Mammoth Real Estate Sales Report – February 14, 2021

New snow and mass vaccinations, is Mammoth heading towards some sense of normalcy?

Market Summary –– January 31 to February 14

The Mammoth Lakes MLS is reporting 19 real estate closings for the period ranging from a low of $61,500 to a high of $5,050,000. Of the 19 closings, 17 were financeable properties and 10 were financed closings. There were five (5) residential sales over $1M. And one (1) more residential vacant lot closing (buildable low-end vacant lots are disappearing fast). This period last year (pre-Covid lockdowns) there were 14 closings. The 10-year Treasury yield ended the period up slightly to 1.2%. The yield has doubled  since August. But mortgage rates remain stable and are still near all-time lows.. 

Condominium Inventory

At the period’s end the condominium inventory is down eight (8) to 13 and now there are only three (3) Westin Monache listings. There were 18 new condo listings brought to the market during the period and 13 have already gone to escrow. I was in the Westin Monache quite a bit the past two weeks showing units. I was having a conversation with the listing agent on one of the 2 bedroom units that is listed at $645,000. She said her seller was pretty firm on his price, which I could support based on recent activity of oversized 2 bedroom unit activity in the Village. One of the closed sales during the period was a large 2 bedroom at Grand Sierra Lodge that closed for $799,000. Another large corner unit at Lincoln House came to the market at $769,000 and had multiple offers and was bid-up in price. Based on these sales this Westin unit, even with an additional $47,000 in “refresh” assessment, seems underpriced. The interior room temperature control and overall acoustics of the Westin are superior to the Village. As I edit this newsletter, this Westin unit has now gone to escrow.

Another new condo listing I’m watching is a 2 bedroom at The Lodges. The new listing came on at $879,000. I know the property well because I recently had discussions with the seller about listing it. But that was some 15 months ago. It ended up selling only 13 months ago for $699,000 (and he was lucky, in my opinion, to get that). Now it is back on the market in exactly the same condition for $180,000 more. And there is a good chance it will sell quickly (and again, as I edit this unit is going to escrow). What a difference a year makes. This time last year there were 64 condos on the market, and we thought that was low inventory!

Single-Family Home Inventory

The inventory of single-family homes is down two (2) to 14. There are now only six (6) homes listed under $2.5M. Nuts. The level of activity in the $2M to $5M residential range is unlike anything I have seen in the past 35 years of selling real estate here in Mammoth. This time last year there were 43 homes on the market.

Pending Transactions

The total number of properties in “pending” (under contract) in Mammoth Lakes is up 11 to 123 at period’s end. There remains plenty of interest in the market but buyers are clearly frustrated by the lack of inventory, and some new high pricing. I can attest to the interest just based on the traffic metrics I see at www.remax-mammoth.com. The total number of pendings in the aggregate Mammoth MLS (which includes outlying areas) is up five (5) to 150. We brought a little 1940s era duplex to the market in Bishop this past week at what we considered a high price. It already has two over-list cash offers. This time last year the in-escrow numbers were 85 and 104 respectively. Again, there is no doubt these numbers would be higher if there was more inventory for buyers to choose from.

Market Updates and News

President’s Weekend experienced some fresh snow and it truly felt like winter. Between the IKON blackout and schools out on different schedules, the crowd has been scattered around and certainly manageable. And there are continued rental restrictions. The previous weekend experienced all of the new snow, incredibly warm weather and a massive crowd in town. I was down at the Airport on Saturday of that weekend and counted over 20 private planes on the tarmac. And I’m sure there were another dozen or so in their respective hangars. It was a perfect weekend for winter flying. That weekend weather was also quite conducive for outdoor dining and drinking, and there was plenty of people partaking. 

The big snow storm of the previous period and then an intense warm spell created that classic Mammoth condition with extensive water pouring off roofs in the middle of winter. Some of these roofs had been shoveled just days before. Even though Mammoth now has excellent ski conditions, we remain in a drought-like weather pattern. The balance of February has plenty of sunshine in the forecast and should be an ideal time to come and enjoy the slopes. Maybe some sort of recovery is in the offing.

