Spring Arrives In Mammoth, How Did You Survive The Winter Of 2023?
Market Summary – March 12 to March 26
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
For decades the winter of 1969 was legendary here in Mammoth. The theme was “I survived the winter of 1969.” But that was long before tremendous community infill, the IKON Pass hordes, and the Mammoth Lakes Tourism marketing machine. The community dynamics have changed since 1969. At least today we have the proliferation of highly efficient snow removal equipment. The winter of 2023 will go down as the new legend, and hopefully it won’t be surpassed any time soon. The survival part is different for everybody, it can be in the terms of physical, emotional, and/or financial. And the toll is mounting day-by-day.
The brutal storm cycle appears to be winding down with one last snow producing storm in the 15-day forecast, due on Tuesday. Snow removal from roofs, streets and parking lots is all a judgement call at this point. Warmer weather will soon turn to melting snow and flooding and general inundation threats. Some property owners may be in for surprises. Owners need to think about where their vulnerabilities may be. Any substantial rain could increase roof load threats, but so far that isn’t in the forecast. Besides threats to life and limb, avoiding major structural damage should be the goal. With contractor and material shortages, the prospects for timely repair is dicey. Winter will probably come again before some are repaired.
A variety of emergency response teams from all over California have been in town during the period. Cal Fire crews have been in town shoveling out fire hydrants, transformers and propane tanks. The backstop these crews provide to a community with limited resources is more than welcome. The Town has proactively removed extreme snowpack from the narrowed streets in the higher elevations utilizing their high powered blowers and the dozens of for-hire dump trucks that have converged on the town for the past several weeks. The Forest Service has allowed the Town to utilize the old snow pit for “public” snow. So much for environmental review. Apparently public snow is cleaner than private snow. There have been back-and-forth parades of dump trucks on Main St. the entire period. The Town says they are spending $25-30,000 per day for these activities. When I do the math I’m betting it is substantially more. This type of snow clearing and hauling from the residential streets of Mammoth is likely a first-time event. Nobody I know ever remembers it happening…. And the joke around town this last week was, “So-and-so fell off his roof, but he’s okay, it was only three feet.”
As of this weekend it appears the visitors have got the word that Mammoth is in need of a break. Despite beautiful (but cold) weather the volume of visitors was on the light side. And some visitors during the period appeared to be here just to see all of the snow. There will be exceptional spring skiing and Alterra has the one-two punch of having the Palisades resort in a similar snow condition. There is no doubt they will be marketing this unique spring skiing opportunity to their international group of IKON passholders. The nightmare is them closing Eagle and Canyon after April 16 and funneling the crowd up the Main Lodge road. Hopefully they have learned from the past….The Ski Area has announced they will be open through the end of July and Alterra’s recently announced $500 million improvement plan for this summer will incuded a new Chair 16 but not a new Chair 1. With all of the snow and the late closing, the logistics probably make it impossible. Chair 1 needs to be ready by early November. Winters can come fast in Mammoth.
The various Mammoth Lakes Housing projects are buried too. I was told “everything is over budget” and horribly delayed. I can only imagine how over budget the Ice Rink construction is, but it does appear they now have a snow removal plan in place. This winter will put a nice dent in the Town’s finances, but luckily they have been running on major surpluses the last couple of years.
A Bigwood 1 bedroom + loft / 2 bath closed for $678,000 and $20,000 over asking price. This is the all time high sale in the project. Closed sales in the mid-2000s market never exceeded $400,000 for these units.
A small but classic A-frame house on lower Forest Trail closed at $750,000 or $709 per square foot.
The very clean and modern home in The Slopes that immediately had five offers closed for $1,705,000 cash and $80K over asking price. Attractive properties are still generating bidding wars.
Favorite New Listing for the Period
Here’s a new offering in Creekhouse that was brought to the market in the period. This is a 3 bedroom / 2.5 bath 2-car garage floorplan (Mariposa Plan) in 2,184 square feet of living space. This location overlooking Old Mammoth Road has spectacular views and sun. Expected completion should be around the end of the year. Buyer still has time to pick some of the interior finishes. This is an easy walk to the Red Line shuttle stop and the Snowcreek Athletic Club. Modern features include EV charging outlet in the garage and on-demand hot water.
Listed at $1,650,000
Other Real Estate News
The proliferation of advertising by home title lock-type services continues to raise questions and concerns from Mammoth property owners. The advertising often highlights vacation properties or properties with no mortgages as especially vulnerable to the crime of title theft. Years ago I initially dismissed these services as unnecessary, especially in California, but the number of continued inquiries made me do some additional research this last week.
When the advertising for these services became more common, the first thing that dawned on me is the thief/fraudster who now claims to own the property is not anonymous. They are claiming title to the property. This isn’t exactly like stealing a bike or a catalytic converter and just selling it off to someone else for cash. There is no hiding the person or crime, hand…cookie jar. And this is a serious felony, at least we hope the courts would think so.
