Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report, August 2, 2020

Mammoth Goes Into Full Covid-Craziness Mode!!

Market Summary:   July 19 — August 2

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 29 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $285,000 to a high of $1,860,000. Of the 29 closings, 28 were financeable properties and 15 were conventionally financed. The sales included one short sale. There were six (6) closings over $900,000 and the five (5) highest sales were all cash purchases. There were seven (7) closings in Snowcreek. Fourteen of the sales were condos under $500,000. The 10-year Treasury rate ended down to .536%. The 30-year mortgage rate for second homes remains in the low 3% range but I am hearing more and more buyers/borrowers looking at alternative loan programs like 7/1 ARMS with ridiculously low rates. Jumbo loans appear to be increasingly available. Mortgages are flowing freely to borrowers with good credit and employment.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down 14 to 92. There were 31 new condo listings brought to the market during the period and 10 have already gone to escrow. There are currently 98 condos in escrow including the 11 to-be-built Obsidian Villas townhomes. Snowcreek remains hot property but condo hotel units are selling too. And “winter oriented” condos (like those around Canyon Lodge) that don’t typically sell in summer are also selling.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up three (3) to 38. Most of the new listings we have seen before in the recent past. Two (2) $2M+ homes went to escrow in the period. Three (3) of the residential closings were properties that have had significant days-on-market including going back to most of last summer. There are only 13 homes listed under $1M.

Pending Transactions

 The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up another 20 to 120 at period’s end. Of the 100 properties in “pending,” there are 49 in “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 26 to 171. Clearly the market is very active. There would be even more escrows if prospective buyer’s could find a property they really liked. Many are heading home a little frustrated.

Market Updates and News

The overwhelming crowd of Mammoth guests has certainly been afforded great weather and almost smoke-free air. This is the classic summer weather Mammoth is known for. The largest part of the crowd appears to move in on Thursday and Friday and depart Monday and Tuesday. There are also the typical summer guests here for a week’s stay. And there is a large variety of people hunkered-in to their second homes, longer term rentals or squatting somewhere in the forest under the guise of dispersed camping.   

The Mammoth area health agencies continue to do a large volume of testing with a concentration on the restaurant employees. Positive cases are up significantly but hospitalizations are rare. The positive case numbers in relation to Mammoth’s base population has pushed the community into higher levels of monitoring. But the calculation is wholly misleading. At any one time in the past 45 days there is probably three or four times as many people in the local vicinity as Mammoth’s base population (~8,000). That includes transient guests and non-local residents who are here for extended stays. And as happens every year, the winter will ultimately drive many of them away.    

The Mammoth Lakes Town Council is in the midst of a (well deserved?) three week hiatus. But The Sheet’s editorial in last week’s edition blasted them for the lack of real leadership under the current circumstances. Why are we spending some much money on marketing when the town is overrun with guests? And being overrun is producing some unruly behavior and tons of trash. Many of the guests are reportedly first-timers to Mammoth and don’t have a clue about what Mammoth is about; like complaining about condos not having air conditioning, etc. Ultimately, the community is bound to shift marketing dollars to more law enforcement in areas like the Lakes Basin and other hot zones, and more guest education about trash and behavior (respect) in the forest, and actual community involvement in cleaning up after the guests (there was a citizen clean-up effort in the Lakes Basin on Friday). The old annual Town Clean-Up (which I was chairman of for a few years) may come back as a more frequent event.  

This weekends’s issue of The Sheet had two prominent letters to the editor that spelled out the contrast within the community. The first was from the restaurant community laying out their case for staying open including limited indoor dining. The signers of the letter are all excellent business owners who work tirelessly to survive and thrive and contribute immensely to the broader community. I’ve known many of these people for decades. Most will survive but it is a real struggle right now. They need every opportunity to be open and to do business. The demand for their product is high. The other letter is basically a “Phd” chastising the Board of Supervisors and Town Council for not shutting the whole thing down. That’s an easy position if you’re older and potentially “vulnerable” to the virus and also likely to have a government pension. Meanwhile, the Town Council seems committed to helping businesses any way they can. Most restaurants are increasing their outdoor seating. It is, and will continue to be, a balancing act with the State and Mono County Health Dept..  

