Market Summary: May 24 – June 7

The Mammoth MLS is reporting nine (9) real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $120,000 to a high of $1,050,000. That is up four (4) from the previous period. Of the nine closings, all were technically financeable properties and five of the nine were financed and one with owner financing. There were no REO/bank owned property closing and one (1) short sale closing reported.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up eight to 189. There were 24 new listings in the period so listings are expiring, coming back to the market (re-listed), and will come back to the market in the near future. We should be at 200 by 4th of July and that would be the first time in many years we had 200 condos on the market. The current and new listings are all over the board; all locations and price ranges. There is some good pricing and some “dreaming” pricing.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down one (1) to 64. There are eight homes listed under $500,000. There are no real standouts. I’m guessing we”ll see some new home inventory between now and mid-summer. I know there are buyers waiting for some fresh inventory.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up three (3) to 40 at period’s end. But there were three new GrayBear homes added to the inventory and pendings. These new homes remain the hottest segment of the Mammoth real estate market. They are being put under contract before being put in the MLS. Of the 40 properties in “pending,” two (2) are “contingent short sales” and 20 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down one for the period at 59.

Market Updates and News

Mammoth remains super slow in visitor traffic and in real estate. This time of year is consumed with graduations and weddings. I’ll be heading to the east coast for a big family wedding. It will be nice to see some action. The spring rains have helped green Mammoth up. There is plenty of natural grass in the forest for the wildlife to forage on. The aspen trees are just about filled and Mammoth Creek is flowing fairly well, for now. Hopefully, periods of rain will continue through the summer.

The April bed tax numbers came in 35% lower than one year ago and less than half of four years ago (the big winter of 2011). But the local reservation companies are reporting solid bookings for late June, July and August and early September. One company owner said “Summer business is great, but unfortunately the rates are low and we’re sharing more of the revenue with booking companies.”

The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival was held last weekend and was reasonably attended. This new event does have the potential for a standout happening, but it is tough to compete with graduations and weddings. Normally I go away during this period for two weeks of ocean fishing because it is a good time to be gone. Most people are too distracted to make a Mammoth trip. Maybe the Festival will get moved into a later time slot and be poised for big success.

The Town has approved John Hooper’s plan to build 16 townhomes across the street from the Canyon Lodge parking lot. The project will be named Mountainside and will feature 3 bedrooms and 3 baths townhomes with oversized 2-car garages. The architectural style will be his current and popular “modern mountain Craftsman” look. No pricing as of yet, but probably in the $1M range, or maybe less. Hooper normally prices properties to sell. This property was owned by Intrawest for many years and was long conceived for a specialty lodging development. But there should be strong demand for these townhomes. I wonder how fast he can build them? We shall see….

I recently went to renew my homeowner’s insurance policy and thought I would sit down and rethink it after watching the disaster down in Swall Meadows. I’ve been insured by the local State Farm office for some 30 years so I walked in and had a discussion about it. They specifically had six of the 40 destroyed homes in Swall insured. The Bishop State Farm office had another eight to ten insured. I was told that many people in eastern Sierra area are increasing their coverages. One interesting comment; many people are apparently unaware of umbrella policies. I found this strange but not everybody owns businesses and are exposed to them (I guess). Umbrella policies are a great way to add significant coverage to auto and homeowner’s policies for a small amount.

I hear more and more “bubble” talk from real estate market-places all around California. Prices in many coastal markets have exceeded those of the 2005-06 peak. And many quality inland communities are there too. My friends in the commercial real estate business in southern California are reporting similar insanity to the peak of the last bubble; very low cap rates and buyers purchasing with loans due in three to five years.

