Market Summary: June 21 – July 5

The Mammoth MLS is reporting eight (8) real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $154,000 to a high of $1,920,000. That is down four (4) from the previous period. Of the eight closings, all eight were technically financeable properties and five (5) were financed but two with seller financing. There were no REO/bank owned property closings and no short sale closings reported.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up 21 to 213 (well over the 200 mark and more than I expected). There were 35 new condo listings in the period and only four (4) appear to have not been on the market in the recent past. While the inventory is now up there is significant available inventory in the affordable (under $400,000) range. There are 28 condos listed under $200,000. There are 52 condos listed between $200 and $300,000 and 56 condos listed between $300 and $400,000. This is some of the best selection buyers have had in many years. Clearly, there is active seller psychology and mindset of having their property on the market prior to the 4th of July (and the “official ” start of summer).

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is also up seven (7) to 73. There are now 26 homes listed between $1 and $2,000,000. There were also several recent price reductions in this price range. The potential sellers have got the word that this segment of the market is strong. But now the buyers will have more selection and will be inclined to bargain hunt. It will be an interesting second half of 2015. It also appears the the sales at Gray Bear have gone so well that now John Hooper will purchase the land across the street and add another row of $1.2-1.5M homes. This little enclave on the Sierra Star golf course could end up with about 24 homes. Great location.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up 10 to 53 at period’s end. Of the 53 properties in “pending,” three (3) are “contingent short sales” and 28 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 11 for the period at 81. So it looks like the summer is starting to create actual sales. Inventory is up and sales are up.

Market Updates and News

A very large crowd invaded Mammoth for the 4th of July. A key determiner of the crowd is always how the date falls on the calendar. A Saturday is probably optimal. The annual parade was probably the biggest ever and the best attended. Many of the local restaurants and bars featured bands and outdoor BBQs for post-parade activities. Some of the crowd flowed out of town today (Sunday) because they probably didn’t have the luxury of having Monday off too. But most have stayed. There will be live music and local fireworks in the Village tonight.

I was picking up keys in various reservation company offices this past week and they were all reporting solid bookings for the entire summer. The Westin was 100% booked for the weekend and through the 6th.

The weather the past two weeks has been relatively hot for Mammoth but has now cooled and is forecasted for relatively cooler temperatures for the rest of this week. We’ve had some nights with periods of steady rain showers. That is certainly welcome. Despite the drought, the recent rains have made Mammoth green and relatively lush. The local wildlife has plenty of natural grass in the forest to feed on.

A big Mammoth Town Council meeting last Wednesday night; the Council voted to (finally) put the single-family transient rental issue to a vote, a special election vote of the public. This should happen sometime in Fall. This should get interesting and may get very contentious. A majority of the single-family property owners who will be most impacted (either way) aren’t registered to vote in Mammoth. The majority of Mammoth voters don’t live in the single-family neighborhoods but typically support maximum revenue generation for the Town, especially if they aren’t paying for it.

There is also a strong faction of non-voting single-family property owners who support transient rentals. How strong will their campaign support be?? The local reservation companies are conflicted too; they have lost revenue to the Internet based rental activities but see a potential big opportunity with single-family homes. All sorts of strange bedfellows are likely to emerge.

Also on the Council’s platter was the Ice Rink, or which is now more commonly being referred to as the “multi-purpose” facility (lol). The School District has verbally agreed to extend and “discount” the current lease for the land the ice rink now sits on. But no agreement has been finalized. Meanwhile, the Parks and Recreation staff and Commission are re-thinking the grander plans for Mammoth Creek Park (Is this really the highest and best use?).

The financial numbers also seem to be a bit murkier; apparently the Town doesn’t have all of the dollars to put the roof on the ice rink. They appear to be ~$175,000 short. (So the staff wants to spend another $1.5M to move it?) Ultimately, the Council shelved the move idea subject to final negotiations with the School District. And the Parks crowd can start having real discussions about what should be planned for Mammoth Creek Park.

