Fall Is Here….. And The March To Winter Begins!

Market Summary: September 11 – September 25

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 17 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $200,000 to a high of $2,100,000. Of the 17 closings, 13 were financeable properties and 10 were conventionally financed. There were two residential sales between $1.3M and $1.5M and both were cash sales. There was one (1) REO/bank owned property sale.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down four (4) to 145. There were only six (6) new condos brought to the market during the period and they are all new to the market. There are only six (6) condos listed under $200K. But there is plenty of attractive inventory in the ~$300K range. This time last year there were 172 condos on the market.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up one (1) to 73. There were price reductions on some properties listed in the $700K range. There is currently some good inventory in this part of the market and they are competing against each other. There may be a window for some good buys. This time last year there were 70 homes on the market. Two years ago only 60. Right now in Mammoth the condo market appears to be stronger than the residential market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down 17 to 65 at period’s end. Very interesting, especially for this time of year. But this time last year there were only 54 properties in pending. Maybe many of the serious Mammoth buyers took advantage of the better summer inventory selection. Of the 65 properties in “pending,” there is one (1) “contingent short sale” property and 45 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down 24 for the period at 88. Clearly, the market has taken a chill. But as the Aspen real estate brokers pointed out there is simply too much crazy stuff going on in the world right now, and many people appear to be hesitating. And some will wait to see if it snows, and then they will be in a hurry. I’ll be watching this the next couple of months.

Market Updates and News

Last weekend was downright cold and a forest fire to the north of town (and swirling wind) brought the worst smoke of the summer. But it only lasted a couple of days. The fire was in the Big Springs/Alpers and Arcularius Ranches area (basically the headwaters of the Owens River). Some historic structures at the Ranches were destroyed. The mobilization of the fire crews is once again impressive. They extinguished the fire in just a few days but it burned over 5,000 acres. The fire suppression bombers were coming from the west (and south) side of the Sierra and flying back-and-forth over town. The nighttime glow of the fire was quite impressive from Mammoth.

The summer oriented events are over and the last warm days of the year are almost gone. The spectacular fall colors are in the higher altitudes but haven’t fully developed as of yet. Every fall is different. But the scenery will bring the last surge of visitors into the region before the ski season. Most local residents are beginning to think about preparing for winter and the rush “to get things done” has begun.

The Town has been overseeing the re-paving of Old Mammoth Road the last week and it has been a spectacle. The paving company has closed the road in different segments and everybody thinks they can outsmart the detours. I’ve had a front row seat and have watched 100’s of locals and visitors driving around in circles like lemmings. Sometimes the simplest things in Mammoth can bring great entertainment. The road work should be completed in the next few days, thankfully. We can only hope that within a couple of months the Town’s snow removal operators are hammering away on the new asphalt.

New curbs, sidewalks, lighting and transit pull-outs are under construction along Minaret Road across from the Village. This will be a nice upgrade. As one shuttle bus driver stated, “we won’t have to dump people off in a snowbank.” …And continuing down to Main St., the old ugly power poles and transmission lines were finally removed last weekend. Next summer, the Town will continue the new sidewalks, lighting, and pull-outs down Main St. a few hundred yards.

The Town building department made a presentation to the Board of Realtors last week. Their tone has changed substantially since this column. They clearly under estimated the scope and ramifications of their original thinking on the subject of illegal lofts. The problem is “not as bad as originally thought” and they are trying to be “as flexible as possible.”

The Town reiterated what I last reported from the MLFD; lofts with legal stairwells and at least 50% open to the room down below are going to be allowed as sleeping areas. Ladder-type accesses will not be accepted. Head clearance issues are still not resolved but they are heading towards the “reallocation of sleeping numbers.” That would mean the present loft allocations could be reallocated to living spaces (and then owners and rental companies can do whatever they want with the non-conforming lofts?).

For now the Town is forming as “task force” to dig deeper into subject. And then their findings will go to the Planning Commission, and then to the Building Appeals Board and then to the Town Council for a final decision. It should be sufficiently watered down by that time.

