investing in a Mammoth Mountain condo

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Submitted by Hatfield on January 4, 2013 - 9:24pm

I've been going up to Mammoth ever since I was a kid, and I've sorta been kicking myself for not buying after that quake about 15 years ago kicked the crap out of real estate prices. Then the bubble happened and it's been very slowly deflating. I was just up there this week and it seems like real estate prices have really come down. You can find dumpy condos again for under 100k and they start to get nice at around 200k. I'm starting to toy with the idea of buying a place up there.

Here's my rationale: I'm semi-retired and have a lot of time on my hands. If I owned a place up there, I would go more often than I do now, and stay longer when I'm up there. And at this point I'm not that worried about cash flow. I'm wondering if I bought a condo, paid cash or maybe financed a little bit of it, it is feasible to rent the thing out on Airbnb or VRBO and have it come out fairly cash neutral. Basically, I'd look at the condo as a place to stash some money for 10 years or so, and have the rental income more or less cover my HOA fees, taxes, insurance, etc, and as a benefit, have a free place to stay whenever I go up there. That seems like a pretty low bar.

I've owned two rental houses in San Diego for the past 12 years and managed them myself, so I'm pretty familiar with that gig. But this seems like a totally different animal. I've never owned a condo, used a a property management company, or owned a short-term vacation rental property. I'm sure there are pitfalls, I just don't know what they are.

I'm wondering if some Piggs here have been down this road before and might have some insights to offer.

Submitted by CA renter on January 5, 2013 - 12:30am.

Maybe we should have our own Pigg timeshare in Mammoth, instead. ;)

Submitted by flu on January 5, 2013 - 8:36am.

Are you concerned about the general fiscal situation @ Mammoth right now?

I mean, just saying that they closed June mountain, and the available ski seasons seems to be sporadic recently....

Not trying to be a fear monger... I haven't researched what's really going on up there... but in case you missed it...

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/09/...
http://business.transworld.net/102741/ne...

I haven't been to Mammoth in so long. The issue is being down here in SD, I'd rather just hop on a flight to Utah or go to Tahoe.Personally, I'd pick Tahoe over Mammoth, but that's just me..

Submitted by EconProf on January 5, 2013 - 8:55am.

This looks like a pretty straightforward real estate cost vs. benefits question where you need to make estimates about the future. A lot of blanks need to be filled in based on future unknowns, as well as unknown unknowns. However, difficulty in making projections is no reason to not do your research and write down your estimates.
Your future benefits are presumably appreciation, cash flow, possible tax benefits, perhaps pride of ownership, and use of the condo.
Future costs are the hassle factor (including the value of your own time), annual costs of owning and maintaining, vacancy downtime and cleaning and prep to rerent (possibly by someone on site who would need compensation).
Be sure to learn about the local rental market: vacancy factors, seasonal fluctuations, location variables, pitfalls, etc. Start with Craigslist rentals and for-sale condos, then go to a local realty office that specializes in selling and renting condos. Remember that we all underestimate costs, vacancies, and tenant problems.
Write down all your future costs and benefits in great detail so that you can reread them in a few years and have a good laugh.

Submitted by bearishgurl on January 5, 2013 - 2:28pm.

flu wrote:
Are you concerned about the general fiscal situation @ Mammoth right now?

I mean, just saying that they closed June mountain, and the available ski seasons seems to be sporadic recently....

Not trying to be a fear monger... I haven't researched what's really going on up there... but in case you missed it...

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/09/...
http://business.transworld.net/102741/ne...

I haven't been to Mammoth in so long. The issue is being down here in SD, I'd rather just hop on a flight to Utah or go to Tahoe.Personally, I'd pick Tahoe over Mammoth, but that's just me..

This year they're offering a weekday pass to ski ALL of January, starting Mon 1/7, for $249!

http://www.mammothmountain.com/Mountain/...

That's an awesome deal but must buy online by tomorrow midnight. Lodging, however, starts at about $140 per night (assuming you are a hotel-chain and AAA member).

The on-mountain resort properties are almost as cheap (inclusive of lift tix) but that pesky 20% night "resort fee" PLUS the 13% TOT is a killer, IMHO.

Bus service to Mammoth Mtn bases (5 mi from town) is FREE!

http://www.mammothweb.com/transportation...

http://www.mammothweb.com/transportation...

It's going to be a "bluebird" week. It is 100% open and has a 266" base from December. Snow is expected tomorrow but then nine days of sunshine and just 4-7 mph winds, which is VERY rare for Mammoth Mtn :)

I SO wish I was there NOW :=(

Submitted by SD Realtor on January 5, 2013 - 3:21pm.

