Fishing Opener (aka “Fishmas”) and Spring Skiing Bring Substantial Crowds!

Market Summary:   April 14 — April 28

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 21 real estate closings (same as last period) for the past two week period ranging from a low of $309,000 to a high of $2,200,000. Of the 21 escrow closings, all 21 were financeable properties and 18 were conventionally financed. There was one (1) REO closing. The mix was a bit different for the period but the low closing at $309K for a small condo is now the basic bottom line for a small condo in Mammoth. There was a concentration of seven (7) closing in the ~$700,000 range including a mix of condos and homes. This period last year there were 17 real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes. The 10-year Treasury yield nudged a little downward to 2.505%.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down three (3) at 86. There were 18 new condo listings in the period and two (2) are already in escrow. A traditional spring selling season is clearly happening. People are in town because kids have been out of school, there is great spring skiing, and now there is the opportunity to fish and do other recreational things in warmer weather. That has always been good for real estate sales. This time last year there were 60 condos on the market.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up one (1) to 33. The least expensive home on the market is $699,000. It has been a long time since that was the case. The most expensive home on the market is at $5.5M. This time last year there were 39 homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down three (3) to 59 at period’s end. Of the 59 properties in “pending,” there are 22 in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up four (4) to 85. That includes some active home buying in Bishop. The $400-500,000 price range buys a pretty nice home in Bishop. Most southern Californians would be impressed. This time last year there were 41 and 67 properties respectively in escrow. The eastern Sierra market looks healthy at this time.

Market Updates and News

This weekend’s weather for the fishing opener was rather ideal. Historically the opener has brought cold, snowy or windy weather even though it is always scheduled for the last weekend in April. Over the decades it has almost become a running joke that the weather on the opening weekend was bound to be bad. And while it isn’t ideal for fishing, it has always been apparent that the fisherman are just glad to be here regardless of the weather. The upper altitude lakes currently have limited access but there is plenty of available lakeshore and boating access in the lower elevations.

The bonus for some is that the skiing is still very good. The opportunity to ski and fish in the same day gives some people bragging rights. And if they can add a third recreational event (like cycling or rock climbing) then they have achieved the “triathlon.” Spring skiing shall remain popular for at least the next 45 days. Eagle Base and Canyon Lodge are closed as of today. But there is still plenty of skiing available in the Main Lodge area. The Mountain may open additional chairs on the coming weekends if they anticipate big crowds, and those crowds may actually come. This is the first year of the IKON Pass and how many out-of-state pass holders may come is unknown. And next year’s Pass holders can also use their new passes this spring. It may be a very busy spring. Many of my clients who are actively renting their properties on Airbnb report solid bookings into June and beyond into summer.

The IKON Pass has changed many aspects of Mammoth life and in other Alterra resorts. Here is a link to my Real Estate Q&Athat appeared in The Sheet last weekend covering some of it including the effect on local real estate. Some industry pundits believe that Alterra could double the number of IKON Passes sold this year — pushing over 500,000 sold. If that happens the effect on Mammoth could even be more profound. The Pass as it stands basically pays for itself within a few days of skiing and snowboarding and offers access to a myriad of resorts. For southern Californians that includes the Big Bear resorts for easy day trips, Mammoth, and a whole host of reasonably accessible resorts via air service. The new Alterra conglomeration and their IKON Pass are clearly becoming the proverbial “game changer.”

I made three trips to Bridgeport (the County seat) this last week and I love hanging out in the old courthouse from the late 1800’s. The impressive snowpack between Mammoth and the north county from late February is melting fast. Mono Lake and the surrounding creeks are filling fast. But the really impressive things is the number of downed trees in the forest as the snow pack recedes. Some of them were dead trees and others quite alive. The heavy precipitation and vicious winds of the past few months took their toll well beyond the norm.

Both local newspapers had front page stories this weekend about a proposed “pumped storage” energy plant being proposed on Wheeler Ridge just below Rock Creek Canyon (halfway between Mammoth and Bishop). The concept is to create three high altitude reservoirs on the ridge with downward tunnels drilled through the rock. During peak electricity periods the water would be allowed to flow down the tunnels and produce electricity. During lesser demand periods the water would be pumped back up to the reservoirs. The Ridge is within the John Muir Wilderness so it is hard to believe it could ever gain approvals. But this isn’t an April Fool’s story. The LADWP has a mandate to be generating all their energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing more about this in the future. It has the potential to become a clash of one environmental group against another.   

