Fall with no snow is a lovely, quiet time in the mountains. The recent behavior of Mammoth’s real estate agents has become so telling. For many the level of passion is waning. I now classify the agents into three categories––the Pretenders, the Pressured, and the Passionate.
The Pretenders are a substantial group. They range from “retired but don’t know it” to “unemployed but don’t know it.” Many of Mammoth’s old-guard real estate agents and brokers should be moving quickly into their wonderful post-real estate lives, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Many have good health, sound investments and homes in warm climates. Life’s clock is ticking, but they have a hard time letting go of the last few deals (a little more for the nest egg) and the camaraderie of the business. (Being successful in the resort real estate business in a place like Mammoth can be hectic, but also rewarding in many non-financial ways.) But these retired agents are hanging on, taking calls on their cell phones from God-knows-where. The Internet and other modern technologies have helped make it all possible. But when their clients ask, “Can you go check on something for me at this property?” it becomes a little awkward to let them know they are lying on a beach somewhere (or they’re too busy watching FOX News.)
There are some trust-funders (trustafarians as they’re known) in the business. They keep plodding along to keep up the appearance of employment to insure good graces from their benefactors or to conceal their real source of financial well-being. Their real motivation is typically to keep up the pretend. Then there are the Pretenders who still dream of big bucks and a lavish lifestyle but have no real work ethic, no real skills or interest in the subject, and likely got to the party late. Hopefully, they have a positive transition to their next occupation in life. Basically, the Pretenders are all more-or-less harmless to the industry and they’ll make the Christmas party more enjoyable.
On the other hand, The Pressured are the troublesome lot. Most have serious hangovers that aren’t going away. They never dreamed the party would come to an end. And now they really, really have to generate business. They never fathomed prices could go down. They can’t comprehend that buyers won’t be pushed around, or rushed, or fall for “tactics”. Many have already spent the commissions on the deals they’re anxious to close on. And some are planning their move to the next “hot” resort.
The hype machine that served them so well the past ten years is once again being dragged out of the closet––new projects, the next release, “Rusty says this! Rusty says that!” But is anybody listening? The hype is appearing like acts of desperation. You can’t prime a pump with hot air. Do they think that more inventory is really going to improve market conditions? (I generally fell asleep in Economics but I still understand supply and demand.) Or a “launch” of a project facing the Canyon Lodge parking lot is going to launch the market?
The Pressured treat the next developer’s “team member” or “vice president” (we’ve seen a parade of these puppets) as the new messiah or all knowing. “Let’s see Joe, why don’t we just put the “1” on the Bell parcel and let’s run the Village gondola up San Joaquin ridge. And attach the words luxury and five-star to everything. It’s all part of the new vision.” “Perfect, tell the real estate community, we’ve got real momentum now!” The Pressured are pressing and they’re losing credibility fast. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. The Pressured need to go home and watch Dr. Phil and Oprah. Or maybe they need to go to another success seminar.
Then there’s The Passionate––the truly passionate. You can tell them by their older vehicles and their simpler web sites. They know what’s on sale at VONS, not what last night’s special was at Nevados. They got into the business for one reason or another and learned to love what they do. They’ve enjoyed the broad variety of interesting clients they’ve met over the years and helping them achieve their goals. Most have seen more bad times than good. They’ve done more volunteer crap than the others know exist. There’s no “deer-in-the-headlights” look these days. And they can’t wait for it to snow.
The Passionate aren’t selling hype––they’re trying to solve problems. They’re trying to counsel their buyers and sellers the best way they can in this very different market. It is not always easy. And because they’ve seen it before they’re not delusional. Story telling hour is over. The times require good questions and careful analysis. They’re always learning. Things like location, good mountain design, thermal efficiency, solid homeowners associations, defect assessment, etc. are back to being relevant.
Today’s lessons (for me) are foreclosures, REOs, and government surrendered properties (and auctions.) Fortunately, there aren’t too many, yet––far fewer than I thought. We’ll soon see how aggressive the banks will be on pricing. The paperwork is horrendous. But there may be some good buys at some point.
Meanwhile, the clear weather has allowed crews to continue to work on the Lake Mary Road improvements. The work is looking great. This effort will restore some luster to the Lakes Basin. Now, I’ve got to get back to work.
And all The Anonymouses can chime in now.