Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report – September 10, 2023

Labor Day W/E and Gran Fondo Pummeled With Rain And Cold!

Market Summary –  August 27 to September 10 

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 14 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $299,000 to a high of $1,386,500. Of the 14 closings, all 14 were financeable properties and 10 were closed with conventional financing. The closings include nine (9) condo closings between $500-900,000, a small commercial condo and a penthouse suite at the Westin Monache. This period last year there were 13 closings. 
The 10-year Treasury yield ended the period almost even at 4.254%. Conventional mortgage rates were being quoted in the 7.25% range on Friday’s close of business—so down a little bit. Jumbo rates are in a similar range and 5/1 ARMs have a starting rate just above 7% (no help there). There are plenty of pundits predicting rates going up, and down, in the next six months. Nobody knows for sure, maybe they will just stay in the current range. With 70% of the period’s closings placing new mortgages on properties, there are clearly buyers not seeing these higher rates as an obstacle to purchasing. This period last year the 10-year yield was 3.321%, and mortgages rates were concurrently about 1% less. 


Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up four (4) to 60. Time will tell if this is the LDW peak I often discuss. There were 14 new condo listings in the period and two (2) have already gone to escrow. There were numerous price reductions in this segment of the market during the period. There is a variety of good inventory in all price ranges for buyers to look at, we’ll see how long it lasts. It might sound disingenuous, but the poor weather (it is still summer on the calendar) may be impacting sales. This time last year there were 59 condos on the market.


Single-Family Home Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up another two (2) to 28. There are now six (6) homes listed under $900,000. As you will see in the “Other” discussion below, this is an important segment of the market for local residents who can stretch to purchase in this price range. These are the starter homes in Mammoth and purchasing them almost always requires parental help (I’ve recently been involved in two). These properties are almost always compromised in some way—age, location, condition, etc.. And amazingly, they are all going to have almost $1,000 per month property tax bills. There are still some nice higher-end luxury offerings, but the most desirable ones have gone to escrow. This time last year the single family inventory was at 22. 


Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down one (1) to 60 at period’s end. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 21to 87. Interesting. Maybe the winter of 2023 is truly driving people out of the Mammoth climate zone, and winter is coming. This time last year it was 59 and 88 respectively. The YOY stats are incredibly similar in this regional market. 


Market Updates and News

The weather the last two weekends has been downright ugly for those looking to recreate outdoors. And certainly not conducive to selling real estate. Labor Day weekend was total bust with rain, wind and cold. Many visitors and second homeowners simply bailed out on Sunday morning. Others saw the forecast and simply didn’t come. This weekend featured the Gran Fondo cycling event and it rained in the region through the first half of the event. Thankfully, the riders were able to climb back into Mammoth in decent weather and without significant headwind. The 102 mile route goes north on Hwy. 395 to the southern end of Mono Lake, Hwy. 120 to the east towards Benton, and back to town via the “Green church” road north of Crowley Lake. It almost looked like the rain followed the main pack of riders most of the day. Skinny tired bikes and rain are a fun mix. I’m sure there were plenty of bravado selfies taken.

The weather looks to be very nice this next week and maybe it will bring visitors and buyers to town. Everybody is hoping for one of those classic, warm and sunny Octobers in the Sierra, including a long, slow turning of the aspens. Reality is that Mammoth has had only a handful of days this summer in the 80’s and far fewer than normal in the 70’s. Global warming is passing Mammoth bye in 2023. The property managers who have been hustling to get a myriad of repairs completed probably aren’t even thinking about getting the snow stakes in the ground. Some could be in for a surprise.

