More Storms Hit Mammoth And Senior Skiers Set To Protest!

Market Summary: March 4 – March 18

The  Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 19 real estate closings (same as last time) in Mammoth for the period ranging from a low of $65,000 to a high of $1,265,000. Of the 19 closings, 12 were financeable properties and eight (8) were conventionally financed. The low sale for the period was a garage in Snowcreek I (those prices are going up). The sales included seven (7) condos under $460,000, two (2) vacant lots, and a large fourplex apartment building. After a significant rise, the 10-Year Treasury rate has settled in to the ~2.8% range for the past few weeks. So how much of the current demand was driven by the perception of rising rates??

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up three (3) to 58. There are now 11 condos listed under $300,000 and another 17 listed between $3–400,000. That is up from last period  So there is new (and needed) condo inventory coming to the market in the low end. For now. There were 18 new condo listings in the period and five (5) are already under contract and in escrow. 

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down two another (2) to 28. There are still only six (6) homes listed under $949,000. There are nine (9) homes listed between $1 to 2,000,000. But there are some desirable and reasonably priced properties on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is even at 59 at period’s end. Of the 59 properties in “pending,” there are 41 in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down eight (8) to 81.

Market Updates and News

The “Avalanche Weekend” massive crowd stayed over and the following Monday was like a busy Saturday. The storms, snow and crowds have ebbed and flowed through the past two weeks and the spring break crowds will soon migrate in to enjoy the new snow and much improved ski and snowboard conditions. We still need more snow and water on the range. The Water District is already warning of restrictions this summer.
The new Ikon Pass offerings have caused quite a stir. Alterra has obviously funded a mass marketing blitz. I even saw a television commercial on the Travel Channel. I have new clients that are in clear “crashpad” mode — wanting to purchase small condos for their own use (“we just bought our passes”). It is deja vu of the year 2000. Maybe there will be crashpad sellers from that era selling to crashpad buyers of this era?? Meanwhile the elimination of the senior pass at Mammoth Mountain has the old folks in an uproar. There is an official senior pass protest scheduled for March 23. Good luck with that. I’m guessing it is a ploy to sell t-shirts.
But most everyone is beginning to realize the Ikon(Base)Pass is a great value. Unless you really have to ski and ride on those packed holiday blackout dates (I’m sorry). For southern California Mammoth lovers it is really a great deal; relatively quick flights will get you to new terrain on top of access to Mammoth. And Vail Resorts is adding new (unowned) ski areas to the Epic Pass. We are in ski pass wars for now. Let’s hope it stays that way. A mailer I received stated the the best Ikon Pass deals were good through April 9. After that they are likely to go up a $100.
One 75-year old Mammoth property owner told me he really likes the new pass; he can still come ski Mammoth with his grandkids but he will go to Utah and Colorado to “get away from the damn snowboarders.”
And in classic Intrawest marketing style, an Alterra press release this past week announced the first $555 million in capital investment in their resorts over the next five years. The next two years at Mammoth will see an “innovative redesign” of Canyon Lodge. It will become “the Day Lodge of the future.” Oh boy! The consensus in town is that Canyon Lodge should be bulldozed. And while other resorts are getting new gondolas (Winter park, Squaw/Alpine) Mammoth will continue to inconvenience the Village Gondola riders by making them get off at Canyon Lodge and find a chairlift to ride. The “innovative” plans haven’t been made public yet, but the rumor around town is that the coveted season lockers will be history. I see another protest coming.
The other Mammoth improvement will apparently be Rusty’s zip line from top to bottom. I wonder if they plan to have a permanent cardiologist available as part of the “adrenaline-pumping thrill experience?” Or maybe it will be sponsored by Mammoth Hospital? This may last as long as the infamous People Mover. 
Some of Alterra’s other plans include upgrading the snowmaking capabilities at various resorts. Mammoth has learned the value of quality snowmaking; without complete gondola mobility on the resort, precise and targeted snowmaking is essential. Riding in a gondola over dirt is much easier than skiing on it.  
The Town Council candidates are set for the June 5 election and they are a good group of knowns and unknowns. But now the fun starts. The public Q&A sessions will start, articles and interviews in the local papers, campaign platforms produced, etc.. We’ve got about 80 days until the election and (most of) the real issues are already on the table. The only incumbent has been pro Ice Rink all along. We’ll see if he waffles, makes good argument, or what stand the others take.
Speaking of the Ice Rink, the saga becomes more painful all the time. The Town staff is now recommending deferring millions of dollars of scheduled recreation facility maintenance and improvements in order to pay the shortfall for the Ice Rink funding. Including letting Whitmore Pool go to the dogs. So the philosophy of the Town staff would be to forego new tires and brakes on our daily commuter to pay for a new sports car. Is this the new American way? The Town Manager was even quoted in The Sheet that it is possible that we could be building something that may never be completed. Great.
Further embarrassing themselves, they have agreed to buy substantial advertising from the LA Kings in exchange for a measly $1 million “donation” from the Kings and the facility will now be named “The Official Training Center of the LA Kings.”  There is no word as to whether the Kings would actually train here, but they “train” in the off-season which is the summer. So how does it become their training center and an MUF for the community at the same time?? And since an ice rink is more expensive to operate in the summer is there some sort of agreement that the Kings will help pay for the operational expenses?…I hope some of these TC candidates have better ideas than this.
​​​​​​​And one of our lame duck councilman was out espousing his ludicrous workforce housing solution again. He thinks it should be a campaign issue. This was shot down last year in the Housing Working Group meetings, but….he thinks that general fund dollars should be used to create financial incentives for condo owners operating nightly rentals to convert to long-term rentals. Well, based on the numbers many of these short term rentals are generating, the incentives would have to be large (but he is one that seems to think the Town has endless resources). But the real point that he is missing is that the majority of these owners want to generate revenue but they also want to USE their property and spend some quality time here. That is what makes these investments so attractive to many people. And Ikon Passes don’t help the matter.       
And a recent observation on the Mountain, more and more Ski Patrolers wearing helmets. I guess the vanity days are coming to an end? Or maybe they’ve seen too many crash victims.

