Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report – April 28, 2024

The Crowds Clear Out And Real Estate Interest Sparks Upward!

Market Summary –   April 14  to April 28 

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 10 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $550,000 to a high of $3,100,000. Of the 10 closings, all were financeable properties and four (4) were closed with financing. The five (5) highest sales were cash purchases. Three (3) of the $1M+ closings were condominiums. Amazing. Before the year 2020, $1M condo sales were a rarity.  
The 10-year Treasury yield was up again at the end of the period to 4.679%. The yield is up a half percent in the last month. The quoted 30-year conventional mortgage rate moved over the 7.50% range most of last week but dipped below it on Friday. This weekend some of the financial gurus were predicting that if the 10-year rate were to go over 5% that the Fed would start buying to suppress the yield. Others, like myself, believe they are already buying the 10-year. And last week’s inflation data reinforced for many the need for investors to be in hard assets.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up one (1) to 56. That total includes three (3) under construction properties at The Reserve. There are only three (3) new/under construction units remaining at Creekhouse. The project is coming to completion. There were nine (9) new listings in the period and one (1) has already gone to escrow.  Within the inventory there are new concentrations at the Westin Monache (5) and The Summit (4). What condos went to contract/escrow in period? They include units at Eagle Run, MeadowRidge, 1849, Mammoth Point, Juniper Springs, Mammoth Sierra Townhomes, Sunrise and Seasons Four. 

Single-Family Home Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down five (5) to 10. Unusually strong activity in this segment of the market in the period; including the Knolls home with more than 10 offers, two (2) multi-million dollar homes in the Snowcreek Ranch and Starwood, and two (2) ~$1.3M homes in the Shady Rest and Sierra Vista Estates neighborhoods. A vacant residential lot in the luxury Grayhawk subdivision went to escrow. And two (2) multi-family buildings (a 4-plex and 8-plex) went to escrow.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up nine (9) to 42 at period’s end. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up 13 to 63. The Ski Area closed Eagle Base and Canyon Lodge last weekend and the crowds cleared out, but real estate showings and new escrows certainly increased. Interesting for sure… I’m talking to an increasing number of potential sellers who express interest in selling but need to do a 1031 tax deferred exchange. The problem?; they can’t find an adequate replacement property. Their target markets have low inventory or other compromised market conditions. Or they are completely indecisive as to what to do, or where to go. If low mortgage rates have some owners “locked-in” to their properties, the lack of alternatives in the “held for investment” category has other owners locked-in too.

Market Updates and News

The spring transition from winter to summer is now fully underway here in Mammoth. This transition comes at considerable expense and labor to property owners. As the snow pack melts outs it looks like the winter of 2024 was kind to most real estate. New property damage is minimal, but some damage from the winter of 2023 is yet to be resolved. The local weather is already almost summer-like. The community should be more than ready for the summer crowd. Quite the contrast from last year. The high Sierra fishing opener was this weekend and there was a modest crowd (McGee Bay at Crowley was full of boats on Saturday morning). The Opener, like spring break, is now spread out over weeks alleviating any crushing crowds. They were busy planting “trophy trout” in various fisheries last week. 

An out-of-town demolition company has made quick work of the old Nevados and Dempsey Construction buildings on the corner of Main and Minaret. Continued activity on this site could amplify the buzz already created by the Limelight construction show. But seeing those buildings come down is certain to bring some nostalgic feelings or memories for many. I know I have some. For one, the forested land behind these buildings (and part of the new project) was the original Woods Site. This was the primary venue for the old Mammoth Lakes Jazz Jubilee. This used to be the major event of the summer and drew large crowds. The bands, music and fun were at a high level. Thirty years ago I helped organize the volunteer bars at the eight Jubilee venues. But the Woods site was by far the biggest and busiest. On Saturday night the bar customers were four wide and four deep at 10pm. It was a great display of the Greatest Generation partying until the end. The Jubilee eventually died with them. But it is a memorable part of Mammoth history.

Meanwhile, the Berner St. site for the approved Residence Inn is also being prepped for demolition. Mammoth could soon have three active hotel construction sites in the Village. This movement of construction capital into Mammoth is impressive, and people should be taking note. 

Without fanfare the STR moratorium looks to be behind us. The RMF-2 zoned condo I have listed had more showings in the last few days than in the past two months. Weird. The uncertainty now is how oppressive the new STR Certification process will be. It should be rolled out this summer. We’ll see, along with the campaign strategy for another 2% general tax. Maybe Mammoth Lakes Tourism can help them market this.

Speaking of taxes, while the White House was proposing exorbitant new capital gains taxes this week that would result in a 59% rate in California, what most people missed was that the new proposal would also eliminate the stepped-up basis rules. Insane. I’ve spent the last few days trying to get my head around what impact this would have. Maybe it’s a good time to have some adult conversation with your children and heirs about stepped-up basis and capital gains, along with some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Could be enlightening, or frightening.

I watched an interview with public planner and author Jeff Speck the other day. His book, Walkable City, is the most widely read public planning book of the last decade and it has been recently updated to consider many modern innovations and societal changes. While many might suspect he would align himself with the neo-Marxist crowd (like some of our Council members), he actually works with real estate developers to make their mixed use developments more walkable and because of that, more attractive to buyers, and hence more valuable. Think the Village. Based on his theories, moving Mammoth’s downtown RMF-2 properties into a more walkable neighborhood (I call it the 5-minute city) will only make these properties more valuable and hence more expensive. And even less affordable for local residents. Maybe this is why some of the 1970s built condo projects have seen the greatest appreciation in the last ten years.