My first purchase was a condo in Mammoth. I did that many more years ago that I would like to admit because I used to go there many times each winter. I held onto that condo for around 5 or 6 years. It rented okay in the winter as a vacation rental and it was very nice having a place to stay whenever I wanted but you have to block out your stays far in advance due to demand. Cash flow wise I would lose money on it each year but I did well on the sale due to appreciation.

It was also nice to go there and have somewhere to stay in the summer.

I would have no idea how the numbers look now due to the valuations up there. It was convenient though. Also the vacation renters would cause some damage occasionally.

Submitted by bearishgurl on January 5, 2013 - 5:18pm.

In my last post, I meant to say, "EXclusive of lift tix," which are included in the mammoth mtn properties' pkg deals. And $20 night resort fee, not 20%.

There is no refund on these pkgs, however, unless the resort closes for some reason on the day(s) you book.

Unlike Mammoth Lakes, South Lake Tahoe always has SFR listings of '50's and '60's era SFRs on tract of 1300 - 1600 sf, right in town and near free bus lines. The vast majority of "condos" there are timeshares on the Nevada side. And there are a handful of timeshare developments at the SLT lakeshore and adjacent to the Heavenly gondola.

I haven't checked the listings in SLT in about a year. However, at that time, most were asking $175K to $300K.

For "retirement purposes," El Dorado County is now on the Prop 90 list and has a bigger, more comprehensive hospital than Mammoth (soon-to-be retirees think about these things).

http://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/lta0...

I agree with SDR that vacancies would be intermittently high in a resort area off of "peak" season (Dec-Mar, depending on snowfall) but it would still be worth it to have somewhere of your own to drive to on the spur of the moment almost any time of "off-peak season" to go hiking, fishing or even carry your boat to and leave in the garage!

And property mgmt fees in resort areas are likely 2-8% higher than for a long-term tenant due to labor-intensive day/week/month tenancies, snow removal and even pipe-wrapping (if you choose to keep it vacant during winter months and cannot get up there). Due to these high fees, I would not want to pay HOA dues as well.

I find it SUCH a hassle nearly every year to make apples-to-apples comparisons to successfully book lodging for whatever amt of people/skiers I had at the time and would MUCH prefer to have my own place, furnished with my own stuff and could bring my dog without leaving it crated all day. I wouldn't have a problem booking my days way in advance until such time as I chose to occupy the property full-time.

I'm just wondering if SFR prices are firming up in South Lake Tahoe. They REALLY cratered a few years ago and were dirt cheap.

IIRC, Mammoth Lakes does not have any tracts. For this reason and the fact that it borders on Nat'l forest land, RE tends to be higher there than SLC. But the skiing is usually more consistent on Mammoth Mtn which typically has more lifts and trails open than SLT at any given time, that is ... unless it is simply a banner year all around :)

Submitted by nhamlin on January 6, 2013 - 11:51am.

I am a real estate investor in San Diego and have given a great deal of thought to buying a place in the mountains.

If you calculate the annual cost of maintaining a nice home and divide by the number of days of use, you will often find it more expensive than the staying at the Waldorf with hot and coldf running blodes. Ever wonder why resort areas have more real estate offices than service stations?

You can reduce the costs by renting it out but when you go there, you are now staying in a rental.

My attitudes were formed when 40 year old beat up 2 BR 2 BA condos at Mammoth were selling for well over $300K. Things would look a lot better with current pricing. Things would also look better for someone who plans to eventually retire there.

It sounds like you can well afford to take the plunge. I think you might have regrets if you don't. As for the bad financial new; the time to buy is when blood is running in the streets. I doubt that there is a lot more bad news coming down the road for Mammoth.

Submitted by nhamlin on January 6, 2013 - 11:52am.

I am a real estate investor in San Diego and have given a great deal of thought to buying a place in the mountains.

If you calculate the annual cost of maintaining a nice home and divide by the number of days of use, you will often find it more expensive than the staying at the Waldorf with hot and cold running blondes. Ever wonder why resort areas have more real estate offices than service stations?

You can reduce the costs by renting it out but when you go there, you are now staying in a rental.

My attitudes were formed when 40 year old beat up 2 BR 2 BA condos at Mammoth were selling for well over $300K. Things would look a lot better with current pricing. Things would also look better for someone who plans to eventually retire there.

It sounds like you can well afford to take the plunge. I think you might have regrets if you don't. As for the bad financial new; the time to buy is when blood is running in the streets. I doubt that there is a lot more bad news coming down the road for Mammoth.