The Sierra Club’s disowning of John Muir is interesting for Mammoth and the Sierra Nevada. I have always noted that it is Muir and ultimately the Sierra Club that has kept the Sierra mostly undeveloped and protected. There is limited intrusion into the wilderness areas. And activities like major mining operations have been prohibited. Their litigation specifically delayed the development of the Mammoth Airport for years on the legal basis of “growth inducing impacts.” The irony now is the timing; the natural areas are currently under the what may be fiercest attack by the citizenry ever. For Mammoth, we’ll see if there is pressure to remove the Muir quotes from our Gateway monument signs (maybe replace it with a Dave McCoy quote; “Let’s have fun!”). Or to rename the local John Muir Road in the TimberRidge Estate subdivision. Or will anybody care in the coming months?  

And the local lodging industry reports a shortage of housekeepers. Apparently many fled thinking they could escape the pandemic and now they can’t get back into the country. Looks like some alternative employment opportunities for some. Good housekeepers get paid very well in Mammoth.

Noteworthy Sales

A top floor Studio at the Westin Monache closed for $360,000. It was a short sale. These were original owners from the 2007 era. It is hard to believe these owners qualified for any “hardship” or financial distress, but this seems to be the era we are in.  

The second to highest sale in the period was a large home in Graybear phase 3 at $1,765,000. Strong nightly rental history. If we had several more like it in the inventory they would all likely sell in short order. Strong demand in this segment of the market.  

Another 1 bedroom at Grand Sierra Lodge closed for $420,000. Values may be soft in this part of the market, but at least condo hotel units continue to sell. 

Favorite New Listings for the Period

Eagle Run is one the true ski-in and ski-out properties in Mammoth. The north end of the project is right on the ski run at Eagle Base. The south end (where this unit is) has massive panoramic views overlooking the Valentine Ecological Reserve and the Town’s bike path segment along Mammoth Creek. This is a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath unit (bottom right in the photo) with large entertainment kitchen, washer/dryer in unit, gas fireplace and more. Project is in great shape with new siding and roofs in the last five years. True ski-in ski-out but with easy access from/to town The listing will be in the MLS next weekend after access (it is a strong rental) for photos and video. Here is the link to the properties rental page including interior photos.

Listed at only $619,900

Other Real Estate News

• I always try to answer my phone. But I can only speak to one party at a time. And in this modern age of spam calls I risk answering for unwanted solicitation. This is especially true for out-of-state phone numbers. Last week I answered a call from Minnesota. I truly expected it to be spam. The caller said “Damn, a Mammoth Realtor who actually answers his phone.” I laughed. He was a real potential client involved in a 1031 tax-deferred exchange. Not only are local agents apparently not answering their phones, I’m also finding they rarely follow-up on counteroffers that get rejected. I’ve experienced that twice recently. Just crickets. Maybe they are just too busy.

• With the heavy demand for short term rentals, many owners are suggesting a major increase in rental rates, at least in the short term. The algorithms might be behind. With a shortage of housekeepers it could be wise for rental agencies to push rates up. This alone could smooth the “crush” Mammoth is currently experiencing.

• The most common question I’m getting during the period is; What if the Ski Area doesn’t open? Assuming they do open, it will certainly be with a different operating strategy. But only time will tell. The discussion has brought some interesting answers. One person said “Well, then it will open the year after.” Another said there will be a boom in cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Or maybe the guests will simply come to hang out like they are now. That was already a trend. But the outdoor dining can only last for so long. Take-out food may be big this winter. The local restaurants need to be prepared.

Thanks for reading!  Stay healthy!    

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