More Snow, More Flooding, More Damage, Mammoth’s Wild Winter Continues!

Market Summary: January 29 – February 12

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 11 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $189,000 to a high of $787,500. Of the 11 closings, nine (9) were financeable properties and six (6) were conventionally financed including three low-end homes. Six of the 11 sales were condos selling under $400,000

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down 12 at 102. There were seven (7) new condos brought to the market during the period. There are still two condos listed for sale under $200,000. But now there are only five condos listed under $250,000. It will be fascinating to see where this low-end inventory is come Labor Day (the usual peak of inventory in the market).

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down two (2) to 42.  There are only five (5) homes listed under $625,000. A handful of ~$1M+ homes went to escrow this past week. Both California and National Assocs. of Realtors have been warning of low inventories around the state and country. It is happening here in Mammoth, especially as we head into our spring selling season.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up 12 to 45 at period’s end.  Of the 45 properties in “pending,” there are 35 are in “back-up” status.  The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up nine (9) for the period at 71. Clearly, the snow conditions are moving the Mammoth market. My Real Estate Q&A in next week’s issue of The Sheet will take a historical looks at how the big snow winters impacted the local real estate market. 

Market Updates and News

Snow storms continued to pound Mammoth during the period but there was some reprieve. There were some fabulous blue sky ski days. The US Grand Prix participants got two days of great practice during the week and they we “going for it.” The event suffered from a big Friday snowstorm and was ultimately compromised once again. It did show up on national TV.

This past week we had two days of solid rain at most of the town level. The Ski Area has reported eight feet of new snow through the week but the rain in town had good and bad effect. The good was that the rain and warmer weather compacted the massive snow piles around town, scoured out roads and icy areas, dissipated ice dams on roofs and miscellaneous ice walls, etc. The bad was serious flooding in some areas caused by overtaxed storm drains and snowpack altering normal water flows and drainage. The rain also added to the weight of snowpack on roofs making the shoveling of these roofs even more imperative.

The end result is going to be property damage and excessive snow removal expenses for property owners. There are seriously flooded condos and homes in Sierra Star golf course proximity. Historically that area had seasonal stream courses that have been altered by the construction of the golf course and major storm drains. This will go down as a “50 or 100 year event” and the systems have been simply overtaxed.

Sliding roof snow loads and snow loads in general have caused a variety of damage around town. One apartment building roof came completely apart and is now uninhabitable. One of my former Old Mammoth neighbors lost a deck and two walls in a major roof slide. By early summer there will be plenty of apparent roof damage.

​​​​​​​Property managers and snow removal operators are overwhelmed. But most of the town is in relatively good shape (and the crowds keep coming). Most local construction crews have moved to shoveling roofs for the time being. Fire crews from the Owens Valley have come to help shovel-out fire hydrants and the roofs of municipal buildings. One local commercial property owner told me he has “been on his roof every day the last 30 days.”

The weather forecast is for a break the next few days but back to a snowy cycle (but not as intense) through the whole upcoming President’s Weekend and Ski Week. It should be a zoo. This is traditionally a very busy period.

The Ski Area is reporting we are at 430″ of snow for the season. We still have a couple of traditionally snowy months ahead.

The Town produced a telling statistic; the Town snow removal operations burned 44,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the month of January. The previous high was 25,000 gallons. That’s basically $150,000 just for fuel, for the month. Good thing the bed tax numbers are up as well.

Despite all of the snow, most local business owners say that “business is good.”…And with the rain and wind this last week most local residents received a much needed car/truck wash…And I’ve advised more than one regular Mammoth visitor that they should invest in a snow shovel and have it in the back of their car. The past few years have spoiled some people.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing increased reports of illegal nightly rentals occurring in residential neighborhoods. But it appears to be getting ugly. Apparently many of these renters aren’t well behaved let alone courteous. And many simply aren’t prepared for snowstorms, especially the extra challenges in the single-family neighborhoods where there aren’t condo managers to coddle them. There have been apparent confrontations. And the Town has been accused of “no enforcement.” We’ll see where this leads to. But this past week there is a new house listing that is a known “nightly renter” in the Mammoth Slopes area. Maybe the jig is up. Nothing will shut down an illegal rental like locals complaining to the authorities.