Noteworthy Sales

Two vacant residential lots sold and the price difference of $165,000 is astonishing. The one on Pinecrest Avenue sold for $100,000 and is flat and  located in a 1960’s neighborhood of smaller lots, funky houses, power poles and looks at the back of the phone company industrial yard and Motel 6. The lot on Ridge Way sold for $265,000 is flat and in a modern subdivision with underground utilities, expensive homes all around, southern views of the Sherwins and Mammoth Crest and more. I know which one I’d rather build a home on.
Two units at Juniper Springs Lodge sold, both showing solid upward values. And increased values at Sierra Manors, Wildflower, Tamarack, St. Moritz, Mountainback and 1849. And two closing in Snowcreek Phase 7 aka Creekhouse. More units are under construction there.
A large modern fourplex on Mountain Blvd. closed for $1,070,000.
​​​​​​​One of the nicest units at Stonegate closed for $1,265,000. This units live like a luxury home but nightly rentals are allowed.

Favorite New Listing For The Period!!

Low-end condos are getting pricey (or are they becoming oxymoronic?). Here is a brand new listing and I don’t know if the listing agent has actually been in it. There are no photos in the MLS because the property has had a long term tenant for a few years.
But this is a Hidden Valley Phase I Studio + loft / 2 bath condo. Who cares what it looks like on the inside?? These are great little units and upstairs — so no overhead noise and vaulted ceilings. Yes, there are a couple flights of stairs to get to the front door. But the project is in great shape and this unit is close to a lovely pool and spa area. It has a “forested” setting adjacent to the Lake Mary bike path. That path also gives you an easy (and lighted) path down to the Village. The Town has been clearing the snow on this segment of the path for pedestrians. Upstairs, 2 baths, amenities and close to the Village. Could make a great crashpad or worthy of a complete make-over. When older, ground floor 1-bedroom units are selling for ~$300,000, this make sense.
Listed at $249,000
Courtesy of Mammoth Realty Group

Other Real Estate News

There are still plenty of unknowns about how Alterra Mountain Company will proceed. One of my questions is how they will look at the condo hotel part of the business. The Intrawest playbook was to build the condo hotel units, sell them, and retain the front desk operations as a “long term cash flow positions.” It worked well. The SEC filing for the buy-out of Intrawest by the future Alterra conglomerate valued the front desk operation at the Westin Monache at many of millions of dollars. I have also sat through tax appeal hearings for the front desk operations at Juniper Springs Lodge and the Village (located in Grand Sierra Lodge). I’ve seen those revenue numbers. The front desks are substantial to the enterprise.
So there are interesting facts they should be considering. Developing new condo hotel facilities (and expanding the front desk revenues) is a real challenge here in Mammoth. The values are still too low to warrant new construction. One thing suppressing these values is the lack of conventional financing. That went away in 2011 when Fannie Mae essentially redlined condo hotel properties. There is private/portfolio lending creeping back into the market but it remains expensive. So if Alterra wants to expand this lucrative part of the business, they should be working with their banking partners to bring some sort of normalized financing back to the condo hotel properties. With revenue numbers up and stabilized, it should be feasible. We’ll see.   
And I am seeing commercials for, a service that rates real estate agents based on various criteria. I haven’t looked at it but I’m sure it is another “consumer” driven service like Zillow designed specifically to reach into real estate broker’s pockets. But the “smart” gal on the Homelight commercial states “We wanted our real estate agent to do two things; sell our home fast and for the highest price.” Brilliant, and naive.
What about minimizing the seller’s liability after the close of the sale?? That is a primary concern of mine. I’ve seen lots of sloppy transactions that leave the seller exposed. And I don’t want them on my desk. So it isn’t all about speed and price. There’s more to it than that.
Thanks for reading!

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