of the bank-owned single-family market in Mammoth for the past few years. Buyers just perceive they are getting such great buys they are willing to bid these properties up. Or do they grossly underestimate how much the improvements will cost? So be it…

Besides that, a resale at Creekhouse, some modest home sales, a painful short sale, and market sales a Lincoln House, Snowcreek 5, and Aspen Creek.

Other Real Estate News

In my daily, casual property research I came across another property that was recently listed for sale that had an outrageous property tax assessment. This property is a 1 bedroom unit at Juniper Springs Lodge and was listed for sale for $239,000. It has a nice south facing location and is probably worth $225,000 to $230,000. It was probably worth less a couple of years ago. It is currently assessed at $464,000. The current owner has owned it for the past ten years. So the owner has overpaid his property tax by some $2,000+ per year for at least the past 5 years. All he has to do is appeal which means filling out a simple form.

I causally mentioned it to the County Assessor the other day as he and the staff walked through my open house. He said that owners “just don’t know they can appeal.” And that some of the “Prop. 8” reductions haven’t made their way on to the tax rolls. Apparently…

I usually don’t count fractional properties in my real estate sales reports. I simply don’t consider them to be real estate; they are quintessentially timeshare-ish–easy to get and difficult to get out. But the fractional interests at Mammoth’s 80/50 have been selling as of late; almost 10 in the past few months. But the prices have come down so low that it can almost make sense if the buyer has real disposable wealth and likes to visit Mammoth. The monthly fees are high. And now there are reciprocal locations including one at Kapalua. And it is one of the finest properties in Mammoth.

Meanwhile the whole Airbnb(.com) concept is taking off in Mammoth. Many of the regular-old condo and home rentals are listed. But based on the offerings and reviews the rent-a-bedroom in somebody’s home seems pretty popular. Between 80/50 and renting someone’s spare bedroom, there is something for everybody…

Thanks for reading!

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