Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report, November 15, 2020

The Smoke Is Gone And The Ski Runs Are Open!

Market Summary – November 1 to November 15

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 28 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $225,000 to a high of $1,650,000. This period last year there were 19 closings in Mammoth Lakes proper. Of the 28 closings, 26 were financeable properties and 22 were conventionally financed. The seven (7) highest sales for the period were all over $1M and all seven were financed transactions including three (3) high-end Snowcreek townhomes. There were 14 condos closed under $500,000. This segment of the market continues to finally move, but with few upward moves in value, yet. The 10-year Treasury yield ended the period slightly up at .893%. It flirted with going over the 1% mark for a brief period. Mortgage company sent a newsletter this past week arguing that record low mortgage rates are behind us. We’ll see. Overall market activity continues to slow simply for the lack of attractive  inventory. There are many frustrated buyers looking intensely. I spoke with numerous the past two weeks. The clearing of the fire/smoke conditions and the chance to get on the Ski Area’s limited runs should only bring more interest into the market.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down another seven (7) to 30. Ridiculous. That includes nine (9) Westin Monache units on the market. Why they continue to sit there is almost bizarre. Regardless of the “refresh” assessment the units are still generating strong rental revenues, the property remains the premier hotel facility/location in Mammoth, and the HOA is financially strong. The current asking prices at the Westin are not especially inflated compared to the sales of the past 18 months, especially the smaller units. There were 11 new condo listings brought to the market during the period and five (5) have already gone to escrow. This time last year there were 62 condos on the market and there were 130 on the market at Labor Day weekend last year, some ~14 months ago.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up three (3) to 27. There were seven (7) new residential listings in the period including several multi-million dollar properties.  There are now only five (5) homes listed under $1,425,000. Interesting that these new high-end listings are coming to the market. Candidly, there are now some fishing expeditions happening and we’ll see who bites. But some of the homes on the market are still priced below replacement value and recent sales have shown some serious price flexibility by high-end sellers. Each property seller/scenario is different. This time last year there were a total of 60 single-family homes on the Mammoth market

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down 14 to 90 at period’s end. The strongest activity and appreciation in the Mammoth market remains in the higher-end of the condo and residential market. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down 21 to 119. This time last years the numbers were 65 and 92 respectively. So despite a slowing local market the numbers are still significantly higher than the past norm.

Market Updates and News

Two smaller storm fronts rolled through the Mammoth region last weekend and the snow level was low. The fire crews battling the Creek Fire apparently had to dig out of the their encampments. This is exactly what we were hoping/praying for. The fire is not fully “contained” at this point, there is bound to be some smoldering until more precipitation or snow. But the Alaska Incident Management team that was in command has now headed home. The fire crews and helicopter crews that were based at Mammoth Airport were gone by mid-week. The light snowpack in the Sierra and around town has greatly reduced any potential fire danger. We’ll take it.

The Ski Area received about a foot of snow around the Main Lodge and this and new colder temperatures for snowmaking allowed them to open this past weekend. The ski and snowboard fanatics showed up. The Saturday crowd funneled into the Main Lodge area had vehicles parked down below Chair 4. It was a scene. But it is great to see the town free of smoke back in winter mode. Based on the forecast there probably won’t be any significant snow storms between now and Thanksgiving but the temperatures will allow for snowmaking, and I’m sure it will be all-hands-on-deck.

The Mono County Covid status remains dicey. There is a large outbreak at Pickel Meadows in the very north of the county. (For those of you who don’t know, there is a large winter warfare U.S. Marine base in Mono County located along the Sonora Pass road west of Hwy. 395. There is also a Marine family housing complex adjacent to Hwy. 395 north of Walker/Coleville that is just south of the State line. The military members we see training on the Mountain are often from this base.) The Covid cases at the base are being treated at the medical facilities at the base. But the fear it that these substantial new numbers will push Mono County into new tiers that could potentially shut down many commercial operations in Mammoth Lakes. The local public officials are pushing for exemptions from the State.

Meanwhile the local Covid numbers have jumped up like most of the country. Local social media outlets seem alarmed but the local Health Department and Mammoth Hospital websites aren’t highlighting it. Masks and social distancing are still mandatory. Some restaurants and bars are still doing a little outdoor service. Most have acquired large heaters. Mammoth Brewing (which continues to do beautiful remodeling) seems committed to outdoor seating, but they were in previous winters. Hopefully Mammoth can proceed with some sort of normal winter operation and commerce. This weekend’s crowd sure displayed the demand.      

The local Town Council race saw incumbent and very long-time local resident Bill Sauser re-elected. But he was over 300 votes short of political newcomer Sarah Rea as the top vote getter. The Council’s make-up won’t change much with this change, but Rea is known for stirring things up. We can only hope.      