The City of Santa Monica recently approved a 122 unit apartment building for the homeless. The cost will be approximately $1M per unit. This reminds me of the Town’s project at 238 Sierra Manor Road. This is a renovation project; a former commercial building into 11 Studio apartments. The project is now funded with help from Mono County and additional funds from the Town. The project is now funded at $11M.

And lastly, I received notice the other day from the National Association of Realtors that I need to renew/complete my mandatory Ethics training before the end of the year. Love the irony. 

Noteworthy Sales 

A 4 bedroom / 2 bath townhome at Chateau Sierra closed for $715,000. These are “oldies but goodies” properties. This was almost original condition from 1970, but fantastic bones. Beautiful ridge-and-rafter ceilings, mountain views and sun. In town location with excellent remodel potential.

Other Real Estate News

The Ski Area has been making repeated public presentations about the Main Lodge redevelopment plans. Several readers and clients have asked me; What aren’t they talking about? And will this have any impact on the local real estate market? The planning process is in the environmental phase, so for the proponents, the more public presentation and outreach for public input, the better (see the Evolving Main website here). The completed environment process/documents (both State and federal) need to be as defensible as possible. While most of the proposed project is the replacement of existing facilities and general impacts, all of it could be subject to obstruction or litigation tactics by various environmental/preservation groups. As one developer planted in my head many years ago, “Well done environmental documents are the ticket to development.”

But what is or might be behind the curtain? First, this redevelopment plan is actually long overdue and has been in the making for decades. Anybody who has spent time in the Main Lodge can attest that it is a classic case of functional obsolescence. The land exchange alone took over 20 years, and became more complex than expected. But the new Alterra affiliation has proven to have the capital (and risk tolerance) to move a project like this into action. So here we are. And there are significant logistics. There are priorities to the actual ski resort operation, like the broad “skier services” that will need to be replaced in a timely fashion. The market will also dictate how much of it evolves. And don’t forget, the site is at 9000 feet of elevation which presents all sorts of challenges. An 8-story world class hotel (that should be fun in 100 mph winds) could take five years or more just to construct.

What might not be so obvious?—this going to become the “exclusive” zone of the Ski Area, and perhaps the region. Quite the opposite of the humble history of the Main Lodge. Even the proposed “Big Bend” parking lot is hidden away. The visionaries don’t think the future guests should actually see cars (isn’t that an odd change?). But this plan is also consistent with what the landlord (the Forest Service) has wanted for decades—basically to end the massive volume of the vehicle traffic from town up Hwy. 203 to the Main Lodge. And future parking anywhere near Chair 2 will most likely come at a high price in the future (preferred parking has become a popular new profit center).

The exclusivity of the project area could include all sorts opportunities including heli and cat skiing into the San Joaquin Ridge and White Wing areas (did anybody notice that Alterra recently acquired another heli-ski company?). They already own the snowmobile concession for the immediate area so that will certainly be expanded. I’m thinking there could even be helicopter shuttle service from the local airports. The helipad could be on top of the hotel. The possibilities are endless and will ultimately be dictated by the market.

What it also means is that the inevitable movement or “mobility” of skiers and snowboarders from town into the main runs of the Mountain will have to be improved even further. The millions dumped into Canyon Lodge and the new Chair 16 are telling. This portal currently handles 60% of the inbound/outbound traffic. The Main Lodge redevelopment plan will increase this burden, and will also rely on Eagle Base for more volume. This can’t happen without the completion of the long-planned east side gondola system. The new cross-mountain gondola at Palisades is a template. This east side gondola system has been on the drawing board for decades, but it now has to become reality as part of the Main Lodge redevelopment. It is the beginning of the exclusivity plan.  

I’m jaded as to how fast all of this will happen. My signature is on the 1991 and 1994 North Village Specific Plans and even with the new activity including the Limelight, the Plan is still less than 50% implemented. And some of the original properties could remain for decades into the future (like Mammoth Brewing). But Alterra and the post Covid era have brought a new affluence to Mammoth that it has never seen, and the Main Lodge redevelopment plan is envisioned to take it to a higher level. The Mammoth “crown” logo has double meaning. Yes, the terrain, snowfall totals, sunshine and climate, and the long season make it very special in the industry. And perhaps equally, the financial numbers also make it a king. Rusty Gregory knew this well and eventually played these cards into the formation of Alterra. But the luxury and exclusive side of the resort has barely been tapped. The Limelight is just a baby step.  

And inevitably it should be good for the entire community, including real estate. The Ski Area definitely needs better mobility. Workforce housing will always be a challenge but is also part of the redevelopment of the entire community and region. The outlying property opportunities in the Mono County Housing Element will eventually succumb to political pressure, the NIMBYs will have to be ignored over the necessity for housing. That could provide the substantial “missing middle” housing for the region.

The evolution of the (North)Village has changed the dynamics of Mammoth, even in its state of incompleteness. The Main Lodge redevelopment plan will do the same. Like it or not, Mammoth is marching away from the past Dave McCoy era. But something tells me it will never be completely lost.

Thanks for reading!

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

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