Summer at Full Tilt, VillageFest Rocks and Bluesapalooza on Tap!!

Market Summary: July 17 – July 31

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 13 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $285,000 to a high of $1,500,000. Of the 13 closings, 10 were financeable properties and seven (7) were conventionally financed. There were four (4) Snowcreek units in the mix. This report last year there were eight (8) closings.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up one (1) to 171. The Mammoth condo inventory has clearly stabilized. Unless something dramatic happens the late summer and fall lookers won’t have great selection. Based on my personal experience the best units are being shown consistently by the local agents. There were 16 new condos brought to the market during the period. All but two or three are truly new to the recent market. This time last year there were 205 condos on the market.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up another three (3) to 76. The cheapest home on the market is $469,000. There is plenty of inventory between $500,000 and $600,000. We’ll see how they compete against each other in the coming months. This time last year there were 68 homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up another nine (9) to 66 at period’s end. Of the 66 properties in “pending,” there are two (2) “contingent short sale” properties and 44 are in “back-up” status. This time last year there were 69 properties pending in Mammoth. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up four (4) for the period to 104. Of the outlying area closings for the period there were two completed sales in Aspen Springs Ranch. That is a small equestrian subdivision south of Crowley Lake. We can go a year without a closing in there so to have two in one two week period is noteworthy.

Market Updates and News

With Bluesapalooza on the immediate horizon, the 13th annual VillageFest proved that this event/weekend has become a “don’t miss” weekend for those who like rock’n roll and good food. A variety of covers bands like Lyvyn Skynyrd played all three afternoons and evenings while Friday was the chili cookoff, Saturday the chicken and ribs cookoff and Sunday the crawdad boil. Visitors and locals alike were lining up to sample the competitive recipes from some of Mammoth’s most popular restaurants. Free music, great food at reasonable prices, plenty of beverages available, and warm summer evenings make this Village sponsored event a real winner.

Mammoth has been warm like the rest of the state but a cool down is in process. Thankfully there has been no major smoke; a few days of hazy skies but mostly clear. I was at the Airport one evening last week and it poured for about 30 minutes. When I came back to town the streets were dry.

The onslaught of summer visitors always brings special entertainment. Driving around town can be precarious; lots of U-turns and overloaded vehicles, new visitor trying to find VONS, plenty of non-cyclists and families out on bikes (often to their embarrassment), high school cross country teams running in packs and showing off way-too-much skin, etc. The latest craziness is people staring at their phones and not paying attention to where they are really going. The public concern for “situational awareness” seems to be in decline. Thankfully the bears have been well behaved this summer, the spring rains have provided plenty of natural grass for them to eat.

My last week’s Broker’s Report column brought mixed reactions and many questions. Local residents were thankful for the coverage because the local papers failed to get the real gist of the presentations. This week’s Mammoth Times covered the Mountain’s narrative and hyperbole but again the reporters failed to ask the real questions or grasp the $750 million “real estate improvement” concept. It was more like a press release.

The Sheet completely ignored the presentation in this week’s issue. But to their credit they did cover some VERY important stories pertaining to Southern California Edison’s potential culpability in recent forest fires and the release of data showing that the Ormat geothermal plant’s wells are impacting Mammoth area fresh water aquifers. Ted may be onto the next chapter of the Chinatown Water Wars story.

And both papers completely ignored the Mammoth Tech Community Initiative movement. But Mammoth Lakes Housing sure didn’t. The potential for 1,000 new tech workers in Mammoth Lakes added to the potential of a couple thousand new hotel rooms was perfectly timed for a series of “stakeholder” meetings emphasizing the need for more “deed restricted” affordable housing. Obviously they see the opportunity for exactions (or extractions as developers like to call them) in any future developments. And they want to build the proverbial war cry amongst the community leaders and watchdogs.

The major flow of information has just begun on both of the ventures/adventures. The Ski Area says they are ready to begin tens of millions of capital improvements–$100 million in the next five years. They don’t need the Town Council’s approval, just the Forest Service’s. And they likely have that already. The Forest Service has wanted the bulk of skiers entering the Mountain from non-Main Lodge “portals” for a couple of decades. The recent Meridian Blvd. improvements are part of the design. More sidewalk and shuttle improvements slated for later this year at the top end of Main St. will do the same.

Meanwhile the $750 million in real estate improvements are still subject to being able to sell condo hotel units for a profit. The values at the Village and Eagle have nudged upward a little but construction costs have not come down. Or maybe the corporate lending world has become so loose that a true hotel facility is financeable. If that is the case I hope they hurry. Mammoth could certainly use a first-class true hotel facility but the financing (based on occupancy rates) has never been viable (hence the need for condo hotels).

