Southern and Central Sierra Nevada Now At Record Snowpack/Water Content!!
Market Summary: February 12 – February 27
The Mammoth MLS is reporting nine (9) real estate closings in Mammoth Lakes for the period ranging from a low of $175,000 to a high of $634,000. Of the nine closings, eight (8) were financeable properties and four (4) were conventionally financed. Six of the nine sales were condos selling under $380,000. Four of the closings were quick, cash condo sales. This period last year there were six (6) closings in Mammoth Lakes.
At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down another eight (8) to 94. There were 11 new condos brought to the market during the period including four new listings at The Westin. There are now four condos listed for sale under $200,000 and seven (7) condos listed under $250,000. This time last year there were 164 condos on the market in Mammoth.
Single Family Inventory
The inventory of single-family homes is down five (5) to 37. There are no homes listed under $500,000 and still only five (5) homes listed under $625,000. This time last year there were 59 homes on the market in Mammoth.
The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up 15 to 60 at period’s end. Of the 60 properties in “pending,” there are 47 in the new “Active Under Contract” status (formerly “back-up”). The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up six (6) for the period at 76. This time last year there were 46 pending properties in Mammoth and 64 in total.
Market Updates and News
Snow storms continued through the period but it now looks like the region will get a break after a small front comes through tonight. There is no significant snow in the balance of the 15-day forecast. The popular “Ski Week” was compromised by snow, wind and limited lift operations but this weekend was marvelous; cold and windy with classic Mammoth “wind buff” conditions. The coverage on the Ski Area is epic. Visitors will be watching the weather forecasts for every opportunity to come and take it in. Many have come in the past 60 days to be disappointed because of extreme conditions and let closures.
Some initial snow and water surveys came in this week and the Owens Valley “snow courses” are already at record levels matching the peak of the wettest year of 1982-83. And we still have typically wet months ahead. These surveys include the “weighted average” of the snow and water content ranging from the southern Sierra to Gem Pass above the June Lake Loop. This is essentially all of the water that flows south via the Aqueduct to Southern California. There is an average of 50 inches of water at the various survey sites.
As of February 21 the Mammoth Pass survey site has 78.2 inches of water content. Normal is 43.6 inches. In comparison, the record year of 1982-82 reached 83.7 inches on April 1. So assuming some March snow and rain, 2017 is heading for a record. The Sierra Nevada to the north actually has more snowpack and water and is certainly at record levels already.
With a break in the forecast and a winter’s worth of snow already on the ground it will be interesting to see what happens next. Historically, big winters “Dump and Pump?” come in succession with short summers in between. I wouldn’t be planning any early summer backcountry trips like the past few summers have afforded.
Meanwhile, a constant parade of large and small dump trucks continue to haul snow from various locations in Mammoth to the “snow pit” off of Hwy. 203. Most roads and properties have decent to good accessibility at this point and many of the major commercial centers have been cleared of massive snow piles.
Mammoth property owners should be prepared for added snow removal expenses. And higher utility bills (it has also been a cold winter so far). There are plenty of variables. But everyone is impacted. There has also been flood damage to properties. It will take the summer months to sort it all out.
While the real estate statistics show a clear uptick in the market, the volume of snow has also created obstacles; many properties have boarded-up first floor windows, some are simply buried in snow and/or are difficult to access, some have dangerous roof conditions (snow load, icicles), etc. And many potential real estate lookers have simply canceled their trips to Mammoth. And then there is the affect of low inventory.
Both recent newspaper articles and advertising are promoting a new release of units in Snowcreek Phase 7 also know as Creekhouse. The “New Luxury Townhomes” are presumed to be the same floorplans and fourplex buildings already developed at Creekhouse (there are foundations poured already). Pricing is “From the upper $700,000’s.” The developer says they already have some units spoken for and will build to the demand. The construction is slated to begin this summer but if the weather breaks they could get started on the existing foundations.
With only a handful of Gray Bear homes set (left) to be constructed and finished this upcoming summer, it could be good timing. The Creekhouse units may be the hot seller of the next 18 months. Or maybe the upcoming townhomes John Hooper will start building adjacent to the Canyon Lodge parking lot will capture the buyers attention. We’ll see.