According to the FBI (are we still trusting them?), their statistics reveal that home title forgery and fraud is for real. They are reporting thousands of cases every year. But there are plenty in the media who believe these services are a scam. I found an article from Forbes dated Sept. 11, 2021 titled “Home Title Theft Baloney”. And YouTube is full of various persons calling the services a scam. Some are almost entertaining.
The California Department of Real Estate’s (DRE) website has a Consumer Alert bulletin about forged and fraudulent deeds penned by Chief Counsel Wayne S. Bell. One part of this states, “What is important to understand here, and not always generally known, is that the county recorder is not responsible for verifying the validity, authenticity or legitimacy of the document that is recorded. In other words, the recorder is not responsible for detecting a fraudulent document, and the recorder does not look beyond the document itself. If the document meets the essential recording requirements, and the proper fees are submitted, the county recorder is obligated to and will record the document.”
The Mono County Clerk/Recorder’s office requires a document named the Preliminary Change of Ownership Report. It is actually for the benefit of the County Assessor. Any buyer of real estate in the County will receive it in their escrow package. I call it “the document everyone hates to fill out.” It is basically a questionnaire about the “transaction” about to occur and it aides the Assessor in determining if a change of assessment is warranted and any pertinent information about a potential change in assessed value. The transferee certifies that the information is true. Most grant deed recordings will be accompanied by this document, although for an extra charge the Recorder can record without it. But any transaction processed through an escrow company will include it.
The recorded document (deed) will also have to be notarized, it is part of the “essential recording requirements”. I was a Notary Public for many years (it was a nice accommodation for our clients and sometimes provided some “beer money”). In order for the document signatures to be notarized (acknowledged) the person signing has to prove who they are—drivers license, passport, etc., and they also have to leave a thumb print. It might seem like a rather blasé process, but most notaries take it very serious. The downsides can be costly even though notaries carry bonds and insurance. And yes, it can all be done fraudulently.
But ultimately, a forged or fraudulent deed recorded doesn’t really change the title. At least that is what the attorneys and common sense say. None of the transfers or subsequent loans are legal. But it does cause a major hassle that needs to be attended to by the true owner of the property. These title lock-type services don’t prevent these transfers, they only alert the owner that such a document has been recorded against the property. And from everything I researched, they do little to help the owner clean-up the mess either. (And this applies to California and Mono County specifically, I have no idea about the processes in other states.)
According to the DRE Consumer Alert bulletin, “Whether you learn of the forged and/or fraudulent deed from the county recorder, your title company, a lender or servicer, a real estate licensee, or from any other source, you must act immediately to protect your ownership interest in your home.
You should immediately gather and collect all of the information, documents, and other evidence you have and report the forged and/or fraudulent deed to:
• Your local police and/or Sheriff’s department, and to such police agencies where the property is located if different from where you reside.
• The offices of the City and District Attorneys where your home/property is located
• Your local city’s or county’s department of consumer affairs.
• The California Secretary of State, Notary Public Section. The Notary Public Section is responsible for investigating violations of law by notaries.
• The California Department of Real Estate if a real estate broker or salesperson, or unlicensed person purporting to be a real estate licensee, is involved in the forging of any deed or fraudulent recording of a false, fictitious, or forged deed.”
And me personally, I would alert the title company who issued the most recent title insurance policy. They may be able to help on some level. The goal is to cleanse the bogus documents from the chain of title which could include the commencement of a “quiet title action”. A private attorney who specializes in these actions is probably best although the District Attorney could be helpful. The important thing is for you to act immediately to protect your ownership rights.
The DRE bulletin states, “Lawyers have the training to know whether a fraudulent deed is “void” (invalid from the beginning—this is the case with a “forged” deed; and which may be also be the case where a property owner has been fraudulently deceived about the nature of the title document executed and thereby “excusably ignorant” as to the effect of the document) or “voidable” (valid until annulled by a court or official action), the necessary and/or most advantageous legal and equitable arguments to make on your behalf, the various applicable remedies available to you as the victim of fraud—which might include, in addition to a “quiet title action” and without limitation, causes of action for declaratory judgment and ejectment, and the proper way to plead the case to a court.” So the fraudulent documents are either void or voidable….
Sounds like a big hassle. But do these title lock services have any real benefit to prohibit this fraud from happening in the first place? It doesn’t appear so. What the experts recommend is “paying attention” by occasionally looking at the County data base for any changes in the title, any “credit report anomalies”, changes in utility bills, etc., and certainly if an owner doesn’t receive a normally timed property tax bill. It is also suggested that properties in trusts are far less vulnerable to fraud because a trust certification document is required for the recording of the bogus deed, and these trust certifications are far more difficult for thieves to attain.
As part of my research I contacted Tyler Core who is a third generation title officer at Inyo Mono Title Co. (I learned plenty from his grandfather in the early years of my career). He reiterated most of what is here but also stated, “I read last week the Texas Attorney General Paxton has begun actively investigating Home Title Lockspecifically for potentially violating the Texas Deceptive Trades Practices Act by misleading consumers with deceptive statements concerning the prevalence of home title theft and the need for Home Title Lock’s services. The Texas AG is specifically concerned with elder abuse in the allegation.” This should be an interesting case to follow.
Thanks for reading! Please stay healthy.