If nothing else observing the news flow here in Mammoth will be more enjoyable than the national news. Hearing all of this makes me wonder how many people really took action on my real estate column that suggested everyone comment about the Main Lodge land exchange. I know many did. If the Forest Service received significant public comment than the Ski Area may be compelled to complete the east side gondola system before the land trade could be completed. Forest Service land exchanges have a long history of collusion and a variety of people are watching this one. The next 12 months could mark a significant turning point in the community. Or not.

The Tech Initiative / Main St. Revitalization concept has other ramifications. Like I stated in the original column the existing low-end condo inventory could see another affordable housing push like it did in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. In the 90’s it was all about price. These condos became so cheap that many owner and non-owner occupied buyers bought them for housing. The construction boom increased the demand on them in the early 2000’s. But values dropped after 2008. Today they remain relatively affordable. Most have relatively minimal HOA fees. And many are located close to the Main St. planning area.

But young tech worker with real salaries and non-grandiose housing desires may find them attractive. Especially if they are close to the “work and fun” environment. And the public transportation. I could certainly see rents pushed up in these properties. I could see purchase demand. And many of these units still represent affordable nightly rentals. This era could get strangled with a higher and better use.

But that could also create more demand for smaller (and older) condo hotel properties. And demand for newer ones. If it all happens the bottom end of the condo market could get squeezed once again.

I was also questioned whether I thought the Town would try to create a redevelopment agency for the Main St. plan? My answer is; I doubt it. The California redevelopment laws have changed dramatically over the past few years. But by looking at many of the really crappy buildings that exist within the plan area it really should qualify. But we are still considered a rather upscale resort. And the Town’s last foray into redevelopment failed horribly. Those of us that were around haven’t forgot. I’m sure the Town attorneys are looking at the potential benefits, but the free market dynamics may be all that is needed.

I’ll wrap this discussion but there will be plenty more in the future. The rest of the local real estate news is be down below.

Noteworthy Sales

Sales oddities continue but many are still in escrow and are not closed sales. Winter and ski oriented properties don’t normally sell in any sort of volume in the summer. They just don’t. But recently properties at locations like Eagle Run, Chamonix, Courchevel, Mammoth West, Mammoth Chalets, etc. are going to escrow. And top floor (7th) units at the Westin Monache for substantial prices….

A small and older four-plex on Joaquin sold for $619,000. The investment properties continue to appreciate at a questionable rate. It does’t make sense today but if the tech world flows into Mammoth it just might. But I think they’ll want a better place to stay.

Four Snowcreek units closed in the period and more in escrow. The Snowcreek selling season has an early start.

A house on Lakeview Blvd. sold after the listing had expired. It had been on the market for over 1,000 days with two different agents. The high sale of the period on Woodcrest Trail in The Fairway Ranch had been on the market for almost 800 days.

Other Real Estate News

In a recent meeting with the County Assessor he stated that the “tax roll” had been completed and the total assessed value in Mono County was up slightly (about 2.5%). Mono County has around $5.5 billion in assessed property valuations including large entities like Mammoth Mountain and the geothermal plants. He stated that many California counties were experiencing “dramatic” increases in their total assessed values.

These assessed value increases would primarily come from new sales at substantially higher prices and assessments, new construction, the allowed 2% annual increase under Prop. 13, and “Prop.8” properties rebounding in assessed value. Basically, that tells me that property values in the total of Mono County have been stagnant for the past 18 months. But that is a county- wide statistic. Mammoth and the balance of Mono County are different markets. Mammoth may have kept the balance of the County in the positive.

Besides the new homes in Gray Bear there a dozen or so new homes under construction in Mammoth including a couple in the Fairway Ranch and one in Starwood. There is a new “spec” home on Snowridge Lane that just started listed at $1.1M. There are dozens of small add-on and remodel projects going on throughout town. And based on discussions now is a great time to get your fireplace remodeling completed. You’ll wait in the fall, and waiting for your heat source to be completed is no fun as winer approaches.

….Local real estate broker and restaurant owner Shields Richardson was recently sworn in as Mammoth mayor and he told me that he will be the first mayor in Mammoth to have a specific office in the Town offices. He wants to have an “off street” place where citizens can come and talk to the mayor (better than his wine bar perhaps). I would suggest you come prepared, Shields doesn’t impress me as a guy who listens to small talk. Regarding expenditures; he said that any of the Town’s “non-essential” items better show a 3 times (3X) return on the expenditure. That’s a businesslike attitude that I can appreciate but on the Council “you still have to count to three.”

Thanks for reading!

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