The Mono County Assessment Appeals Board completed three more days of hearings this past week on the MMSA and Tamarack Lodge property tax appeals from 2012-2016. These lingering appeals could easily be blamed on the bungling by previous Assessors and their office, and left for the current Assessor to clean up. But this past week we discovered that MMSA had some culpability too. But all of it has been settled and agreed upon by the parties. Mono County will be returning approximately $1.5M in previously paid property tax to MMSA.

One of the things that makes these major tax appeal cases in the eastern Sierra so difficult is the properties are on federal lands with leases and permits to the enterprise owners. Valuing these lands/lease is subject to different rules. The attorneys involved all agreement about this; California property tax laws are the most convoluted body of law in the State; right up there with water rights law.

Noteworthy Sales

The sale of Westin #645 at $875,000. This 2 bedroom / 2 bath “penthouse” unit is arguably the best unit in the project. With extra square footage and decks, vaulted ceilings and incredible southern views of the Sierra Nevada, this is a very special property. And it generates ~$150,000 per year in rental revenue. This property has been on-and-off the market and was listed at $999,000 this time around.

An equestrian zoned home in Old Mammoth finally closed for $735,000. This home has had significant marketing time in the past two decades with a few different owners/sellers including one stint as a bank owned property (REO).

A 7,000+ square foot home in the Bluffs sold and was the high sale for the period ($2.2M). This too has seen significant marketing time in the past with two different owners. Homes with extensive days-on-market (DOM) are selling in Mammoth.

Three high-end Snowcreek properties sold in The Lodges and The Fairway Homes sold during the period. These have been strong sellers in the recent past. There are no substantial price increases but the properties are selling.

Favorite New Listing For The Period!

This is a 2 bedroom / 2 bath corner unit Mammoth Green condo. The project is almost 20 years old now and was ground zero for one of cement-fiber siding litigations  from the 2000’s. The result is that the project has been completely resided and numerous other physical plant improvements have been made. Today, the project’s effective age is far less than its actual age. The project has under structure parking and gas heating and gas cooking. This specific unit has new wood floors and the nice dark solid granite countertops (original). The location is right on the Sierra Star golf course with distant mountain views. The location is also a reasonable walk to Eagle Base. This location is the best of both worlds! The property is ready for personal enjoyment and/or rental.
Priced at $519,000
Courtesy Realty World Pacific West Properties

Other Real Estate News

The Mammoth Lakes Foundation made a presentation to the Town Council during the period for the proposed Performing Arts Center. It was quite informative and the “Business Plan” that accompanied the presentation is impressive — the type of document that one would expect from an organization looking for public and private support including economic support.

The proposed project site is nine acres across from the current college building and just below the Foundation’s current offices and the Edison Theater. The core of the project is a 298-seat state-of-the art theater with a 2,000 square foot lobby that can be used private parties, weddings, receptions, art shows, etc.. The balance are all bell-and-whistles that such a facility should have including a humidified storage room for the Steinway piano. There is also an outdoor amphitheater. The project is expected to produce 30,000 yearly tickets and other non-ticketed events. The whole design has direct purpose but also has flexibility for a variety of events both public and private.

The estimated cost of the project is $25,000,000. So far the Foundation has $10M in public funds committed and another $5M in private funds committed. They have a professional fund raiser in place and are currently pursuing major contributions. Smaller donations will be solicited once they are closer to their goal, they refer to that as “the last mile.”  

The Business Plan is comprehensive. There has been a professional firm doing market research. There are financial projections; revenues and expenses. The overall design looks incredible but it continues to be refined. There is a report on the economic impact to the community. One of the strategic goals is to “ensure financial stability” and “implement efficient operations and management.”

The project is described as a “magnet for the eastern Sierra.” They are hoping to start construction in the spring of 2020 and be open sometime in 2021. The Foundation is looking for “all of the stars to come into alignment.”

Now I understand that people in charge of making significant contributions and donations to projects like this expect to see a Business Plan of this caliber. It is a baseline document. And the Foundation has already been successful with operating productions at Edison Theater. This proposed facility just takes it to another level.

But wouldn’t it be nice if the community of Mammoth Lakes could see something similar for the proposed Ice Rink/MUF? I once asked the public works director if he had any idea of what the electric bill would be like for the new ice rink. He said nothing but gave me this scared, deer-in-the-headlights look. And the larger community is expected to support the project because “it is fully programmable.” Is there any assessment about overall community benefit besides to hockey fanatics and those families that need summer day care? And on and on.

I think the Town could certainly learn something from the Foundation… 

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