Market Summary: March 27 – April 10

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 22 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $189,000 to a high of $1,457,122. Of the 22 closings, 18 were financeable properties and 14 of the 18 were financed. There were no REO/bank owned closings and no short sale closings reported. More familiarity in the closings; 17 of the 22 were condos under $350,000, one new luxury home in Gray Bear and two homes in the $700-900K range. This period last year there were 12 closings.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up four (4) to 163. There were 19 new condo listings for the period including three at The Westin Monache, two more in the Village and some recently rare-to-the-market units at The Pointe, Forest Creek, Mammoth Gateway and Joaquin Estates. There are only eight (8) condos listed for sale under $200,000. This time last year there were 162 condos on the market.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down nine (9) to 50. The low-end inventory continues to sell. And some of the lingering inventory sold in the past two weeks. The spring buyers have been poking around. This time last year there were 60 homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down five (5) to 55 at period’s end. Of the 55 properties in “pending,” there is one “contingent short sale” and 29 are in “back-up” status. This time last year there were only 46 properties in escrow including seven (7) short sales. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down one for the period to 90. Last year that number was 68.

Market Updates and News

Despite the drizzly and cloudy weekend the past two days, the past two weeks have been mostly warm and sunny weather. Hordes of happy families experienced lovely spring ski conditions; plenty of hard-and-fast runs, soft and very turn-able snow if your timing was right, and even some sticky mashed potatoes in spots. Everybody seemed to be having a wonderful time on the Ski Area. The snow coverage on the Mountain remains very good and should stay around for awhile. Precipitation is in-and-out of the forecast for the balance of the month. We’ll take whatever we can get. This time last year the warm weather had destroyed the good ski conditions of early March.

Classic Spring Skiing As Families Swarm Mammoth Mountain

The period was rather uneventful in town. But not so much for me personally. This month marks a personal and professional landmark. I started my real estate brokerage career here in Mammoth 30 years ago. It has been my only source of employment and income for the last 30 years except for the small stipends I have received for 20+ years as a public official in Mammoth Lakes and Mono County……..

It was suggested that I write a “what I’ve learned in 30 years of Mammoth real estate column.” Or maybe just highlight the most important things. I plan to work on it. It may become a series of columns and posts…..One of the old associate brokers who worked in my company for ~15 years told me when he retired that my years of experience were unique because each year of experience was very different. They weren’t just another year of selling condos and homes. He had watched me build a company, hold real estate related public office, experience wild swings of the market (and earthquake swarms), work with (supervise) dozens of different agents and personalities, be involved with a wide variety of real estate transactions, deal with frivolous lawsuits and the Intrawest era, and on and on. And he missed the latest (and wild) REO cycle There has rarely been a dull moment….

Another odd milestone occurred during the period with the closing of The Charthouse restaurant here in Mammoth. It wasn’t my favorite restaurant but it was literally my first home in Mammoth. There were recent rumors about their potential closure. And only two weeks ago an article in The Sheet quoted the owner’s VP of Operations as” “it is business as usual” and “staying open” and “have an active lease.” But the restaurant is closed and the signs are gone and the dishwasher is on the back landing.

I probably learned more from the old Charthouse systems and operations than I learned in business school at UCLA. In the old days you had to know every facet and every position of the enterprise to become a headwaiter. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s it was a truly great company to work for. The founders were still control and the company had many long-time and loyal employees. The opening of the Mammoth Charthouse in late 1981 was a perfect opportunity for me to escape Los Angeles and come and train waiters for the new restaurant. Obviously, I’ve never left.

Looking back at the Charthouse’s history here in Mammoth, I got to witness the transition from the “old school” to the new corporate ownership and beyond. In my opinion it was never as good as the original (of course I wasn’t there anymore). The authentic “fun” environment of the old company got lost in corporate structure. The best employees moved on. The food became corporate rather than personal. The decor became something very different from the roots of the company. The old vibe was nowhere to be found.