Submitted by bearishgurl on January 6, 2013 - 12:50pm.

nhamlin wrote:
I am a real estate investor in San Diego and have given a great deal of thought to buying a place in the mountains.

If you calculate the annual cost of maintaining a nice home and divide by the number of days of use, you will often find it more expensive than the staying at the Waldorf with hot and coldf running blodes. Ever wonder why resort areas have more real estate offices than service stations?

You can reduce the costs by renting it out but when you go there, you are now staying in a rental.

My attitudes were formed when 40 year old beat up 2 BR 2 BA condos at Mammoth were selling for well over $300K. Things would look a lot better with current pricing. Things would also look better for someone who plans to eventually retire there.

It sounds like you can well afford to take the plunge. I think you might have regrets if you don't. As for the bad financial new; the time to buy is when blood is running in the streets. I doubt that there is a lot more bad news coming down the road for Mammoth.

Sadly, I think you may be right, nhamlin. For those that want to retire into a part-time "ski-bum," such as myself, the time to act is when hardly anyone is interested in buying.

The TOT tax is currently 13% at Mammoth Lakes and that is 69% of their general fund revenue. All they would have to do is raise their TOT tax to 15% and they could potentially crawl out of this judgment hole in a VERY few years, IMHO.

The masses wouldn't care. What's 2% more?? It is a destination ski resort due to its remote location and there is only ONE Mammoth Mtn.

Unlike Colo ski resorts, it is in the VERY high desert with a straight, fun nearly treeless face and there is nowhere else like it in the country and probably the world. It is what it is.

Even though I thought I would prefer Lake Tahoe, I REALLY like skiing at Mammoth Mtn and will investigate Mammoth Lakes RE further. My time frame for "retirement" is 17-23 months. I could potentially substantially improve a property AFTER I decided to occupy it myself.

Thank you for your post.

Submitted by bearishgurl on January 6, 2013 - 1:20pm.

bearishgurl wrote:
This year they're offering a weekday pass to ski ALL of January, starting Mon 1/7, for $249!

http://www.mammothmountain.com/Mountain/...

That's an awesome deal but must buy online by tomorrow midnight....

Offer has now been extended thru Mon 1/7 and now inclusive of Feb 1 (Fri). The same link (above) has now changed to "20 (week)days sking/riding for $249."

Short of buying a heavily-discounted season pass the summer before (future conditions unknown), it doesn't get any better than this, folks.

This tells me there wasn't enough bites Friday and Saturday, lol ...

Submitted by Hatfield on January 6, 2013 - 3:08pm.

nhamlin wrote:
the time to buy is when blood is running in the streets

Exactly. This isn't something I have to do. It's something that I've toyed with for a long time but it's always seemed way overpriced. But now I'm seeing properties trading at 1/4 the peak and below. Many units seem to be back at 1990s prices.

I'm not interested in Tahoe or Utah or Colorado mostly because I know nothing about those areas, and I'd be a fool to buy into an area I know nothing about. Heck, I might even be a fool for buying into an area I do know. :p But Mammoth is THE premier ski resort for folks - especially families - in southern California, and regardless of whatever trouble the municipality has gotten itself into, the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is not going away anytime soon.

I've just started playing with the numbers and there's not much depth to my analysis yet. I haven't found (or created) the Mammoth Lakes equivalent of a Rich Toscano graph.

But I think I smell blood. I'm not in any rush, either. I don't see much upside to this market in the short term.

Submitted by aimless on April 16, 2014 - 1:12pm.

I've just stumbled onto this site because I was Googling the subject of investing in a condo at Mammoth. I'm in pretty much the same situation, have been skiing at Mammoth for decades and now thinking of maybe becoming a fractional owner of a condo that will have enough rental potential to cover expenses, and still give me a place to stay once in a while when not rented. Have you decided one way or the other yet? I'd be really interested in your thoughts and any research/numbers you've come up with.

Submitted by paramount on April 16, 2014 - 8:57pm.

The problem I have with Mammoth or even the River is the drive.

Submitted by Hatfield on April 17, 2014 - 12:28pm.

aimless wrote:
Have you decided one way or the other yet?

Nah, not really. I did look at some properties and I'm on a realtor's email list, so I get sent new listings and receiving notifications when existing listings change price. At the end of the day, it's the HOA fees that are causing my spreadsheet to blow up. Mammoth had a dismal ski season this year and I only made it up there once. The whole town seems to be slowly dying on the vine.

Submitted by FlyerInHi on April 17, 2014 - 1:41pm.

After a big earthquake, Mammoth will decline. You can then pickup a place on the cheap.

I'm in Vegas a lot and I like Brian Head, UT, not that far away and very friendly people in UT.

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