There are increased rumblings that the new administration will push to re-privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That could change some dynamics here in Mammoth. The current “redlining” of the true condo hotel properties (and those projects with onsite rental programs) by the federal government has certainly compromised their values. There are just so many cash buyers. But something else has changed. Many of these properties are now producing substantial and relatively stable cash flows. Yes, they still aren’t perfectly consistent but in this new Airbnb era they have become more viable.

The ability to finance condo hotel purchases would likely aid in new development because the buyer pool would increase and, in theory, there should be some increase in potential selling prices. We’ll see. More buyers and higher prices could be the trigger needed for a new condo hotel facility or two. The planners say Mammoth is currently about 900 beds short.

The last six weeks have been crazy here in Mammoth, between the record snow and possibly record tourism. So I have to take a moment and laugh about a few real estate things. First, when it comes to “draining the swamp” there was a recent article that revealed the top 50 lobbying spenders in Washington DC. Number 2 is the National Assoc. of Realtors. Amazingly they spent $37M in 2015 and $65M in 2016!!…. I guess I’m part of the swamp.

Secondly, I’ve had offers via email from a variety of real estate agents lately. There should be a new rule. If they are going to use a personal photo in any of their advertising the photo should have been shot in the last three years. One agent is using a photo that I know is 20 years old!! I feel like asking them if their photo is their high school graduation photo (and that occurred decades ago)…..but that would just get me in trouble.

​​​​​​​ Lastly, I had a new listing with three offers. One was full price and cash and quick close. One was close to full price and financed. My “so smart” seller decides to ask for the buyer’s “highest and best” thinking he can get a bidding war going. Both buyers walked away. Now he has no offers.

Noteworthy Sales

Another Westin Monache Studio unit closed for $215,000. But this one sold for less than the last two (high) sales. This is more like where the prices have been. This is a south facing location with some pool and spa views.

​​​​​​​A thrashed 2 bedroom / 2 bath unit at Villa de los Pinos sold for $240,000. These are nice little townhomes. The heavy cigarette smoke residue was permeated into the walls. It is going to take substantial effort and expense to get rid of that.

​​​​​​​Another San Joaquin Villas townhome closed for $300,000. These are modern and efficient townhomes that represent a good value. The downside; not available for a nightly rental program (CC&Rs) and no pool or spa. But low HOA and forced air heat.

​​​​​​​Three low end homes closed ranging from $410,000 to $477,750. Old, no garages, serious compromises. But the low-end is cleaned out.

Other Real Estate News

• The comments period for the Mammoth Creek Park West Ice Rink/MUF Draft EIR closes tomorrow. There will be public meetings but the Town staff told me the Final EIR should be ready within 30 days. Obviously they don’t intend to consider any of the comments. The California Dept. of Fish and Game asked for further study of potential impacts to the Creek and the habitat. There are other unaddressed concerns because of recent flooding in the area. And on and on. The Town staff is so hellbent to complete this EIR it is embarrassing.

At the same time The Sheet keeps running letters opposing the project for various reasons. The local paper says they have dozens of letters from a broad cross section of the community and ALL of the letters oppose the project. Some oppose the location, some oppose the expenditure of ~$10M. And also the Mammoth “Taking Action” plan (click the link to the Town site and it takes awhile) has the facility placed closer to Main St. in the Shady Rest parcel. We’ll just have to see what Rusty Gregory wants.

• I was over at the Sierra Center mall the other day and Mammoth’s first “tech accelerator” is apparently about a month away from opening. The windows are covered in brown paper but workers at the neighboring cafe said they have been doing plenty of work inside and moving furniture and other things in. It looks like the workspace is going to be about 8,000 square feet with glass walls on one side (so we should be able to see what is going on inside).

The entire space is located on the ground floor adjacent to the large open entry of the mall. The owner has remodeled that area by removing one the spiral staircases and the old fountain and has created an open communal space with tables and couches. It appears the Black Doubt microbrewery may expand into the adjacent immediate space. There is a new cafe named Mama’s Kitchen right there. So this has the potential to become a hip new hotspot in Mammoth, but I’m probably too old for any of this….

This tech accelerator is apparently going to be geared towards outdoor sports manufacturers. Mammoth has to be a perfect place for that. The Ski Area is the major sponsor of the venture. This is their first step in the “Mammoth Tech Initiative” which envisions start-up accelerators and larger tech company mini-campuses locating in Mammoth. The advent of superb Internet service in Mammoth is just one driver of this strategy. The Ski Area and others hope the Tech Initiative helps drive the Main St. and downtown revitalization here in Mammoth Lakes.

Thanks for reading!

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