Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report, September 13, 2020

The New Lockdown – Mammoth Is Open, The Forest Is Closed!

Market Summary:   August 30 – September 13

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 40 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $160,000 to a high of $4,500,000. This is twice the amount of closings typical for this time of year. Of the 40 closings, there were 39 financeable properties and 29 were conventionally financed. There were 33 condo sales, three (3) vacant lot sales, and four (4) residential sales. Twenty-two of the condo sales were between $400,000 and $650,000. There were several “sold before listed” closings (and there will be more of these in the future). The 10-year Treasury yield moved down somewhat to .669%. Qualified buyers appear to have no problems obtaining financing but delays in appraisals and loan processing/review continue to stymie the ultimate funding. Everybody has to be a little patient. And if local buyers are not using one of Mammoth’s experienced lenders, expect pain.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down 22 to 51. Simply amazing. This is the lowest condo inventory since a brief period in 2004. MLS data shows there are 135 Mammoth condos currently in escrow. There were 20 new condo listings brought to the market during the period and 10 have already gone to escrow. Interestingly, there are 20 condos listed under $350,000. With the demand and activity level so high, one would think this segment of the market would be cleaned out. And there are still attractive properties in the $400,000 range.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down six (6) to 22. There are only five (5) homes listed under $1,200,000. The least expensive home on the market is now $739,000. The most expensive is $4,999,000. High-end properties are selling. Again, the inventory in this segment of the market is at historic lows.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up two (2) to 181 at period’s end. That does include a number of units at Obsidian Villas. The units that were originally scheduled to close in May are getting close to completion. And foundation work has finally begun on additional buildings. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up two (2) to 231. There would be more properties in escrow if there was more inventory. Multiple offers are now the norm for many new listings. Demand continues to exceed supply in most segments of the market. Two ~$1,000,000 commercial properties in escrow is a good indication that the local market will still attract capital investment.

Market Updates and News

The last two weeks have been a little crazy here in Mammoth. This past weekend was quite nice with decent air quality and light crowds. The smoke came later in the day. The Labor Day weekend crowd was massive and probably the largest of the summer. The Lakes Basin was overcrowded as usual. But many in the community became concerned about the volume of camping in undesignated campgrounds referred to as dispersed camping (which is legal in most of the National Forest). The volume of random camping along the Scenic Loop Road was something we have never seen before. These areas are quite distant to any restroom facilities or trash receptacles. Even worse, many of these campers were building fire rings and having illegal campfires.  

With this scenario combined with the hot temperatures and the volume of wildfires burning throughout the State, the Forest Service closed all access to the National Forest locally beginning at 5:00pm on Labor Day.  But this problem was not only Mammoth area specific, the Forest Service closed most of the forested areas in southern California. In the Mammoth region, this forest closure is truly unprecedented. Nobody can ever remember this happening. But most local residents believe it was warranted. There was simply a large volume of visitors completely ignoring fire safety protocols, all while the State is experiencing one of the worst fire seasons ever. By mid-week the campgrounds and forest were empty. The campers were cooperative in leaving, but the holiday weekend was over too.   

Between the forest closure and episodes of smoky air of varying degrees and sometimes really bad, the visitor base in town dwindled to a minimum this past week. Reservation companies reported mass cancellation of bookings. One interesting transient occupancy question that came up this past week; How is the forest closure and smoky air technically any different from a paralyzing blizzard and high winds that close the ski area? Apparently there were guests looking for refunds because of the forest closure and smokey air. Nobody gets refunds because of a blizzard or limited lift operations.

Quite frankly, I sense a certain amount of relief amongst many in the community including many business people. Mammoth has experienced out-of-control tourism  this summer. The flow of tourism dollars is certainly welcome after the lockdown. But with it came a downside. The Covid closure of other venues and recreational opportunities has simply driven too many people into the mountains. And clearly, too many of these new visitors don’t respect the surrounding natural environment. These are lessons learned for Mammoth Lakes.

