Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report, January 19, 2020

Mammoth Mountain Gets Much Needed Refresh Prior To Holiday Weekend.

Market Summary:   January 5 — January 19

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 13 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $305,000 to a high of $1,233,750. Of the 13 escrow closings, 12 were financeable properties and 10 were conventionally financed. There was a vacant residential lot closing in The Bluffs. There was one income property (fourplex) closing. Seven (7)  of the  13 closings were condos selling under $475,000. The 10-year Treasury yield moved up slightly to 1.836%. The 10-year has been rather stable the last few months, and mortgage rates the same. This period last year there were 10 escrow closings.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up two (2) to 63. There were 24 new condos listed during the period. Quite frankly, that is rather unusual for this time of year. Most Mammoth condo owners are enjoying quality usage time or strong rental. But the 24 included eight (8) new offerings at The Villas at Obsidian and six (6) of these are already reserved. They haven’t even poured the foundations for these units so the buyers will have to wait, close to a year most likely. Of the balance of the new listings there is one that has already gone to escrow. There are also condo listings that expired around the end of the year. And there were definitely condo shoppers in town the last two weeks. It is not a good time for prospective sellers to be off the market. This time last year there were 107 condos on the market.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down seven (7) to 49. Most of the inventory decline in the past three weeks is due to expired listings. And again, right now is not a good time for wanna-be sellers to be off the market. I have been working straight through since Christmas and would say there has been more showing activity of homes the last three weeks than in the past six months. And again, this is unusual for this time of year. This kind of activity is reminiscent of the winter of 2018. There is not significant snowpack in most parts of town so properties are quite visible (unlike last year). This time last year there were 34 single-family homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up 14 to 61 at period’s end. But that does include the six (6) new to-be-built Obsidian Villas units.  Of the 61 properties in “pending,” there are 20 in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 17 to 83.  Last year the pendings were 47 and 70 respectively. Again, historically speaking, the Mammoth market is quite active for this time of year. So much for “post holiday decompression.”

Market Updates and News

The IKON blackout this weekend still brought a big crowd to town. Maybe there will actually be an increase in the number non-blackout IKON Pass holders in the future. You gotta ski when you gotta ski…. The weather here in Mammoth has been on the mild side but a quick storm a few days ago put a foot of fresh snow on the Ski Area. Just in time for the weekend crowd. But winter weekends in Mammoth are now four or five days long. And this next week looks busy for tourism too. January is no longer the secret ski-fest for local residents. Those days appear to be gone.  

The Ice Rink/Recreation Center was in front of the Town Council last week. There are three council members who firmly believe this will be the greatest thing Mammoth Lakes will ever do (I remember a similar attitude 20 years ago about the Mammoth Airport). “Ice hockey is just sooo popular in SoCal.” The design and environmental review has been a cursory exercise for the new 40,000 square foot structure that is now nearly 60 feet in height. The only unknown remaining is whether the facility can be brought in at the $13M price tag. The Town appears very committed to that number. The public works department thinks it can be easily developed for that. But they were wrong the last time. The plans will be going out for bid in February and March. Everyone should plan to be at the new proposed opening; Memorial Day weekend 2021.  

The scoping for the Environmental Assessment for the proposed commercial air service into Bishop Airport was opened during the period and will close Feb. 6. This  is usually when the environmental groups show their cards in opposition to any project. But as we have seen lately, EIRs and EAs have become a farce. They are produced by large enterprises who are often caught doing massive cut-and-paste jobs. The consultants come to the project site on some random day and are more concerned about where the best happy hour is in the nearby town. The good news is that there has been a large airport there for decades and a few more flights a day should not have a significant impact. But in the eastern Sierra we never know what environmental faction will come out of the woodwork. Thankfully, the lead agency always has the “statement of overriding consideration.” And going to court has become horrendously expensive.  

The Main Street Taxpayers Association was in the local court this last week. The defendants are the Town of Mammoth Lakes, Rusty Gregory, MMSA, Alterra Mountain Company, Mammoth Lakes Tourism and others. MSTA is being spearheaded by Jean Harris and they are challenging Mammoth’s TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District) taxes. This tax was enacted few years ago and shows on your local receipts at stores, restaurants, etc.. It is also added to all lift tickets. These types of taxes are becoming more prevalent in tourism areas. Many local observers believe the tax was conjured up as a direct result of Mammoth’s infamous airport development litigation and the resulting financial burden. Some of the defendants deny this but the pain has been alleviated by the TBID.  

The Taxpayers Association claims the TBID increases the net income of MMSA and “causes taxpayers to pay for corporate expenses.” They claim the tax arrangement “amounts to a public gift of funds.” Last week’s hearing was titled Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Imposition of Constructive Trust Protecting Public Funds. I missed the hearing because I was working. The press didn’t cover it. It will be part of the future news cycle. Mr. Harris is not a property owner in Mammoth but is apparently a frequent visitor and guest.   