There were other curious election results for the real estate related propositions. Prop. 15 which would have created the split roll and created new tax assessments for large commercial properties failed in the State by ~48% to 52%. In Mono County the vote was flipped 52% for and 48% against. And Prop. 19, the “portability” of old and low tax basis’ to all California counties passed in the State at 51.5% voting yes. The vote in Mono County was almost equal. That’s an interesting vote for this county. This will allow out-of-area real estate buyers to purchase properties in the county and bring their low assessments with them. In theory this competes against local residents. It shall be interesting to see if this new portability creates movement to (or out of) rural counties. I’m doubting it will be significant.     

The Airbnb IPO is winding up again. The filing is expected maybe as early as this next week with a launch potentially in December. The expected valuation is in the $30B range that would raise in excess of $3B for the company. But the true numbers are still unknown. The original IPO was anticipated in spring of this year and was expected to be valued around $35B. Then Covid hit. The company has rebounded well from Covid but apparently took on new and expensive debt to get where they are today. There’s likely to plenty of anxious people looking to get this IPO completed. How it will affect the future operations of Airbnb for both hosts and guests is yet to be seen. Just look around Mammoth and you can see how competitive the STR management business has become. And the majority of it is being driven by Airbnb.

Noteworthy Sales

A ho-hum 2 bedroom / 2 bath at Aspen Creek closed for $415,000. What a difference a year makes. These units were hard to sell a year ago. One closed at $305,000. There were rumors (well founded) of a major special assessment for roofs, windows, siding, etc.. And some owners wanted out. But the HOA Board did a major analysis and planned-out a multi-year program to address and manage the needed capital improvements. They do have substantial reserves. They completed some residing and painting this summer. A hot market hasn’t hurt. A few similar units are about to close in the same price range.    

A single family home in Majestic Pines closed for $900,000. It was listed for $850,000. It closed escrow in 39 days from listing. Why so noteworthy?? This home (same owner in same condition) had been marketed the two previous summers (2018-2019) at less, and it sat (for good reason). The post-Covid market certainly helped this seller.    

Snowcreek #752 closed for $1,320,000. This is a wonderful location in Phase 5 that borders and looks out over Forest Service land. The views and setting are spectacular. I listed and sold the same floorplan just doors away for $900,000 just three years ago. And we thought that was high sale.      

A small warehouse property sold in the Industrial Park for $400,000. The seller was a long-time construction related businessman in Mammoth Lakes. This is a trend. Many old-time business owners are selling out to the younger generations. I’ve been involved in some of these transactions in the past couple of years. I hope there are buyers when I’m ready.

Favorite New Listing For The Period!

This has been on the market before but now that I have been asked to help get it sold so I want to promote it. This 4 bedroom / 4.5 bath home is located behind the gate in the Snowcreek Ranch. Very custom home with some truly unique features including an elevator that services all three levels including the master bedroom and a massive covered deck with tremendous sun and views. Large den/media/pool room downstairs with a fireplace. Beautiful wood beam ceiling lines throughout. Built-ins galore. Fantastic great room and the guest rooms are on a separate wing of the home. This home has a traditional feel but could be made more contemporary without too much effort. See the video tour here.
Listed at $2,350,000

Other Real Estate News

A few recent incidents have brought back the topic of security with second homes and more specifically the ones on any sort of STR programs. This is especially true this time of year during the shoulder/slower season. This has not historically been a serious problem in Mammoth. Between property managers, rental managers and nosey neighbors there are usually plenty of eyes on local properties. And during busy periods the properties are being turned over so fast there is no time for mischief.     

The biggest problem I have seen recently are local workers who basically don’t have a place to live who desperately want a bed and a hot shower. With vacant condos all around town they see opportunities and sometimes they have “friends” who will help them out. I don’t believe these people mean any harm to the property. It is just part of the strange economics of a place like Mammoth. Regardless, homeowners should protect themselves.       

With all of the modern technologies there are new vulnerabilities and security opportunities. One local rental manager highly recommends every STR owner should have some sort of video doorbell product, like Ring or Nest Hello. Cameras on the inside of the property are strictly forbidden. But being able to see who is coming and going is beneficial. And when guests or housekeepers/maintenance people see the video product at the front door they tend to act in a more responsible manner. And I know owners with such products who measure the coming and going to their rental calendar and rental receipts. They just consider it part of their internal control.       
One of the vulnerabilities I see with STR owners are those that rely on the same code(s) for all of their guests. Some owners still have the antiquated “hard” lockboxes attached to the property with a key inside. All the guests and the housekeepers all use the same code. And the owner never changes the code!! Others are using the more modern electronic locks, but the repeated guests are using one or two codes to access the property. This is all asking for trouble.    
There are modern generations of “resort locks” that issue codes that are good for specific periods or to specific service personnel. Owners or their rental managers can control and issue these codes and can see exactly when people come and go. This technology continues to progress. And importantly, the users know there is a level of control and identification that goes along with each code. These systems can be more expensive, but they are worth it.     
If nothing else a video doorbell is fun to have when the bears show up! These videos are priceless.  
Thanks for reading!  Stay healthy and sane!

If you know anyone interested in buying or selling real estate in the Mammoth region, please send them my way! 

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