Those were great times back in the old days of the Mammoth Charthouse and in Marina Del Rey. None of us knew that there was a recession, sky-high interest rates and terrible inflation. We were too busy serving people great food and libations. They were having almost as much fun as we were. I think every young person should do their stint working in a restaurant and waiting tables. Learning to provide great service is a worthy aspiration and foundation for adult life–whether it is delivering great steaks or brokering real estate or whatever you are going to do….And sometimes I fantasize about waiting tables again in some laid-back tropical resort.

One the real estate side it will be interesting to see what happens to the Charthouse facility. It has the capacity to serve a large volume of food and drink and has high visibility. Despite the “resort” demographics, a mid-range chain restaurant like Applebee’s or Olive Garden could find it attractive. It might be why the purported lease negotiations failed. There might be someone waiting in the wings. We’ll see….

…During the period I closed an escrow with an unusual twist; I have never met the buyer and the buyer has never seen the property. It has happened before but it always amazes me. Most of the transaction was done through text messages and DocuSign. So technology certainly makes it easier. I hope he likes the property when he finally comes and sees it.

Noteworthy Sales

With 17 of the 22 sales in the period condos selling under $350,000 there isn’t that much to talk about, but…

  • The cheapest condos at Juniper Springs Lodge are selling. This is opposite of what I have always recommended; “buy the top 25% of the units in a condo hotel property, ones with views, upper floors, special locations. larger floorplans, etc.” Instead the current buyer pool is buying the cheapest (for a reason) units. Oh well, I’m not representing them. There are far better units for a few dollars more….but rents and resale will prove it out.
  • Two “downtown” (Old Mammoth Road) condos with relatively higher HOA fees closed at low prices. Actually, the HOA fees aren’t that high they just include an extra $180 per month for a couple more years for new siding. So HOA boards are damned either way; if they make special assessments in one lump sum the owners complain, if they spread it out over four years it affects the values….
  • Low-end condos that have some sort of garage, whether private or open, are still highly desirable. Nine of the 17 condo sales in the period have understructure parking or private garages.
  • Snowcreek #888 closed during the period. I would have to believe an Asian buyer purchased that. I tried. Regardless, I wish them the best of luck.

The infamous “white elephant with a killer view” finally sold for $925,000. I spent hours and hours in this property with potential buyers who were mesmerized by the simply unbelievable view but nobody could figure out how to properly remodel the odd floorplan and structure, or at least not at some reasonable price. Many lookers came to the conclusion the house was a tear-down. But the view is one of the best in Mammoth. Well, somebody has a vision. Can’t wait to see what happens to it.

Another large Gray Bear home sold. It was the high sale of the period. The developer is ready to go full-bore this summer with about 20 new homes under contract in Phase 2.

Other Real Estate News

More and more local agents boast about being “paperless,”–that is completing all of their agreements and disclosures in an electronic format. I know I am old-school but I have embraced many of the new electronic tools. But I still value having the “paper” in front of me to review. My clients will see my handwritten signature and notations on documents rather than a simple electronic signature.

My argument for handling documents in paper form is that I have seen too many agents miss or fail to complete things in the electronic format. And having been a supervising broker for 25 years I always think about the ramifications of a lawsuit or investigation by the Bureau of Real Estate (every broker gets audited eventually). My handwriting on a document proves I actually looked at it and read it (what a concept).

I recently closed a transaction with one of the bragging “paperless agents” and I sent her documents back to her three times during the process because she missed checking specific boxes or completing necessary sections. I did it as a favor. One would have been a fatal flaw in the case of litigation….And something ironic, these paperless agents are typically noble in their cause to “not kill trees” but don’t think twice about a fast food or take-out lunch.

And recently hackers have been attacking wire transfers by buyers to escrow companies. Everything is going to encryption. And worse, these “paperless agents” are storing documents with valuable information in the cloud. It is only a matter of time before all that gets hacked. Meanwhile, the boxes and boxes of closed escrow files I have neatly stored down at the Mammoth Airport are only vulnerable to a few field mice….

And finally, a recent Realtor infograph had the “Things That Drag Down the Value of Your Home.” The top five things from worse to less worse are bad school, strip club, high renter concentration, homeless shelter, and cemetery. So remember that when looking at property in Mammoth.

Thanks for reading!

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