From the ski industry; it was announced last week that Vail Resorts is purchasing Stowe, Vermont ski area for $50 million. It will be Vail’s first East Coast ski resort and plays well into their “feeder resort” strategy. Even though Stowe is already recognized as a premier ski and snowboard resort, this is an incredible opportunity to draw the existing (and increased) clientele from the New England and New York areas into the Epic Pass family. A classic Vail Resorts move especially after purchasing Whistler/Blackcomb last fall…..Seems like there is only one large ski market left for them to acquire…..
With only nine closings and all but one of the them condos there really isn’t much to talk about except that four of the transactions were cash purchases and quick escrows. These are obviously driven by the great snow and ski conditions. This does happen in this market — cash buyers wanting instant gratification. All four closed in 16 to 18 days. Three were relatively new to the market. One had been on the market for 191 days, and the buyer might be surprised when the snow melts.
March, April and May will be interesting real estate months here in Mammoth. The snow will bring more anxious buyers. It may bring some sellers looking for stronger values. Visitation will be up and that always brings selling activity. “Selling is a function of people in town” is what I always used to say. The Internet has changed that, but it is still true. And while the inventory is low there are still good condo buys in the $400-600K price range.
Other Real Estate News
The Airbnb craze continues. An increasing number of buyers and investors are motivated by this trend. Some potential buyers are purchasing the Mammoth specific data from Airdna.co and it is very interesting. I’ve tried to put some of the data into an informal spreadsheet but there are just so many hours in a day. But so far, the Airdna numbers don’t spell out one clear winner in Mammoth ROI race. The larger Mammoth condos are producing significant rental numbers according to Airdna. But with them come higher expenses including HOA fees, utilities, and cleaning expenses. Two bedroom (sleeping areas) units do well. But so far I haven’t been able to identify any extraordinary features making specific properties standout.
That might not be good news for the pure investor types considering Mammoth, but it probably is good news for the more “classic” buyer looking for their own enjoyment AND solid self-renting revenue. The age-old advice of satisfying your own personal needs and desires first is probably still true. And building a successful rental is now a mainstream body of knowledge available to anyone who knows how to do research.
And speaking of that, I found a nice article/podcast on The Five Things You Must Do For Vacation Rental Success in 2017. This information was for those already in the rental game. I found it to be a good refresher.
The First Action Point: Expect the unexpected. This is very timely after what Mammoth has been through the past 60 days. For example, hundreds of nightly renters have been without a snow shovel when they needed one. Vehicles have been buried for days causing all sorts of dilemmas. Property owners really need to have them on hand. A couple of hints; paint the property address on the handle, and also don’t have the “best” shovel, a marginal one will do.
But the bigger point is to have some emergency planning as part of the rental program. There needs to be “someone to pick up the pieces” when things happen. And back-ups of critical items. Property owners need to go through and re-assess everything once again. The Town’s rental inspection checklist is a good start. But to make a top-flight rental, all of this needs to be looked at one more time. The winter of 2017 will give many owners new insight.
The Second Point: Create a re-marketing strategy. I find this especially important as owners eventually want to move away from the VRBO and Airbnb umbrella. Build the email list of all previous guests and their friends. Alert them of upgrades made to the property and any special deals. And special events in town. Go so far as to send them a refrigerator magnet of your rental property.
Next: Continue to Collaborate with Like Owners. They are allies not the competition. This may be more important in other communities. Mammoth remains very pro-rental as long as you are not breaking the law. But sharing experiences with other owners can be beneficial.
Next: Continue to Show Your Uniqueness. To be really successful, owners need to be head and shoulders above the other owners. Don’t just rely on Airbnb to market the property. Target a niche market and renter. And set yourself apart as the expert in that niche.
And finally, and this is so important: Update Everything. From the property photos on various websites to the welcome book and tourist information. In the past decades Mammoth has been infamous for stale old rental units (I’ve heard “What’s wrong with my unit?” so many times). The online marketing era has changed a good deal of that but Mammoth still has rental units with box TVs, VHS players and libraries, clock radios, and all sorts of old crap. Today it is about docking and charging stations. And bed spreads, comforters and pillows are inexpensively replaced and are major decor components. So update, and let your renters know you have made the updates!
Thanks for reading!