Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report April 12, 2015

Market Summary: March 29 – April 12

The Mammoth MLS is reporting 12 closings in Mammoth Lakes for the two week period ranging from a low of $230,000 to a high of $825,000. That is down four (4) from the previous period. Of the 12 closings, 11 were financeable properties and six (6) were purchased with new conventional loans. But with two (2) of the period’s closings in the Village condo hotel properties financed with loans, I’ll have to reconsider what is financeable and what is not. This is certainly a new trend and new opportunity. There were no REO/bank owned property closings and one (1) short sale closing reported. The short sale went to contract on 7-1-2014, so the buyer waited nine months to close.

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is up four (4) to 162. There were 12 “new” condo listings during the period but two have been on the market before within the last six months. One of the new condominium listings that caught my eye is a 3 bedroom / 3 bath / 2-car garage townhouse at Woodwinds listed at $749,000. These properties are on the fairway in Sierra Star and were some of the last condos sold in the Intrawest era. The tax records show the owners paid $1,357,000 and closed in November of 2007. It is not listed as a short sale right now. It is being sold fully furnished.

Single Family Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is up seven (7) to 60. Most of the new listings have been on the market in the recent past. A couple of the home sales during the period showed that some buyers are prepared to make serious compromises at this point in this segment of the market. But many more buyers are prudently waiting. Looks like it will be a summer of “price discovery” here in Mammoth in the single family home market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is down six (6) to 46 at period’s end. Of the 46 properties in “pending,” seven (7) are “contingent short sales” and 20 are in “back-up” status. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is down one (1) to 68. Now we have a trend; Mammoth real estate sales have been down for the past month.

The spring break period is normally very active for sales while families are here for extended periods and have time to look at property. This might really be a “blame the weather” effect. Visitor volume is significantly down and even in the internet age the old adage of “selling is a function of people in town” still holds true. Local businesses will be glad to see fisherman show-up in the upcoming weeks.

Market Updates and News

After a week of heat wave here in Mammoth, an almost winter-like storm came through the area and deposited a good foot of snow in town and double that on the Ski Area. It wasn’t enough to warrant re-opening Eagle or Canyon Lodge but it certainly improved the ski conditions. I missed the whole event because I was baking in the sun fishing the islands west of Puerto Vallarta. But there are still piles of snow all over town. We’ll gladly take the water but it won’t make a serious impact.

A couple of really slow news weeks here in Mammoth. Maybe everybody was away on vacation, or wishing they were. Or maybe they are all doing their taxes… The local media was full of “non-news” stories that nobody in Mammoth really cares about and stuffed with “folksy” photos of local events. The police beat was (once again) a parade of drunk-in-public events. And The Sheet crunched some numbers and exposed some real dollar figures pertaining to (potentially) moving the ice rink. I don’t think the ice rink is going anywhere.

Some of the local real estate companies have been using the hyperbole of eminent development to push buyers, again. And supposedly more supply will create more demand. Or maybe it is “build it and they will come.” These future and potentially exciting developments could become reality, someday. But people need to understand what it is going to take, so please read my latest real estate Q & A. Developing and managing this type of property in Mammoth is not going to be easy. The challenges are far ranging. And there has to be better opportunities in other places at this point in time. I’ve checked out some of the potential proponents and I don’t see the level of sophistication required.

I did receive a nice email in response to the column from the Resort Manager at the Heidelberg Inn over in June Lake. This is a mixed-use facility including hotel rooms and timeshare units that is currently managed by Wyndham Vacation Resorts. It was built in the early 1980’s. She started with “Finally, a Realtor in this area who gets it!” She does point out that the Heidelberg is probably the longest standing timeshare project in Mono County. I think it might be the only true timeshare project in the County. She said “I applaud you for getting it right and explaining it in a way that the rest of the real estate community can understand.”

The Heidelberg is a classic example of why this may never happen in Mammoth. It is a lovely property built at the peak of a distant real estate cycle. But it has been through all sorts of financial calamity including receivership, foreclosure, tax sales, etc. Add this to the financial histories of Tallus and 80/50 and what lender with any triple-digit IQ analysts are going to loan more money to another Mammoth fractional/timeshare project?

Meanwhile, I received the Ragatz Associates annual Shared Ownership Resort Real Estate Industry Executive Summary for 2014. I look forward to the report’s arrival every year. The last five years haven’t been good. The market volume peaked in 2007 (any surprise?) and bounced off the bottom in 2012. It rose slightly in 2013 but was down slightly in 2014. The report (once again) noted the same causes for stagnation in the industry; the country’s uncertain long-term economic stability, the lack of financing, the decline of available cash from home equity loans, not enough marketing funds, and excess supply of whole-ownership vacation homes and increasing competition from vacation home rentals and rental clubs (I think that is their way of saying “the internet”).

So the timeshare/fractional ownership/resort club industry is off almost 80% from the peak and bouncing along the bottom. The Mammoth experience never really got off the ground in 2007. The whole ownership rental market remains stable even with marginal winters. And the VRBO and AirBnB market continues to grow revenue for their owners… Meanwhile, local agents keep painting a “pie-in-the-sky” future for Mammoth real estate because of a future timeshare mixed-use project here in Mammoth. I hope they don’t disappoint anyone.

Noteworthy Sales

The noteworthy sales are more of the same; three sales in Snowcreek during the period and all with solid prices. Units in remodeled and/or clean “turn-key” condition bringing significantly higher-than-average prices. More condo hotel units selling and with financing.

The one sale of a 3 bedroom / 3 bath condo hotel unit in the Village does make me think. I had this unit listed several years ago and couldn’t get it sold (the market was slower then). It looks right over the main plaza and gondola operation and also has some road and shuttle stop noise. It is NOT for somebody looking for peace and quiet. It IS a good people watching spot. It is also a VERY long walk down the hallways from the elevator bays. It eventually sold and now just sold again for $825,000. That is a good sum of money in this market. If a buyer has that sort of cash to allocate to a Mammoth purchase then there has to be another couple hundred thousand that could be invested too. So at ~$1M there is a variety of really nice condos, townhomes and even single-family homes to consider. A condo like this wouldn’t be on many buyer’s top of the list. Mammoth is always an interesting market…

Other Real Estate News

With buyers and sellers spending so much time online educating themselves about their respective real estate markets of interest, there is a massive battle going on over the future of all this online information. And most of it is hidden from the public. With Zillow taking over Trulia and essentially becoming one entity (and neither has yet to make a profit ), and News Corp. taking over Realtor.com, there are battles on a national level. But now there are internal battles ensuing in almost every state and local Realtor associations over who is and isn’t going to cooperate with Zillow. And the franchises are taking up sides. And now the information is likely to become even more distorted.

Zillow is desperate to maintain the local feeds of real estate information via the MLS. It is the critical lifeline of the website. But the Realtors own the MLS systems and information and are dissatisfied with the regressive nature of Realtor.com. Many like the progressive nature of Zillow’s website and flow of information. Many Realtors are paying substantially to advertise on Zillow. Some are reaping the rewards but many are not. There ongoing litigation between Zillow and Realtor.com. Now there are increasing whistleblowing and accusations flying. All of this is far from over!

Meanwhile, everyone is welcome to visit all of the websites they choose, but local sites like www.remax-mammoth.com with almost up-to-the-minute IDX (Internet Data Exchange) will remain the best for current listing information. And of course the best local real estate information will be found at sites like www.MammothRealEstateBlog.com. Despite all of the disruption elsewhere, I vow to keep these sites on course.

Thanks for reading!

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