The Town Council voted last week to create the first free wi-fi zone in Mammoth. The new zone will stretch from the Town offices (in the far end of the VONS mall) through the mall and down Old Mammoth Road to Mammoth Creek Park. My new office is right in the middle of that so it will be interesting to see how well it works and how well it is accepted and utilized.

The Council also voted to fund a “brand awareness” campaign promoting Mammoth’s gigabyte broadband service. They also funded the hiring of a planning consultant to facilitate a new Main St. revitalization program. Obviously the Council is taking the Mammoth Tech Initiative seriously. We’ll see who else does.

Noteworthy Sales

Eight (8) of the 17 sales were condos under $400,000. The low was a Studio sale at the Westin (Westin units have been selling). Two mid-range homes sold for $660,000 and $795,000, and again, this is an opportune segment of the market. Two high-end homes. An investment property was the high sale for the period….

Gray Bear #13 closed for $1,300,000. There are approx. a dozen homes under construction in the new subdivision but they are “about a month behind” on pouring the last foundations. Construction will obviously continue well into 2017.

The sale of Sierra Megeve #24 is a “remodel” story. I had this property listed a few years ago. It was quite dated but a sound property. The buyers paid $413,000 in spring of 2014. The new owners did a very tasteful “modernist” remodel. It was well executed but completed in what appeared to be a cost effective manner; lots of drywall and white paint, new fireplace, new kitchen and baths, etc. It sold during the period for $660,000. This was an extended “flip.” But how much money did they make? There were plenty of expenses including transaction expenses. But the buyers were likely glad to pay (cash) for a beautiful remodel (in a great location) that they can immediately use and enjoy.

I was negotiating on the Tavern Road investment properties when another buyer stepped in. They paid $2.1M cash and a “quick” closing AND with no inspection due diligence. And they closed during the period. I really don’t recommend purchasing ~45 year old properties (especially in Mammoth) without some inspections. But they did. Maybe they had a “clock” ticking? I hope it all works out.

Other Real Estate News

The lead topic of a Houzz.com email this morning was timely. I spent most of yesterday out showing mid-range condos. One of the core issues in the properties is the fireplaces and the how to most effectively comply with the new Town retrofitting standards. I have plenty of this discussion these days. And once potential buyers get some understanding (and the options) of what really is required, they all seem to go in somewhat different directions. Most of it is personal taste.

But one of the evolutionary options is placing a flat panel TV over the fireplace. This is a popular trend here in Mammoth. Aesthetic snobs believe that location should only be reserved for a fine piece of art. Others see the “space efficiency” in smaller condos of placing it there. And as long as they are rebuilding the front of the entire fireplace area including new drywall, rock and mantle they might as well bring electricity and the cable feed to that location. But the discussion usually brings out some strong opinions.

So the Houzz article “Design Debate: Is It OK to Hang a TV Over The Fireplace” is apropos. Here’s the link. (I hope it works, Houzz is funny about this stuff.) The “against” side of the debate states that the fireplace is the “symbolic heart of the home” and the “for” side contends “our needs have shifted and it is the warm glowing flicker of a 60-inch screen that modern souls seek.”

Beyond that, there is concern for the whole positioning of the TV at that height. Neck strain and overall ergonomics might not be the best. But a complete redesign can include lower mantles to accommodate TVs and mounts that slant downward can help. (I highly recommend TVs be mounted in Mammoth condos, especially in rental condos; between seismic activity and human activity they are best firmly mounted to the wall.)

Regardless of where you stand on the debate, there is no doubt that flat panel TVs have provided beneficial opportunities to utilize the space in small condominium living rooms (and bedrooms). Whether it is above the fireplace or not. They have simply reduced the need for some larger pieces of furniture and have allowed new and more attractive furniture layouts in these properties. I have witnessed some excellent evolution in some of Mammoth’s most popular floorplans based on these TVs.

Meanwhile, I’m working on an updated column on the state of fireplace retrofitting here in Mammoth Lakes. It continues to evolve.

Thanks for reading!

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