In the last few days the Mono County Health Department announced that they have administered almost 5,000 initial vaccinations in the County which equates to the highest per capita in the State. Apparently the County took advantage of a one-time opportunity to get extra vaccination supplies and was successful at both obtaining them and administering them. The County also announced last week that positive Covid-19 cases have dropped in half. Meanwhile, Mammoth Hospital remains in green status and with no Covid-19 hospitalizations. All of this has local leaders hoping we can get a Tier re-assignment and hopefully get some minimal indoor dining opened.

Some local STR owners, random members of the local lodging industry and a group calling themselves the Mammoth Lakes Business Coalition have filed a lawsuit against the State and Governor Newsom. They allege Constitutional rights violations from the Covid-19 restrictions.  There are a variety of legal claims and issues and we’ll just have to see how this plays out. The Covid restrictions (or the Governor) could be gone by the time this ever makes it to court.

Also from the Governor’s office this past week, they announced a new partnership with the Ca. Dept. of Insurance and other related State agencies to establish new consistent statewide standards to “harden” homes and communities to reduce wildfire risks. The “hardening” measures include building upgrades, defensible space, fire-resistant landscape, etc.. These efforts are designed to help keep California’s real estate insurable at reasonable rates. And as I have reported before, the Mammoth region has been very proactive on many of these hardening measures in the past decade plus, and for good reason. Apparently, many other areas of the State have not been so proactive.

The very desperate appearing Town Council will be voting this next week on the approval of a construction bid for the Ice Rink/MUF/CRC facility at Mammoth Creek Park West. The very stripped-down (almost pathetic) facility is bare bones and includes the sprung structure, the ice rink and some restrooms. The total project cost is now in the $14M range. All of this at a time the Town is deceptively short on revenue and shelling-out money to save businesses impacted by the lockdowns. My guess is they see a now-or-never scenario. It may be more about ego than anything else. I sure hope this is something the community can be proud of 10-20 years down the line. And hopefully all the related expenditures today and in the future don’t compromise something more important in the future. And don’t be surprised if they try to put more recreation taxes on our electric bills.

The Council did approve further exploration of a potential development agreement with Aspen Ski Company over potential public benefit items in their Limelight development (namely additional public parking in their understructure garage and the pedestrian bridge spanning Canyon Blvd.). The hotel facility plans were supposed to be in front of the Planning Commission last week but I can’t find any record of the meeting. The plans are impressive and would radically change the landscape of the west end of the Village. The 23 “for sale” residential units are all basically penthouse-style suites. The recent performance of large 3 bedroom suites in the Village should certainly give them confidence in these units.  

With the extraordinary number of multi-million dollar home sales here in Mammoth, the amazing parade of private jets coming-and-going at the Airport, and this Limelight project looking more viable every passing week, is there a some quiet Aspen-ification of Mammoth occurring? Or is this just a by-product of the Alterra master plan and their association with Aspen? Time will tell.

And for those who weren’t in town this week, I had a Real Estate Q&A that ran in The Sheet covering HOA Fees here in Mammoth. 

Noteworthy Sales

More on 1 bedroom sales in the Village…. A month ago or so I had prospective buyers who were pondering whether 1 bedroom units in the Village would come down in price due to the loss of rental revenue during the lockdown. At the time there were four 1 bedroom units on the market, all priced close to the most recent sales, but they were clearly competing against each other. During this past period, two of them closed at $457,000 and $465,000. So now two of the four have closed escrow already and the other two are in escrow. And a new one was listed during the period. This will be an interesting segment of the market to watch through the summer.

A luxury home in Juniper Ridge closed for $5,050,000. This is right on the ski run.  For those into “price per square foot” analysis, this sold for $1,020 per square foot. This is likely to be the highest per square foot sale in Mammoth real estate history.

Favorite New Listing For The Period

I’ve worked in the  commercial real estate side of the Mammoth market over the years. There really isn’t enough commercial business for any agent to purely focus on it (like most markets). And residential is much more fun. I consider Mammoth as a whole to be my specialty. So here is a great opportunity for someone. The new investor/owner of the building formerly  occupied by Slocums restaurant and bar for the past 37 years has hired me to find him a new tenant. This is a stellar location and truly a “landmark” building on the Main St. commercial district. The very busy Wave Rave snowboard shop is right next door. The new Main St. frontage improvements were completed two summers ago. This facility has a fantastic bar and plenty of dining room space and an excellent “back of the house.” The new owner is open to all sorts of possibilities. Go here to see the video walkthrough.

