Mammoth Creeps Into Full Stage 2 But STR Is Delayed A Month — For Now.
Market Summary: May 10 — May 24
The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting three (3) real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $200,000 to a high of $795,000. This period last year there were 18 closings. Of the three (3) escrow closings, two (2) were financeable properties and one was owner financed, one was cash and one was conventionally financed. The 10-year Treasury yield ended the period slightly down at .657%. I was on a conference call this last week with some very active Mammoth loan officers and an appraiser. There are tons of refinances happening in Mammoth right now. The bulk of Mammoth second homeowners (with mortgages) don’t appear to be financially compromised by the current lockdown. They are taking advantage of rates in the 3 1/8th to 3 1/4th range. If the borrower can easily provide all of the necessary data for the application and the appraiser can get interior access, these loan officers can close in “15 to 20 days.” Most purchase mortgages can be completed in less than 30 days. The previous chaos has cleared quickly for qualified applicants and processing is expedient. Amazing. This time last year the 10-Year was at 2.324%.
At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up seven (7) to 87. There was a mix of new listings and cancellations. There were 12 new condo listings brought to the market during the period. This time last year there were 99 condos on the market.
Single Family Inventory
The inventory of single-family homes is up six (6) to 32. There were eight (8) new residential listings in the period. But of the eight, seven (7) have been on the market in the recent past. So really only one “new” listing. This time last year there were 41 single-family homes on the market.
The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up eight (8) to 36 at period’s end. But that still includes the 16 Obsidian Villas units. But clearly some properties went to escrow during the period. Of the 36 properties in “pending,” there are five (5) in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 11 to 58. This time last year it was 45 and 82 respectively. The aforementioned appraiser stated that while Mammoth’s values remain stable, the values in the Bishop market have now exceeded the 2006 peak values. It is very interesting to see this popularity and demand.
Market Updates and News
The community leaders continue to move aggressively, but cautiously, into reopening Mammoth and Mono County. Not everyone is in agreement about the approach, but we’ll never know what “perfect” is. A considerable amount of second homeowners and visitors were in town for the holiday weekend. From my desk I could see many of them slowly driving through town to see what is open. Many were out on their bikes. And many families out walking their dogs. Most laid low or ventured out to remote locations.
The Mono County Health Dept. successfully petitioned the State this past week to move into full Stage 2 activities. Mono County failed to meet all of the requirements due to a small surge in positive cases during the period. There were eight new cases in the County in the past two weeks including five in the same household. Three of these had no symptoms at all and the initial case was caught by pre-admission testing at Mammoth Hospital. The State’s criteria also doesn’t suit a small rural county of ~14,000 people.
The County’s “attestation” to the State had some interesting information. There have been no virus related hospitalizations since March. The week of May 10 to May 17 there were 188 tests and only one positive. Mammoth Hospital is now averaging 20 tests per day. Mono County is “well above the recommended levels of contact tracing” (probably a small town feature). According to the Mono County sheriff there are approximately 100 homeless people living in the County but the majority of them are living in their cars or RVs. The attestation document also included a detailed inventory of PPEs. The community is well stocked.
The one thing that was clearly expressed; the County is closely monitoring where the second homeowners and visitors are coming from. Meanwhile, the full Stage 2 status allows restaurants to offer some indoor seating and also allows them to bring tables and chairs into parking lots. Some restaurant owners have already moved in this direction, others are waiting to implement the plan. Memorial Day weekend can be a “blip” like Thanksgiving; a busy few days with slow periods before and after. The higher level of visitation isn’t expected to be for another 2-4 weeks. The best news is the restaurants will be ready for business this summer.
The full Stage 2 also allows the retailers to progressively open. I was in Footloose the other day and they have it figured out. Their bike business is already crazy busy. The Town has also relaxed several local ordinances to allow businesses to carry on more outdoor activity. So we can expect outdoor restaurant and bar seating, outdoor displays and sales including tents and other pop-up structures, outdoor music and events, etc.. They even relaxed the banner regulations so that businesses can let the public know exactly what they have to offer. It could get a little crazy, and hopefully plenty of fun. It has the potential to set some new precedents for the future.
The County did throw a couple of surprises at us just before the holiday weekend. They petitioned Fish and Wildlife to open the fishing season. They agreed and it quietly opened on Saturday. The Supervisor vote was 3-2. All of this after Dr. Boo stated in a recent Q&A session, “We are not inviting people to drive to Mammoth Lakes for recreation purposes.” Apparently the Supes decided the fishing opener should be local resident oriented. The County also pushed the STR prohibition back to June 30. It all has to do with “where they are coming from.” Blame it on Los Angeles (my original home) where infection rates are highest in the State. It was clearly expressed last week in local meetings. They did state that the STR prohibition might be lifted prior to June 30. Up north, Truckee’s STR ban is lifting on June 15, but “maybe much longer.”
