Market Summary: May 10 – May 24

The Mammoth MLS is reporting only five (5) real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $130,000 to a high of $1,675,000. That is down five (5) from the previous period. Of the five closings, only four were technically financeable properties and two of the four were purchased with new loans. There were no REO/bank owned property closing and one (1) short sale closing reported. There were two new REO listings for the period. Both properties started in the default process several years ago.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up 11 to 180. That is even with some listings expiring and not coming back to the market (yet). There were 18 “new” condo listings during the period. There are now 25 condos listed under $200,000, although almost all are Studio and 1 bedroom units. This is a major change in the Mammoth condominium market; total rising inventory and increased inventory in the lower end of the market. Most of the new listings are reasonably priced. Some are ridiculous. If the inventory continues to climb through the summer like it normally does there will be plenty of pricing adjustments.

Why is the inventory rising? Probably because rental revenue has been subpar and we’re discovering which owners are highly dependent on rental revenue. Some interesting sales; the newly listed Bigwood units are selling and for significantly higher prices. These 1 bedroom + loft / 2 baths units have sold in the recent past in the $170K to $180K range. Now all of sudden the market will bear in the $220K to $230K range. That is a big increase. The project is also in the midst of special assessments to the tune of $12,000 over four years. They are re-roofing and residing. Some of the project is currently a construction zone. There are a few more units on the market, we’ll see if the trend continues.

Another oddity; A very nice 3 bedrooms / 3 baths Snowcreek Phase 5 townhome came to the market this week. The sellers just closed escrow on it in January.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up four (4) to 65. There are now 20 homes listed between $520,000 and $770,000. That has been a segment of the market that buyers have been looking at but not finding what they want. But most of it is still overpriced or seriously compromised by odd locations or obsolete floorplans/structure. Local agents would love to see some quality inventory in this part of the market. There are five home listed under $500,000.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up two (2) to 37 at period’s end. Of the 37 properties in “pending,” four (4) are “contingent short sales” and 21 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up six (6) to 60. The Mammoth market is slow and the outlying areas aren’t much better.

Market Updates and News

The Ski Area will close after this weekend. There was still some pretty good runs to be had, especially some decent runs on the upper mountain. Mammoth Mountain remains a special ski mountain. Even in the worst years it manages to hold some skiable snow. Their snow reporting did state that April and May were wetter than Jan/Feb/March. Unfortunately the recent precipitation fell on warm ground rather than frozen snowpack.

The Memorial Day Weekend brought a small crowd to town and the weather is blustery but warming. There were clear signs of summer-type visitors; motorhomes large and small, groups of motorcycle riders, and even several European languages heard around town. Visitors this time of year rarely get access to the Lakes Basin but it is wide open. Most of the trails into the backcountry are accessible. There is some water but not much. Lake Mary is almost full. Horseshoe Lake is almost empty. The recent rains have made the mountain biking very good.

The potential relocation of the ice rink is becoming a bigger and more discussed issue here in Mammoth. And of course The Sheet wanted a column from me on the subject. I’ve already had some good comments from some Mammoth old-timers. I find fewer and fewer people really have a historical perspective on many things here in Mammoth. And it is important Many of the people that were involved in Town affairs in the 1990’s are no longer around. A great deal of the foundation of the town was laid in those years after incorporation.

The Sheet also ran lengthy letter about the ice rink from Dan O’Connell. He makes a well reasoned argument for relocating the ice rink to Mammoth Creek Park West. Many will agree with him. I would expect such an argument from a retired attorney. He is also the owner/developer of the new bowling alley facility. It would make sense he would want the ice rink within a couple hundred yards of his two new bars and restaurants.

A new “flip” came to the market during the period. And a quick one at that. But I don’t think you will see it on TV. This was a bank owned home we marketed. It closed escrow back on Jan. 30 at $401,000. It is already back to the market at $625,000. We’ll see. I think the buyers in the market are smarter than this. They know the house from the prior marketing. And there were multiple offers on the property. But the quality of the improvements are iffy. The new kitchen is nice. The new master bath is adequate. The new roof should last a few heavy winters, maybe. The rest of it is paint and cheap carpet.

This flip is actually sad in many ways. There might be an opportunity to make a nice chunk on this flip. But it is probably lost in not going the “extra mile” on some things. My back-of-the-envelope calculations says they have about $70-80K into it. Another $10K and they could have done some things to eliminate the “questionable” factor; like a new front door with a new threshold (a clear “first impression item” or leaving the washer/dryer hookup in a closet or leaving a 40-year old heater in a bathroom. Or cleaning up all of the garbage in the yard. Little things. We’ll see. I’ll report back.

Noteworthy Sales

With only five closings there isn’t much to report. Two of the five were high-end homes; $1,200,000 and $1,675,000. That part of the market remains active, the most active I’ve ever seen it. These deals are keeping some agents from looking for full-time employment. The wealth effect is alive and well in Mammoth.

The other noted sale is of a 2 bedrooms / 2 baths condo hotel unit in White Mountain Lodge at $430,000. The buyers obviously don’t read my real estate advice. Yes, it is a top floor unit, but in a terrible “stack” location–lots of road noise and insufferably hot in summer. That is a high price for comparable units too. I hope it works out for them.

Other Real Estate News

A recent article really caught my attention. It was reporting on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey on “Cities where locals are least likely to feel safe.” The survey asked residents if they “always felt safe and secure” in their hometowns. What is amazing is that the city with the greatest “fear factor” is right in Mammoth’s backyard. #1 on the list where 37% of the residents don’t always feel safe is Fresno.

Now Fresno is really close as bird flies but it really is a million miles away because the great wall of California lies between Fresno and Mammoth. But people from other parts of the country assume because we’re close on the map that we really are close. Sometimes agents from back east want to refer Fresno clients to me. I have to explain the topography of California.

Even worse is that #2 and #3 are in close proximity to Mammoth too. #2 is Stockton-Lodi and #3 is Bakersfield. #7 is our neighbors to the east in Las Vegas. Now even worse are #14 and #15. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is grouped as #14 with 28.6 of the resident respondents not in the “always safe” mood. #15 is Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario.

I guess none of this is too surprising although I would have thought there would be other cities in the top 20 before some of these. Detroit did make the list and so did Philadelphia/Baltimore.

But what this did help confirm is my longstanding theory that many people own properties in the eastern Sierra for the “safety factor.” Not primarily, but knowing that if some sort of civil unrest or other upheaval in their hometowns occurs that they have a safe place to go to. That and the wealth effect could be driving Mammoth’s upper-end market.

I wonder what the scoring would be here if they surveyed the local residents of Mammoth? Lots of people are still afraid of bears…

Thanks for reading!

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