 “Airbnbust” is a new theme (or meme) with rising popularity in the media and especially in the real estate and finance news. The slowdown of traffic in many markets is now cannon fodder for critics of the STR industry and some of the near-hysterical media. Many markets, including many urban markets, got oversaturated. A recent Business Insider article asked “are operators deciding if the headache of hosting is worth it?” (that’s what rental companies are for?).  But many of these are markets that never really had STR properties before the latest craze. Many of these owners will have to consider some of the options from my last issue. Some who purchased with leverage are bound for foreclosure or short sale.  But for Mammoth, it is still all about owner usage, and the local owners are not typically leveraged. And again, Mammoth has a long history of STR. I discussed this in my Real Estate Q&A that ran in The Sheet last weekend. And it is all driven by the demand by skiers and snowboarders to experience Mammoth Mountain and the Sierra…Meanwhile, there doesn’t appear to be any further movement on California SB584. And I did notice some of the local reservation companies broadcasting discounted bookings on their websites. The slowdown will impact them too, and maybe for the better.

The real estate development around town is a classic case study of public and private enterprises. The Limelight hotel construction site becomes more impressive every day. They are hustling to get the massive understructure garage substantially completed before any significant snowfall. The Sierra Nevada Inn site is looking impressive too and completely changes the south corner into mini-plaza area that is bound to take-on some interesting flavor and character over time. The new hotel accommodations look like they should be compete and ready for winter. On the Ski Area the new Chair 16 lift towers are being set in place. This lift will be the first of its kind for Mammoth with complete “house” enclosures at bottom and top. And at Woolly’s Tube Park the rollercoaster construction looks to be wrapping up. The whole Main Lodge outdoor activities program will eventually migrate down to this area as the Main Lodge redevelopment area progresses.  

On the public side, construction at The Parcel continues but is way behind schedule. The Town now claims to have a “full workforce” on site including the “third” siding subcontractor. But once it is completed these buildings should be impressive (fingers crossed), including a valuable day care center. The structure should be capable of housing over 100 members of Mammoth’s workforce. In a small town, this alone will have real impact.

Work at the Ice Rink is proceeding and operation this winter seems viable (more fingers crossed). But now we know, after all of the rumors, that the project is mired in litigation. Last Wednesday’s Town Council meeting went in to closed session to discuss the matters and one Council member stated the there are a “number of attorneys” involved. The agenda also expresses there is additional litigation anticipated. Hopefully the LA Kings don’t get dragged into it.

The Town’s workforce housing/lodging renovation project at the old Innsbruck Lodge on Forest Trail below the Village was “scheduled” to open last spring but looks to be far from opening, but they were installing hot water heaters this week. And near-and-dear to my heart is the Town’s project at 238 Sierra Manor Road. This was my listing and the Town purchased this commercial property to renovate into workforce housing. One of the Town’s consultants was rather adamant that they not proceed with the purchase, but they closed in 2017. Now here we are six years later and nothing real has happened, and the renovation project is now projected to cost $9 million. The end result would be 11 studio apartments. As an interesting comparison; for what they paid for the property in 2017, they could have purchased, outright, five Studio units at the Westin Monache. And the $9 million in renovation cost could purchase 20+ Studio units at the Westin today. And that would be living high-on-the-hog in workforce housing.

And lastly, as reported in The Sheet, the Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) dog-and-pony show was in front of the Inyo County Supervisors last week encouraging their financial participation in subsidies and for a new terminal at the Bishop Airport. The terminal should be easy—there is a relatively new steel building terminal and Sprung structure sitting idle at Mammoth Airport. How hard could it be to move it down to Bishop? Why pay for something twice?

Noteworthy Sales 

A top floor, rare penthouse 2 bedroom / 2 bath unit at the Westin Monache closed for $1,386,500, well over $1K per square foot. This came to the market and sold and closed quickly (for cash). This bodes well for the future selling  of the luxury suites at the Limelight. 

An older, small cabin with small garage in the Knolls closed for just over $800,000 or $800 per square foot.

A 1 bedroom + loft / 2 bath at Bigwood closed for $659,500. Impressive performance at this project.

