Market Summary: December 6 – December 20

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 17 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $199,000 to a high of $1,319,200. That is up 6 sales from the previous period. Of the 17 closings, 14 were financeable properties and 11 were financed. It looks like an increasing number of buyers are financing their purchases. I would bet that some of the cash buyers of the past few years are refinancing too. With the Federal Reserve’s action this past week we could be seeing a slow closing of these ridiculously low interest rates.

The period’s sales were more of the classic sales mix for 2015; nine (9) of the 17 sales were condos selling under $350,000 and one home selling for $1M plus. There were no REO/bank owned property closings and no short sale closings reported. But there will be some REO closings in the near future.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up eight (8) to 132. The downward trend in condo inventory has stopped. In fact it would appear that just as the snow conditions pushed some fence-sitting buyers off of the fence it has also pushed some fence-sitting sellers off of the fence too. There were 14 new condo listings brought to the market during the period and none of them have been on the market in the recent past. And some nice properties to add to the inventory for snow-driven excited buyers.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up two (2) to 54. Really more of the same. But the decent $600,000 price range homes that were on the market all summer and fall are all but gone (sold).

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down three (3) to 52 at period’s end. Of the 55 properties in “pending,” one (1) is a “contingent short sale” and 27 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down seven (7) for the period to 76.

Market Updates and News

I skied on last Friday and the Ski Area is in full operation; from Chair 9 to Chair 13. The main trails are in excellent condition and most of the face runs are skiable with some obstacles. Not perfect conditions but very good. Probably the best conditions for the holiday period since 2011. Local reservation companies are reporting the the town is almost 100% booked for the next three weeks. I would bet some businesses will be understaffed for what is about to happen, but so be it. If you will be here during the period I would plan for that. There is snow forecasted off-and-on through the whole period. It will be a zoo. It will be a much needed economic boost for the entire community.

Holiday Period Starts and the Ski Area Is In FULL Operation!

The snow conditions have brought a nice push in real estate activity and interest. Normally this is a “wrap up” period in Mammoth real estate; closing out the last transactions of the year with most buyers settling into their own holiday mode and not focused on real estate. But not this year. Buyers and sellers are active right to the end. Buyers are jumping on new and old listings. Some owners have decided it is good time to troll the waters. I’m grateful for the business but would like a little break to enjoy the holidays. Oh well, at least I’ve got some skiing in.

This past week there were crews working diligently at installing the new Tesla charging station in the Park-and-Ride lot across from the Charthouse restaurant. It looks like a pretty impressive little undertaking; lots of big cables and electrical boxes going in the ground. I was recently looking at a similar completed station at the rest area adjacent to the Topaz Lodge at the state line. The finished product is rather simple and clean, but I’ll wait to see how they Mammoth-ize this station. It will be interesting to watch how this affects Mammoth.

From the real estate side of things I have seen a small increase in buyers and seller engaging in “1031 exchanges.” These IRS Code Section 1031 tax deferred exchanges have always been an active part of the Mammoth real estate market. The properties must meet the “like for like” requirement; namely they have to produce income and they can’t be your primary residence (although an owner can “convert” the property to a primary residence). So Mammoth condos that have rental histories or will have rental histories qualify for the like-kind exchange. The exchanges have been inbound and outbound.

During the Roaring 2000’s I remember reviewing many closed escrow files for my company where the buyer was 1031 accommodator and the seller was a 1031 accommodator. People were swapping their equities all over the place. They were selling historic investment properties to exchange for Mammoth condos. Or they were selling old time Mammoth condos that had been on rental programs to exchange for pure income/investment properties in other locations. Some were swapping Mammoth condos for vacation-type condos in places like Hawaii. And on and on. Once values declined in the late 2000’s the 1031 exchanges almost disappeared. They come around occasionally but in the last month there has been an increase. We’ll see if it becomes a trend.

More anecdotal chairlift observations for the impact the Big Bear acquisitions have had on Mammoth; I often ski by myself and ride the lifts with complete strangers. As a 30+ year season pass holder I have always found these strangers to be friendly and engaging (it is a short term relationship). But this year I have ridden so many times with people who don’t even say hi or even make acknowledgement. So weird. I can only think that these are past Big Bear regulars that are now riding Mammoth. Maybe they are afraid to be friendly or are simply paranoid to interact with strangers. Interesting times for sure…..

Noteworthy Sales

Besides plenty of rather commonplace condo sales, there was a vacant lot sale in The Bluffs for $330,000. There have been fewer than 10 residential lot sales in Mammoth in 2015. That is a rather low number and there are some nice lots available at what would be relatively inexpensive prices. Some of that demand has been consumed by the Gray Bear subdivisions offering the lot and new home as a package. This Bluffs sale was one of the interior lots. These are 20,000 square foot lots that run street-to-street. Most are very flat and have good sun and views. There are no architectural controls in the Bluffs so an owner can build large or small or really build whatever they want. The Bluffs is a gorgeous area but it is also a pretty remote location (for most) in Mammoth.

Speaking of Gray Bear the highest price sale of the period was a brand new home in Phase I at $1,319,200. This was one of the medium sized home on a nice golf course fronting lot overlooking the lake. This new residential product continues to be popular.

The Tale of Two Juniper Springs Lodge units. Two sales of 2 bedroom / 2 bath units, one for $332,500 and one for $390,000. Why the disparity? I always talk about the value of owning “the top 25%” of the units in a condo hotel building. Here is the answer of why. The top 25% have the best locations and features; views, corner locations, sun, upper floors, etc.(being near the dumpsters isn’t a plus).

The unit that sold for $332,500 was on the market forever and the price was driven down over time. It overlooked the entry and had all of the noise and commotion. The view was of the Eagle Base parking lot. The unit that sold for $390,000 sold in less than 30 days. It was a corner with nice southern views, overlooked the quiet horseshoe area and had immediate access to the ski run. I represented the seller. I also represented them when they purchased it. But there it is.

Other Real Estate News

The last few weeks has also brought forth (once again) the age old Mammoth real estate question of; How much is a view worth?? Back in the 80’s we thought it might be in the $5-10,000. But the average condo was selling ~$100,000. So say 5-10%. So for an average condo selling today for $400,000 that would mean a view is worth an extra $20-40K. There are certainly buyers willing to pay that.

Some buyers are rather adamant about having a view. I’m completely supportive. Others aren’t. They often resign themselves that they get all the view they want while riding the chairlift or hiking on a trail. The hard thing is that sellers know the value of the view. They never regret having the view. After all this is The Range of Light. Seeing spectacular sunrises or sunsets or watching storms blow in is really the definition of priceless. It is what makes the Mammoth experience memorable.

While those with views never regret having it, those without ultimately regret not having one. Maybe they were impatient. Maybe they simply “bought on price.”

So what is a view really worth? Over years of ownership it certainly has to be worth more than 5-10%. And over the past 30 years of selling real estate in Mammoth I have rarely seen it not be recaptured at resale. And if you can purchase a view at a discount, even better.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Enjoy whatever you are celebrating!

Thanks for reading!

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