Even people who live in resorts need and deserve a vacation once in awhile, so I’m off to an annual fishing trip to the banks and seamounts off the coast of southern Baja. But just a couple of things before I go:
The last Broker’s Report brought me plenty of emails, and one reader/writer demanded an apology and accused me of being a racist. “Although I generally enjoy reading your analysis of the Mammoth real estate market, I found your comment about Mexican cooking to be stupid, offensive, and racist. As we both know, many of the hardworking people at the Mountain and in the rest of the Mammoth community are of Latino origin. Without them, the town would come to a standstill. They, along with the rest of your readers and clients, deserve a heartfelt apology from you.” In a further email exchange he felt my “candor” was another term for my bigotry and he implied I was “fueling bigotry” in Mammoth.
A simple Google search shows my critic is a RAND Ph.d. expert-expert-expert Public Policy guru. So I’m resigned that I’m a bigot, if he says so. I did relay a little story and question to him to help me understand and deal with my new-found bigotry:
“By the way, you should spend some time around Aspen Village (Readers—Aspen Village is the new Section 8 housing on Old Mammoth Road adjacent to the Snowcreek Athletic Club) when you’re in town (since you live so close). It’s a very interesting cultural experience. I was buying some produce one day from Flores Produce––the produce truck that is frequently parked out in front in the shuttle pull-out and had a conversation with some of the local Hispanics who live in that area. The Hispanics who don’t live in Aspen Village are very jealous and resentful of those who do––the expensive vehicles, living in a new home with good heat, good play area for the kids, etc. Those non-residents of Aspen Village had plenty (negative) to say about it. By your measure, does that make them bigots?”
Well of course I got no response. I’m apologize, I’m just good at fueling this bigotry thing. But the subject does have a couple of serious impacts here in Mammoth––things I can’t ignore, and things this community can’t ignore. A recent Harvard study of over 30,000 people across the country shows the downside of diversity––among them that the more diverse a community is “the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects.” “The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.” The study begs the question “What do we do about it; what are the next steps?”
Mammoth is a unique resort town. Much like an island, our workforce (and I’m part of it) is going to occupy the same private landmass as our guests. They’re not bused in-and-out of town every day like in many resorts. We all have to share the space. (I have lived and worked and scraped in Mammoth for 27 years––I didn’t need some out-of-town RAND Ph.D. to enlighten me about the demographics of the town.) But we have a serious public policy issue here that nobody wants to talk about let alone figure out what “the next steps are.” While co-existing with “them” is a given, the powers-that-be want to turn this town into an upscale high-class resort.
The public planning and development side says our town can’t have the same appearance of the cities where the guests are coming from––graffiti, signage in Spanish, etc. We have local Homeowners Associations voting to keep deed-restricted units from being purchased by developers in their projects. (Nobody called them bigots.) We’ve got NIMBYs everywhere. Those that were here in the early 90’s remember the war we had over Proposition C––all over low-income housing. It’s all an inconvenient truth. Maybe our second-homeowner RAND Ph.D. public policy expert should spend some time here and make an assessment and give us some advice. Simply labeling people racists and bigots isn’t the next step to improving our civic health.
But the real estate broker part of me has a much bigger conflict, and the real estate community dances around the subject every day. Obviously, we can’t discriminate in any way, shape or form. It’s a federal law. We can’t even call a property a “nice family home” because it discriminates against people who don’t have families. I’m surprised we’ve gotten away with emphasing the word “view” for so long. Doesn’t that discriminate against blind people? We have to watch every word we use in advertising and MLS input. Trust me. But the quandary comes with the California Civil Code. It clearly states that real estate agents, once an agency relationship is established, has “the duty to disclose all facts known to the agent materially affecting the value or desirability of the property that are not known to, or within the diligent attention and observation of, the parties.”
Now most second-home buyers in Mammoth want a resort property. I prefer to advise my buyers that “this particular area or project” in town “has lost it’s resort character.” Okay, I’m just a damn racist, but let me tell you it will “affect the value and desirability of the property.” Or maybe I should just tell Mr. Buyer, “Go ahead and buy this with all your hard earned money, beats throwing your money down the toilet and at least you’ll have a place to lay your head. And you’ll sleep well knowing nobody is going to call you a bigot.” Maybe Mr. RAND Ph.D. public policy expert guru is right. I do need to apologize. Some buyers are so busy marveling at the blue sky, wonderful scenery and blankets of pure white snow that they miss the obvious. And I’m just a pig for bringing it up. I’m sorry. I apologize.
I’m almost ready for that vacation. It’s going to be a good time to be gone. Anybody paying attention to the mortgage markets knows things have gone haywire the past ten days. Especially in what is referred to as the “jumbo” loan market. Most loans in Mammoth are jumbo loans (more than $417,000). Without belaboring technical jargon and theory, it is a short-term nightmare for even really qualified buyers trying to borrow. There are even reports of quality loans ready to fund with lenders pulling out at the last moment. It is a macro-economic problem that the Federal Reserve and the major lenders are already taking little steps to correct. Most think it will normalize (somewhat), but it appears that good credit and real down payments are going to be a necessity from here on out. As has been said in this forum many times before, the majority of purchases in Mammoth are already of this quality, so if rates stabilize there shouldn’t be a problem. If not, then the Mammoth real estate game will change dramatically. But that will have to wait until I return from being beaten up by some Mexican, fish that is.