Favorite New Listings For the Period

The Westin Monache has had a few rocky years; from Covid to a complete interior renovation (“refresh”), to a major insurance assessment, to management turnover especially in the owner relations department. But for now this is the flagship hotel property in Mammoth and for Alterra—they refer to it as the Mammoth Mountain Hotel on their website. The long-time owner relations manager in the Village has moved in to assume the position at the Westin and the project is back on track. Here’s a 2nd floor Studio with great sunny and open space exposure and the convenience of not having to get on the elevator to get to the lovely pool and spa area.   Check out the video tour.

Listed at $475,000

Other Real Estate News 

Two questions and subjects came to me this past week that are interesting discussions in the current market; First, with the higher values and the lower inventory of vacant residential land in Mammoth, and the increased costs of new hook-up fees and permits, are we getting to the point that some existing homes in Mammoth become real “tear down” properties? And second, local residents priced-out of Mammoth are considering buying vacant land in more remote areas of Mono and Inyo counties and considering placing modern manufactured housing on the properties. And what did I think of that?

The residential  tear down phase of Mammoth has yet to come, but there are isolated incidents of it happening already in the past. In fact, the one I remember the most is a property that is currently in escrow in the Eagle Base area. Prior to 1999 there was a gigantic A-frame on the very visible lot. It was the tallest A-frame home I recall in Mammoth and today it would probably be treasured by some buyers. John Hooper bought the property and decided to remodel and upgrade the existing structure. But after a couple weeks of working on it, he demolished it and built a brand new home. 

Historically, in the 1960s and 70s subdivisions (like the Slopes, Knolls, etc.) some of the earliest built homes were on the most desirable lots. Many of these homes were simple gambrel-style homes that came into town on the back of trucks and were assembled onsite in a weekend. Many of these have been added-on to extensively including garages. Others have been bulldozed over time (they typically have very poor insulation). There are other funky homes on these lots that are part of that Mammoth era (and many were built by aeronautical engineers—an interesting part of Mammoth’s real estate history).

But in the current market conditions, these older homes with a variety of obsolescence are desirable in the low-end of the market by local residents who can “reach” to the price range. Most simply don’t want to own a condominium, and the price point actually competes with condos of similar utility and livability. So for now, the values of vacant lots haven’t risen into this price range, but they are heading there and scarcity is rapidly becoming an issue. Unfortunately this could close the door for many local residents to own a single-family home in Mammoth. We’ll see if we get there.

The other micro-trend in the single-family vacant lot market is the desire for some homeowners to purchase the lot next door to their existing home. But these could also include an older, junky home if it came to the market. This too has happened in the past. Sometimes the owner wants the extra land just for “peace and serenity” and other times the owner wants to add-on the their existing structure. Mammoth has always been “tight” by real estate standards—we all live on top of each other in this small town. And this isn’t going to change.

Other local residents who can’t stomach (or afford) the current high prices in Mammoth are exploring the outlying areas of both counties. Quite frankly, there are some really beautiful locations, and some not-so desirable areas. These are usually little pockets of privately owned land typically with larger lots and surrounded by large swaths of open space. 

The idea is to bring in a manufactured home and maybe an extra steel building/garage and/or greenhouse. Sounds great, especially if you could purchase it all in place. There are currently some of these “spec” opportunities like this out in Chalfant Valley in the $500,000 range (no garage or greenhouse yet). But the commute from there to Mammoth is a dealbreaker for most. And there isn’t much greenery. But the views to the White Mountains are quite spectacular.

In reality, there are some real challenges to these remote areas, especially starting from scratch. The simple supply (lack thereof) of contractors and skilled tradesman in the region makes it even more difficult to get them to travel to remote locations. That isn’t to say it is impossible. And many of these local residents do have the skills and ability to get the job done themselves. But for most it could (will) become a frustrating nightmare. Impatience would be a killer.

But the dream of living in a more remote location for the quiet, affordability and utility is a worthy one. Finding a property with a substantial amount of the improvements in place (including a well) might be a great find. I know, I’m always looking. 

Thanks for reading!


** Closed sale data is compiled from in-house files and public records.

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