New Lease Is Very Negotiable!

Other Real Estate News

A reader had a question from the last newsletter about my comment “completion of the gondola system.” What’s that? The time is probably coming for this although it should have happened 20 years ago. It was promised 20 years ago. The photo at the top of the newsletter is a “storyboard” from the original marketing arm of Intrawest. Their marketing guys loved to tell “stories” like “On The Shoulders of Giants” to get buyers emotional and motivated to purchase properties.

The “story” of the east side gondola system has logical roots. But like the pedestrian bridge in the Village, it too got cut out of the plans because it was too expensive and added nothing to the bottom line (and Intrawest decided they weren’t going to be here for the long term). But now if Alterra and Mammoth really plan to cater to a more upscale crowd, features like completing the gondola system and pedestrian bridges become critical. It is all about convenience. Making guests who frequent luxury ski resorts get off a gondola and schlep over to a chairlift just to get further up the hill doesn’t cut it. The same for negotiating hundreds of steps in ski boots to get on the gondola (to nowhere). 

The first clue about this necessary trend in Mammoth was the installation of the escalator at Canyon Lodge. It didn’t add to the bottom line either. But it became a necessary convenience. The average SoCal skier and boarder has simply put up with this mediocrity at Mammoth. The on-mountain experience is worth it. But more worldly guests (like those that stay at a Limelight) simply won’t come back to mediocrity no matter how great the ski runs are. Rusty knows this.  

Completing the gondola system (again, see the storyboard above) means connecting the Village gondola that currently terminates at Canyon Lodge to the top of Eagle Express. Eagle Express is already a gondola capable lift (it was rebuilt that way). From the top of Eagle Express the gondola then reaches up to the saddle between the top of Chair 10 and the top of Chair 5. From there it goes to the top of the Mountain. When Chair 5 was reconfigured a few years ago and that big, flat area at the top was created there was conjecture that this location could also make for a loading/unloading station. We’ll see. It does make sense.

What supports completing the gondola system is all about the concept of “mobility.” Mobility is a major topic in the ski resort industry today. It is what the high-end customer demands. They want easy access to the slopes and access to vast terrain. And for decades it has locally been the policy of the Forest Service (the Ski Area landlord); the idea of spreading-out the entry of skiers and snow boarders more equally through the “portals” of the Mountain. The Village and Eagle are important portals into the Ski Area. And all of the vehicle traffic to the Main Lodge is not part of the future plans, especially once the Ski Area finally owns all of the land up there and desires to turn it into a completely new (and luxury) environment. The plan is to utilize quick public transit to the Village and Eagle gondola stations.

Completing the gondola system also gets skiers and snowboarders into the core of the Mountain during the early and late season. Easily and quickly, even if they have to ride over dirt. And if you don’t believe Alterra understands this mobility concept, then look north to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The approved California Express gondola will link the two ski areas and give their customers tremendous mobility and access.

Gondolas have a long history in the planning of Mammoth Mountain. I have a very interesting Ski Area planning map from the mid-1960s in my office. At that time a gondola was planned up the backside instead of Chair 14 and down to 7600′ of elevation towards Red’s Meadow. One was planned down to the Bell Parcel at the corner of Meridian and Minaret. And of course one from Canyon Lodge (then referred to as “7&8”) to the top. Reliable sources tell me that Dave McCoy actually purchased a gondola in Europe around 1980 with the intent of running it down Meridian Blvd. and into Lodestar (Sierra Star) and Snowcreek. Whatever happened to it is unknown.

Completing the gondola system today is more than just a marketing gimmick. It makes complete sense to vastly improve the mobility and efficiency within the resort. And to improve the overall guest experience. It is the future for conglomerate ski resort operators like Alterra and Vail Resorts. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 20 years.

Thanks for reading! Please stay healthy.

If you know anyone interested in buying or selling real estate in the Mammoth region, please send them my way!

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