Fishing is one thing but the STR prohibition is definitely a double whammy for the real estate industry. STR owners are motivated to get their properties back to producing income. Even though this is historically a slower period, there is clearly demand from people who want to get out of the city. But the 2-3 month rental is also in demand and there is no prohibition on this. The second hit to real estate is that people want to come to look at properties but there is no place for them to stay. Most don’t want to drive up-and-back in one day. I’ve suggested they rent an RV and camp in the forest. Most will just wait until there are accommodations. Dr. Boo stated he believes we will move to Stage 3 by the end of June. Sounds like it is all a coordinated plan, subject to any substantial increase in infections.
So to summarize, STRs and developed campgrounds are closed until June 30. Dispersed camping is allowed on the government land but there are no services including “dumping” your RV. Fishing in Mono County is now open (no boats on Crowley yet). Many restaurants are open for take-out and limited inside and outside seating. Mammoth’s parks are open. Some retailers are open. VONS and Grocery Outlet have been well stocked. People are buying beer at the breweries. The Lakes Basin is open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic via the road and bike path (bicycle fisherman have the chance to kill it!). There are no facilities open in the Basin either. As one local resident said, “the next month is going to be a shit-show.” Looks like the 4th of July week will be the grand re-opening of Mammoth Lakes.
The Town Council took an extensive look at local government finances last week. The Town appears to be in reasonably good condition; there are significant reserves and most excesses have already been cut. Outside of the delusion of a $20M ice rink/recreation center, the Town has been fiscally conservative in the recent past. Filing for bankruptcy in the not-so-distant memory will do that.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism is talking about the ad campaign “Releasing Yourself Back Into Nature” for the reopening. I’m sure plenty of people are ready for that. They assert that Mammoth will need to be welcoming, and feel safe. A month of warm weather will sure would help. And that is what the forecast says.
Sierra Star golf course and Snowcreek driving range opened on Friday.
This month marks the nine-year anniversary of doing this bi-weekly newsletter. The complete archive is at www.paulosterrealestate.com.
The two condominium closings during the period were both mid-range Snowcreek townhomes, one creekside in Phase 2 and one backing to the Forest Service land in Phase 5. Both in great locations in excellent condition and with panoramic views. Buyers can’t go wrong in this segment of the market.
Favorite New Listing for the Period
This is a pretty special location right on the 2nd and 3rd hole of Sierra Star golf course. Views overlooking the fairway, the surrounding forest and to the mountains to the south. But Eagle Express is a reasonable walk away also. The best of both worlds. Mammoth Green #108 is a 2 bedroom / 2 bath, 1214 square feet condo with closed-in understructure parking. The project was completely re-roofed and re-sided within the last five years. The project has a beautiful pool and spa area overlooking the course. Common area fee includes propane and hot water. Washer and dryer in the unit. Sold fully furnished. This unit was one of the original models.
Listed at $595,000
Listing courtesy of June Lake Properties
Other Real Estate News
The delays in opening the STR market are not purely from the government. Some of it is coming form the lodging industry. The local rules and guidelines aren’t in place, but are being discussed and “negotiated.” The State will have their say, or not. And what will the new regulations and guidelines look like? If the delays and protocols in “turning over the property” are substantial, there are new logistical issues. The town probably doesn’t have the laundry capacity to be laundering all of the blankets, duvets, etc.. in addition to large capacity of sheets and towels it already processes. But the CDC guidelines released in the past few days state that the transmission of the virus does not spread easily via contaminated surfaces. This goes against previous studies released back in March. Now what? The local lodging industry is suggesting that items like blankets and duvets can be triple sheeted. We’ll see if that satisfies the Health Dept.. And how long are they going to require between guest departure and cleaning? No wonder they all want another month to figure it out. Seems the more we know the less we understand.
Other local media outlets have made a big deal out of certain restaurants that won’t be reopening. But we knew pre-lockdown that some of these were going to be closing regardless, or that the owners have been contemplating retirement for the past few years. All of the Sierra Center Mall restaurants had already been given their eviction notices months ago. The mall is slated to be renovated into a 160 room hotel. The construction and completion of the County’s new administration building has been delayed but as soon as it is completed they can finally move all of their offices out of the Mall so the renovation work can begin. The Ramenya restaurant off of Main St. came to the end of their lease and the new owners of the building will not be operating a restaurant. This location has housed several restaurants over the years including the original Gomez location. The Slocums owners have been trying to sell their property for years while trimming the operation. It appears they will finally close forever. And the Nevados owners have been threatening to retire for the past few years also. The proposed YotelPad development had threatened to end the long reign in iconic corner location. Prior to the virus and lockdown, Mammoth was probably at “peak restaurant.” Only time will tell the full extent of the damage to the local industry. We wish them well. If you are in town, please support them.
Most construction activity has remained in full motion through the lockdown. In addition to the Mall renovation project, numerous new homes are being constructed around town including “monsters” in the Bluffs and Juniper Ridge. The new mixed-use project on Old Mammoth Road is taking form. A new apartment project has been approved in the Chaparral Road neighborhood, and it will certainly go this summer. There will be substantial renovation work completed at the three schools; the $65M school bond passed almost two years ago will be put to use. And a major expansion at the geothermal plant is about to begin. Contractor availability should remain tight through the balance of 2020.
Thanks for reading! Stay healthy!