Perfect Summer Weather And The Local Real Estate Market Screams; Price Reductions!

Market Summary:   August 26 – September 9

The  Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 16 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $269,000 to a high of $5,750,000. 
Of the 16 escrow closings, 15 were financeable properties and 13 were conventionally financed. Seven  (7) of the 16 closings were condos selling under $500,000. The balance of the closings include many noteworthy sales (see below). The Mammoth real estate market is certainly in an “interesting” state to say the least. The 10-year Treasury rate was up but still under 3%, and the local stats show an increasing number of financed purchases.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down 11 to 104. There were 12 new condo listings in the period and one (1) is already under contract and in escrow. But there are only three (3) new condo listings since last weekend. So far it looks like the classic Labor Day inventory peak has played out in 2018. There are currently 34 condos listed under $350,000 including several with more than one sleeping area. These are the “crashpad” condos that will likely see significant action as we head towards winter. Especially with all of the Ikon Pass buzz. There are still plenty of worthy buys in the inventory. Watching the price reductions is key.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up two (2) to 59. There are 19 homes listed under $800,000. One particular “best buy” home was in escrow and came back to the market. But many more listings saw price reductions, and those are worth watching. Several of the newer listings are properties that were purchased in the last 3-5 years. That is always a curiosity; some have significantly higher prices and some don’t.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up five (5) to 62 at period’s end. Of the 62 properties in “pending,” there are 38 in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up nine (9) at 112. So the condo market in Mammoth remains relatively strong but it is all about streams of income through nightly rental scenarios, or long term rental as a fall back position (the long term rental market remains very tight in Mammoth). The luxury home market is also strong and the reason for that is anybody’s guess; either they have some special insight about Mammoth’s future, or….?? On the other hand the lower end of the residential market clearly got ahead of values in the spring of 2018. The market is adjusting.

Market Updates and News

The “adult” part of summer started as the big Labor Day Weekend crowd moved out. The weather has been rather ideal and the nearby Lion’s Fire has spared Mammoth of any real smoke. This fire behind the Minarets has burned for two months in steep terrain and is reported as 85% contained. But the visible smoke to the west and north has gradually diminished. The fire fighting helicopter fleet that has been at Mammoth Airport for several weeks is now gone.

This weekend was the big Grand Fondo bike race and tour. It is considered one of the top ten century rides in the U.S. Again, the weather was ideal so the positive downstream effects should follow. It is the time of year to see “empty nesters” cruising through town in their convertibles and a trickle of alkali dust covered Burning Man refugees too. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

The roof is on new Grocery Outlet building on Old Mammoth Road but Canyon Lodge looks a long way from being ready for the winter crowds. The construction of the new bike path section linking Mammoth Creek Park and Snowcreek is underway. The path is between Old Mammoth Road and Mammoth Creek and will be a great addition to the path system. Local property owners and contractors  now have the sense of urgency to get things “buttoned up.” Despite the lovely weather, winter can come fast. 

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors came to town to meet with the Town Council to discuss the Bishop Airport. It was a somewhat historic meeting. I was impressed with the Inyo County Supervisors. The takeaways; the Bishop Airport is actually in a different FAA district than Mammoth and that district has surplus available dollars for rural airport improvements. There maybe no “matches” necessary either. So there is plenty of money available for the Bishop Airport improvements and none of it competes with Mammoth, or should cost Mammoth anything.

Inyo County is also well into moving the process forward with the FAA. It apparently started after they received a long term lease commitment from the LADWP some six years ago. But with the encouragement from Alterra and the community of Bishop, the process is becoming a priority. They are in planning phases and initiating the environmental work. They seem to believe it can all happen in 3-4 years, especially in light of the available FAA dollars (sounds like 20 years ago). But Mammoth knows all-to-well about delays. 

Another topic that we are hearing more about are the newer class of jets that are more appropriate and almost designed for this region; the altitude, the winds, potential icing, etc. It certainly seems like the prospects for improved air service are on the near horizon. 

In the meantime, the Mammoth Council will have to figure out what they are going to do at Mammoth Airport. There are grant dollars available for the $40 million terminal improvements and more. There are capital maintenance improvements that need to be made regardless. Mammoth, at the very least, will remain a very active general aviation airport. Because of the different FAA districts we may end up with two very viable airports in the eastern Sierra. For now, until the next shoe drops, it all looks promising. Some of the good news is that Mammoth doesn’t have to become overly involved in the Bishop Airport program. Let Alterra drive it. Mammoth will still have to provide some subsidies (most likely from the TBID taxes), but that will get sorted out. And if the Ikon Pass becomes that successful, maybe the need to subsidize will go away.

My Labor Day Weekend Q&A brought many comments from local readers but one of my blog readers posted a comment about a very recent column on that applies to Mammoth. One line from the StrongTowns column, “Sure, some municipal investments do pay off multiple times over—but the onus is on the government to do a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.”  I’ve been asking for a long term budget and capital maintenance schedule for the Ice Rink/Summer Day Care Center. Nobody at the Town has produced one let alone a believable cost-benefit analysis. At least not one they want to share.