As a side note; thankfully our rather green Town Council has the vision not to simply “rubber stamp” what the Town staff is promoting. This staff has less than five years of experience in Mammoth. And we have no real Planning Director. Much of the continuity of the past is gone (that is why I find it necessary to be vocal). They simply don’t know the history of many of these issues in Mammoth, especially how CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) issues come to be so contentious and litigious. The Sierra Club alone cost the Town millions of dollars and years of delay at the airport. Many local second homeowners are powerful and affluent people and can cause serious problems and delays. These new staff members haven’t figured it out. They just seem to want to add things to their resumes.

An interesting article about the Pauite Palace in The Sheet this weekend. Looks like a major expansion of the Bishop casino is in the works including a sizable hotel. These Indian casinos have become big business in California. Having another major “draw” into the Eastern Sierra is good for tourism. And hopefully we can keep the “social ills” of a gambling town away.

Speaking of The Sheet, my Real Estate Q & A for the 4th of July issue was on affordable housing. The Town Council on Wednesday night also agreed to reduce these developer impact fees.

And a reader sent me an email about his purchase of a Tesla Model S and how it will make driving to Mammoth a much more pleasurable experience; with autopilot it will drive itself down the highway without the need for hands on the steering wheel. And with free Tesla chargers in Lone Pine and Four Corners (and Mojave) and $15 charges in the Village, the (fuel) cost is minimal. Conjecture is this could be a boost to Mammoth tourism…..I’ve seen four Teslas in town just this weekend.

Noteworthy Sales

The high sale of the period is a large home in the small Crooked Pines neighborhood on the Sierra Star golf course. The buyer was represented by a Los Angeles real estate agent but I had some brief interaction with him. He was looking for a large second home that could accommodate his adult children and all of their friends. But one of the real bonuses of the property he purchased; it was a single family home that he could rent on a nightly basis based on the Resort zoning.

The two owner financed properties were properties that had been on the market for years. They finally sold for very low prices and with seller financing.

A 3 bedrooms / 2 baths 2-car garage townhouse across the street from government sponsored housing in Old Mammoth sold for almost as much as a 2 bedrooms / 1 bath single family home just a block from the Village. Utility over location…

Another old fourplex sold for $525,000. Some buyers are desperate for income. We’ll have to wait and see how the future treats these properties. Lots of inflation could make them golden, or kill them.

Other Real Estate News

With big Supreme Court decisions in the recent news, one yawner was a Fair Housing decision that basically upheld the longstanding legal concepts by which Realtors® have to abide. But as a long time supervising broker I have had to keep an eye on discriminatory practices by my real estate agents. The housing discrimination laws have become increasingly stringent over time, almost to absurdity. But it can be very serious to violate any of this. And I recently had an interesting flash-back. It tells you how far things have changed in the last 60 years.

I was down in Crowley Lake showing the wonderful Han’s Resort property. This is a 3+ acre property with numerous cabins and streams running on both sides of the property. This is located at the top of the Juniper Drive loop. This is some of older and very desirable area of Crowley. There are evergreen trees and lots of mature aspens. We started talking about the history of the area when I had the flashback. And I remember it as the most blatant case of discrimination I have ever seen in eastern Sierra real estate. It is part of history.

Some 20+ years ago I was reviewing the preliminary title report of a Juniper Drive property for an escrow. The CC&R’s were from the early 1950’s and they were rather clear that no one of any non-white racial make-up was allowed to own property in this subdivision. The list of exclusions was long and detailed and included certain religions too. Obviously by the time I was reading it this was all quite illegal and violated all sorts of federal and civil rights laws. But it was the only time I had ever seen it in recorded documents and in a title report. For a young broker it was fascinating to see the history of it.

Today the practice of real estate has eliminated most hints of discrimination. The worst offenses are in advertising descriptions. We haven’t been able to use the term “family” for years; as in “great family home.” I still see agents in Mammoth make this mistake. We have to be careful in using terms like “exclusive” or “quality neighborhood” but we can say “nice neighborhood.”…… Lately we were advised that “steps to shuttle” is discriminatory because not everyone can walk. So now we have to use “close to shuttle.”

Thanks for reading!

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