I had a Real Estate Q&A column run this weekend in The Sheet. I have reported on the recent “disparity” of the condo and single-family home inventory as an uncommon market condition. I had several requests to expound on this. It appears on my blog site as a Broker’s Report.

Noteworthy Sales

Two sales at Juniper Springs Lodge and Sunstone are interesting. The 2-bedroom / 2 bath sale at JSL may not have been marketed sufficiently, or not. The 1-bedroom / 1 bath sale at Sunstone indicates that the Sunstone properties are now performing close to the values in the Village, and the Sunstone units are considerably smaller. The 2-bedroom at JSL closed for $464,000 and it was a south facing corner unit with great views. It also had the “upgrade” package from a couple of years ago. The 1-bedroom at Sunstone closed for just $43,000 less at $421,000. These are basically the same units/floor plans in the same location. The Sunstone property can qualify for conventional financing and JSL can’t.   

Another large Creekhouse (Snowcreek Phase 7) closed and another Mountainside townhome (Canyon Lodge) closed. Both right at ~$1,200,000.  

A classic “Hooper” fourplex closed for $1,025,000. Most of these buildings are hitting 30 years in age. Most look pretty good. Rents are up but the long-standing landlords resist raising rents too high. New owners paying $1M will be tempted to raise rents. 

Favorite New Listing for the Period

This is Snowcreek #790 and it is a 3 bedroom / 3 bath 1-car garage townhome. This is Snowcreek Phase 5 also known as The Fairway Homes. The original townhome development was on the golf course frontage but this location is on the opposite side of the project and backs up to Forest Service land. These are very popular floor plans because they are all end-units with large windows and great light. This unit has expansive views including to Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Rock. I also like this because it is right across from the common area spa — very convenient, and especially for rentals. This has forced air gas heating and a gas fireplace. There is some additional outside parking very close by. The property has some new tech upgrades and is move-in ready.

Listed at $795,000, listing courtesy of Snowcreek Property Company

Other Real Estate News

 Last week’s issue of The Sheet had a feature article about local resident Dan O’Connell that caught my attention. O’Connell practiced law in Los Angeles before moving to Mammoth in 2009. He and his wife developed the Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl bowling alley, bar and the two restaurants here in Mammoth. He is no longer involved in the enterprise and has now founded Alpine Dispute Resolution, a mediation service. The article went on to describe the benefits of the mediation process.  

Real estate and mediation are tied at the hip more than most people realize. I formally trained as a mediator in the late 1980s. The opportunity was provided by then local resident Mimi Lyster. She has gone on to be an expert in the field of family mediation. At the time, the State of California was just bringing mandated mediation to family disputes in rural counties (like Mono). That included separations, divorce, child custody, visitation rights, etc. type issues. I learned plenty. People were fighting over pots and pans. I also came to respect the field of family law.  

But the mediation training has proven more-than-valuable in the real estate field and as a public official. All modern real estate agreements have mediation provisions. They are rarely utilized because the parties inevitably mediate their differences themselves. The brokers are usually quite instrumental in that. As O’Connell states “litigation is like a cancer.”    The underlying premise to mediation that Lyster taught was to “dig.” That meant that solutions are there if you dig deep enough. Most times that requires a deeper conversation, and asking good questions. And many times the most amazing things come out of people’s mouths after a prolonged period of silence.  

Real estate negotiations are often just a mediation. I always taught my agents to “never hammer people, always hammer issues.” Keep the people out of it. One of O’Connell’s takeaways is  “Take people out of the problem; acknowledge emotions and set them aside.”   But the tech age has impacted the way many agents negotiate, or don’t negotiate. Many agents, as well as buyers and sellers, rely too heavily on email and text messaging. Email and texts limit the deeper conversation. One of today’s axioms in my business has become “pick up the phone.” Having a simple discussion about things can often lead to solutions. Many times things that seem contentious really aren’t.  

I grew up in the real estate industry when offers were presented literally at the dining room table. The buyer’s agent got to sit at the table with Mr. Seller and present the offer. It was like a mediation. Today the seller just gets an impersonal email with a .pdf and they look at the “number” and have a reaction. There is no digging. It really has become an inadequate process. More transactions would come together or stay together with more complete conversations between the parties.  

I have mediated HOA disputes and the deeper conversation can often resolve the problem. I like to look at homeowners who are threatening to sue the HOA over something stupid and ask them “Do you think suing yourself is a good idea?” For some reason they just haven’t looked at it that way.  

Last spring the Mono County Tax Appeals Board heard several days of the Ski Area’s tax appeal from the drought years of 2012-16. They were looking for a Prop. 8 reduction. The longer the hearings went on with expensive lawyers and consultants running the clock, the more the Ski Area realized that the parties were going to settle somewhere in the middle. And they did, at great expense. That set the stage for new negotiations between them and the Assessor for their 2017 appeal. Apparently they are going to forego an expensive hearing and settle on some middle ground.   

So the next time you are negotiating or in some sort of dispute, don’t forget to dig. You’re likely to find that the hole isn’t that deep.  

Thanks for reading!    

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