Ironically, the State via the California Civil Code requires all condo HOAs to do formal  budgeting, long term reserve and maintenance studies, etc. Some of it gets pretty detailed. The State wants to protect potential real estate buyers from getting into a mess they would prefer to avoid. Today’s Mammoth condo buyers are building spreadsheets and interviewing folks all over town; doing real due diligence. Why doesn’t the State require municipalities to do the same due diligence? Especially when one proposed expenditure exceeds the amount of the entire annual budget. I know I’d rather avoid the mess. Based on numerous comments from the past week, so would many others here in Mammoth Lakes.  

The Town Council is in the process of hiring consultants galore for The Parcel development (aka Shady Rest affordable housing project). I foresee consultant wars coming in the near future. Hopefully they can find some good ones worth hiring. The State’s new push for affordable housing should be a benefit to make it happen. We’ll see if the Town can capitalize on it.

And something I’ve been waiting for; the appraised value of the Main Lodge property for the big land exchange. The value came in at $11,561,000. That seems reasonable. At least the Feds aren’t giving it away. Forest Service land exchanges have a long history of dubious valuations. Imagine that.

The Ikon Pass keeps adding resorts including many “feeder resorts.” That is a concept Vail Resorts has pushed; adding smaller ski areas that are close to major metropolitan areas. The Big Bear resorts are certainly in that category. The industry knows it has to recruit new skiers and snowboarders and make the experience  as good as possible. There’s one reason why the Eagle Base improvements are likely in the near future. Mobility is one thing, but the plan also caters to the beginner ski and snowboard crowd. We’ll see.

Noteworthy Sales

An array of noteworthy sales during the period:

First, the “Dempsey Corner” at Main and Minaret closed for nearly $6 million. Nevados restaurant is on the property. Mammoth Brewing across the street. It may be the best development piece left in Mammoth due to the location (and close to gondola), solar aspect, flatness, etc. Based on the price per square foot it did not come cheap. So now we will see if some hotel plans work their way through the planning system. Or if it is a longer term play. The property hasn’t changed hands in several decades.

Two Creekhouse units closed at ~$900,000. Let’s keep the selling and building momentum going in Snowcreek Phase 7.

Two commercial properties closed, one a Main St. location and one on Old Mammoth Road. More good signs for the commercial side. They closed for good prices and they are both properties that need new ownership.

The two large homes in the small Graystone subdivision both closed for right around $1.7M. These are right on the Sierra Star golf course and are available for nightly rental because of the zoning. Beautiful homes developed by John Hooper. But resales after only a few years.

Two more 1-bedroom condo hotel units closed for very impressive prices. How high will they go?

Favorite New Listing For The Period!

This location is one of the best in Mammoth. This row of duplex style townhomes backs to beautiful Forest Service land and has amazing “looking up” views of the Sherwin Range including the Finger Chutes, the Avalanche Path, Mammoth Rock and Mammoth Pass. Easy access to the popular walk over to Hidden Lake (a dog lover’s favorite) or for snowshoeing. 
The property itself is 4 bedrooms  / 3 baths and a 2-car garage. The great room is upstairs but the master bedroom is on the first floor. The downstairs bedrooms spill out into the open space area. Almost 2400 square feet of living. So this property lives like a single family home but doesn’t have the management headaches of one, plus it can always be rented on a nightly basis. Reasonable HOA fee. And very few single family homes have this kind of open space setting and view!     
Listed at $925,000
Listing courtesy Riffel Real Estate


Other Real Estate News

Real estate photography and photos are becoming increasingly controversial. And there is no end in sight. Most it can be blamed on the Internet and IDX (Internet Data Exchange). If you have reviewed listing documents or transactional disclosures lately you will have noticed all sorts of new provisions pertaining to photos and the Internet and websites, etc.. Basically, if your home has been on the market in the last few years, there are interior photos of your home all over the Internet for anybody to look at. And that may become a problem. For some, it is a bit creepy. Imagine a thief typing in your address to see the best way in.

Once the photos of a new listing are uploaded into an MLS system, these photos  (and the basic description of the property) “populate” to the extensive reach of the work wide web. The photos will now be permanently parked at websites like Zillow and a whole host of other real estate related websites. The list is long as tech upstarts are constantly trying to find a new angle for the data (namely the photos). And now other platforms are peeling off the photos for a variety of usages. More progressive County Assessor’s offices can use them in their databases. And on and on. Pretty soon the telemarketers will be calling because they can see your kitchen needs attention. Or your window treatments need updating. And just wait until the code inspectors and fire department catch on.

There are arguments all over the place. At first the professional photographers were arguing over who actually owned the photos. But that has faded as their work has exploded all over the Internet with no real chance at recourse (or more work). Now appraisers are arguing that they need the photo history for doing accurate work. More real estate brokers and agents are asking for suppression of the “secondary photos” that detail the features and benefits of the property. But there are plenty that want them to stay. And it is not uncommon for agents to be stealing other agents photos. 

And it will only get worse as Facebook moves aggressively into the real estate marketing business. All of your “friends” will soon know what your house really looks like, inside and out. 

In the meantime, I will continue to shoot all of my own photos and video. I have for decades, even when I had to run to the local 1-hour photo to make a Mammoth Times deadline. I have thousands of photos on Zillow and they never asked if they could use them. And some of them look pretty good.

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