Meanwhile, local Covid testing continues but new positive cases have been static. This is good news. Especially when you consider there have been literally hundreds of thousands of people flow through the town and County in the past 100+ days. Businesses continue to progressively open. Restaurants have opened indoor seating at a 50% level. But outdoor dining remains popular, at least while the weather remains relatively warm. But outdoor dining might become part of winter, I’m seeing more and more outdoor heaters at the restaurant sites. And when the smoke gets heavy, people are glad to have masks.  

The Creek Fire to the south and west of Mammoth is of the greatest concern in the region. It started last weekend and burned 36,000 acres the second day. It has now burned over 200,000 acres. It is now approximately 19 miles from Mammoth and the fire is currently reported to be moderating. The fear is that it could blow up the San Joaquin River drainage into the Red’s Meadow and Devils Postpile area (even though much of that area burned a few years ago). Some social media followers were anticipating the evacuation of town but the local fire chief put that to rest in a press release. The prospect alone of having a forced evacuation is a good reason to have fewer visitors in town. Everyone will be watching how this fire progresses.  

The headline of my April 26 newsletter was “The Mammoth Balancing Act Begins, And “The Forest Is Open”…..the balancing act continues and thankfully the forest is closed, and possibly until it snows.

Noteworthy Sales

Condo sales occurred throughout the spectrum but another seven (7) Snowcreek units closed including two new units in Creekhouse. Two (2) Eagle Run units closed. And The Westin Monache units are starting to sell. The low end condos are where the least, immediate appreciation is being seen.  

The sale of Lodges #1162 is telling. It closed during the period for $1,075,000. But these sellers purchased it only 17 months ago for $900,000. That is a substantial increase. The Lodges has been hot property.  

The high sale of the period was a nearly 7,000 square foot custom home in Greyhawk. Spectacular modern home adjacent to the ski run. It was listed at $5,450,000 but closed quickly at $4,500,000 cash. Based on the quality and custom features of this home, I would bet it sold for well below replacement value.

Favorite New Listing for the Period

This is the perfect $1million crashpad. I jest, but this is probably what the ultimate buyer might think. This is a 3 bedroom / 2 bath condominium at Eagle Run. This is the rare, true ski-in and ski-out property in Mammoth. Simple access onto the slopes and a convenient place to stop during the ski day for lunch or a nap. Tremendous panoramic views from Mammoth Rock to the Mammoth Knolls. Understructure parking with elevator. Gas fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom. The hot water supply from the main common area boiler is perfect for a large group after a long day of skiing. Two spas on the project. Sold fully furnished and turn-key. The perfect combination of ski-in and ski-out and yet easy access to town.

Listed at $959,000
Listing courtesy of Mammoth Realty Group

Other Real Estate News

Airbnb data is showing interesting trends. Bookings are on the upswing and the company experienced a 22 percent year-over-year increase in consumer spending in July. They expect this trend to continue into August and September. And customers are looking for longer term stays including “weeks and months.” They report that the new trend is where “traveling and living are starting to blur together.”  The longer term stays reflect that working remotely is the new status quo for many.  

But this trend puts certain properties in more demand; properties that are pet friendly, and have larger (and better stocked) kitchens and have washer/dryers. Amenities like pools and air conditioning are critical in some regions. They also report that more than half of all bookings made in August were within 300 miles of the guest’s origin and that this trend is expected to continue into the fall.  

Also interesting is that not one city in the United States accounted for more than 2 percent of the guest stays during the Labor Day weekend. Over 30% of the Labor Day weekend bookings were to rural areas while only 20% were to urbanized areas, down from 40% in 2019. And the lead time between the guest’s booking and the actual reserved dates is 10 days less than this time last year on a global level. Airbnb believes this is directly related to the guest’s hesitancy to book too far in advance due to Covid and other travel restrictions.  

And out-of-the-ordinary accommodations are becoming increasingly popular. The listings of “shepherd huts” have doubled in the past year. And barns, cabins and cottages are up significantly too. The top 20 wishlist in August included treehouses, tiny houses, domes, huts, cabins and caves.   

Airbnb is now positive about going public again. They thought it was inconceivable after the pandemic hit. But travelers are coming to terms with traveling again and they see Airbnb stays as a potentially less risky way – guests have greater control over their own environment and social distancing is easier.

Thanks for reading. Stay healthy!

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