So what about Mammoth? I ran through some numbers and we are currently at the 40% to 60% range 2006-07 prices (the Assessors office says spring of 2007 was the peak). Many of the older condos are right around 50%. With all of the remodeling that has gone on in the past few years some of the “cookie-cutter” condos are a little misleading. Nicely remodeled and “turn-key” older condos are bringing premium pricing in this market. Some of the newer built Intrawest units have bounced off a 2012 bottom and are now recovering to 50% or more price from the peak. Properties like The Lodges have done even better.

Single-family homes vary greatly but most are in the 60-70% range. The low end prices are still pretty high so they are in that 60-70% of the peak. Many of the newer, luxury built homes can be in 70% or slightly more depending on location and construction quality. Some mid-range homes with below average locations or poor floorplans/construction quality can go below 60%. Single-family vacant lots can vary greatly too but are generally in the 40-60% range. And commercial is a real wildcard; office and retail space has been greatly affected by technology in the past 10 years, but commercial prices today are likely to be less than 50% of the peak, some far less.

Meanwhile, the abandoned buildings (The White Stag and Ullr Lodges) at the corner of Main and Minaret are finally being torn down and hauled away. They should be all gone by the time the summer visitors pour into town. Now if we can work on the remaining few….

Noteworthy Sales

Some sales of note; Since I’m working on an upcoming Q&A column on Mammoth’s affordable housing, this one caught my attention. A deed restricted 3 bedrooms / 2 baths unit at Aspen Village sold for $285,000. This is the Town’s project adjacent to the Snowcreek Athletic Club. These deed restricted units are for local residents of particular income qualifications. The transaction was completed with all cash!!……looks like somebody’s mom and dad bought their kids a condo, in an affordable housing project no less!!

The sale of a Mountainback condo for $265,000. This 2 bedroom 2 bath condo was on the market forever. I could only find the MLS data for just over 1,000 days on the market but there is a gap of three years in between. I’m thinking it was on the market for almost 2,000 days. Seems that long….

The sale of a Snowcreek Phase I 2bedrooms + loft / 2 baths townhome for $500,000. That might seem high but with the awesome “pond” location and meadow view and an upgraded condition that should be right in line. Another example of a great location, views, and upgrades bringing a premium price.

Other Real Estate News

I was recently reviewing the property tax data of one of my new listings and found a small discrepancy (well, maybe two) that would certainly justify the property owner to ask for a review or make an appeal. But this is a pretty unique scenario. This is a large vacant lot in The Bluffs and is comprised of two separate parcels with two separate street addresses. The Lost Lane lot is totally unbuildable because of both topography and access. These lots were originally put to paper in 1923 and “drawn” on a map with no consideration of there being a real building site.

The Fir St. lot is where the building site is. It also had a historic family cabin on the property for decades. That old cabin was eventually torn down after the new subdivision was created in the late 1990’s and the cabin was found to actually be on the lot line. The property has been in the same family since the 1920’s.

What I discovered on the property tax bill was that the owner was still being assessed for the cabin. The cabin is long gone but the Assessor was still assessing for improvements. The other oddity; the unbuildable Lost Lane lot had a higher assessed value than the true building lot on Fir St.. I’m sure the Assessor’s office has some explanations. But I’m also sure the fact that Mono County has had five different Assessors (I’ve worked with all of them) in the past 12 years has something to do with it….It is good to scrutinize your property tax bill.

…My mom sent me Los Angeles Times article about the drought in Mammoth. It was very yellowed and was dated August 2, 1987. The article could have been written yesterday except the names have changed. But 1987 was early in that drought cycle. It was dry until March of 1991 when got 200 inches of snow. But the big difference between then and now is a series of wells that were put in to place by the Mammoth water district following that drought period.

You see those new facilities just below the Eagle Base parking lot, and just beyond Snowcreek Athletic Club, and at the end of Old Mammoth Road before turning into The Bluffs. It’s good those wells and plants were built because back in 1987 Mammoth got two-thirds of its water from “surface water” (aka Mammoth Creek). But today the trout and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have claimed more of Mammoth Creek for themselves.

Thanks for reading!

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