Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mammoth Real Estate in California

The Frustrated Buyers post was very much written from personal and professional experience. As humans we all have events etched in our minds that if we could return to them, and take advantage of them based on what we know now, we would do things differently (yes, I’m in the middle of a mid-life crisis).

The Mammoth real estate market is full of them. Many buyers are incessantly perusing the Internet for new Mammoth listings that are equivalent to some property they almost, or did, make an offer on and lost out. Most times they offered too little, sometimes they acted too slowly. Regardless, today they can’t find a replacement, or the similar property is priced significantly higher. But does that create a bottom. Conversely, the statistical data has some segments of the market dropping another 10 to 20% in the last year. The various segments in the market have very different supply and demand characteristics.

Some segments of the market have lots of “cookie cutter” supply, and some don’t. Some condo projects don’t turn over at all, or very little. Some of the properties built and sold in the peak of the market have devalued greater than others. Some sold properties were foreclosures with more aggressive (price reducing) investor/sellers. The higher end of the single-family market has devalued more than the lower end. Many high-end homes were built on speculation and ended up distressed and/or foreclosed on. And forget appraisals, if the appraiser isn’t also active in real estate sales, or communicating daily with the agents, then they are out of touch.

So the market is all over the place.As part of my job I consume as much information about real estate as my brain can process. Obviously, some of the information is about economics and general trends in the market, or what is happening in the state or nationally that will impact the market. And I certainly don’t rely on the National Association of Realtors to guide my thought process. In Mammoth area activities the one thing I watch is the Ski Area.

They are the economic driver of the community. The Town can bumble and fumble down the road and have all of its calamities and bad press, but as long as they keep the roads plowed (which they are stellar at) and keep the barbarians from running a muck, then everything seems to just even out. But the Ski Area is something quite different. I often laugh at people who don’t ski or ride the Mountain who think they are in touch with what’s going on in town. They really don’t. A perspective going back at few decades helps tool.
We can only hope that expenses haven’t increased more than revenues, but it doesn’t feel like it. It would be very interesting to see inside those numbers, where the increased revenue is coming from. We all know the MVP keeps increasing in price, but the demand rates appears fairly consistent. Across the board, these season pass programs look like the life-blood of ski resorts today. Or are the increased revenues coming from MVP just spending more on beer, demos and lessons? I have a hunch that one of the values of re-opening the MVP program to new members is that the newer Mopers are the ones spending the most highly profitable discretionary dollars on the Mountain.
Am I paranoid? One of my favorite movie scenes is in Beautiful Mind where the Russell Crow character stops a student exiting his class to validate he is in fact having a conversation with a real human versus an illusion. Along those lines, I need a reality check regarding my deep pessimism over our economy which has me questioning the solvency of Mammoth. First of all, let me make it clear I have absolutely no facts or even rumors of any kind to support such crazy talk…in fact, I find the mountain running as well as it always has. Nevertheless, I just renewed my MVP pass and found they are now increasing the cash bonus to 25% from 20%…WOW!! While my first thought was Yippee!.my second thought was why are they so hard up for cash?? Heck, I can get a better usury rate from Vito at the local deli. Do they have a balloon payment due? Or worse yet are they following the short seller strategy to collect as much cash as possible before giving the property back to Comrade Sam, oops I mean the bank? Paul, I wouldn’t fault you for not publishing this

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