If you are a surfer, Mammoth, California is the wrong vacation home spot for you. But, if you love crisp mountain air and clean sparkling lakes, you'll be in heaven.
"It's about lifestyle," says MichealYoungfellow, a former real estate attorney turned exclusive buyer's broker. "Mammoth has the longest ski/boarding season in North America. The area is renowned for trout fishing. There's backpacking, hiking, and mountain climbing at Half Dome and Mt. Whitney. The Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is one of the more exhilarating experiences!"
Just three hours drive south of the Lake Tahoe/Reno area, and down the road from Yosemite National Park, Mammoth offers the same recreational activities without the crowds.
"Both Yosemite and Mammoth are settled in the extraordinary Eastern Sierra Mountain Range," says Youngfellow. "Mammoth, like Yosemite, has a unique and magnificent natural resource in Mammoth Mountain. Over 11,000 feet in elevation, it's peculiar location makes it the recipient of a terrific volume of snowfall."
Not to mention the area is ripe for - well,... mammoth growth.
"The lack of regular air service to our tiny airport has been the dominant reason that Mammoth has not previously attracted a wider range of visitors," says Youngfellow.
But that's about to change. "The town of Mammoth and American Airlines entered into a formal agreement to begin American air service next winter from Dallas and Chicago. They went to the FAA and received a $30 million award to expand our little airport into the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport that will be capable of accommodating American Airlines' large jets."
The population of Mammoth is already beginning to taxi off the runway.
"As of the recent census, our population of permanent residents soared in the last decade from 4,500 to 7,500," marvels Youngfellow. "Of the total assessor's parcel numbers [approximately 15,000] which identify each individual property within the two-mile by two-mile town boundaries, two/thirds are second homes. The price tag for these single family homes now ranges from about $400,000 to $3.2 million. Condominiums are presently selling at prices up to $880,000. Prices for all properties have doubled and tripled since 1996."
That was the year that Intrawest, a publicly-held Canadian resort development company, arrived. "In 1996, Intrawest purchased a controlling equity interest in Mammoth California, the Dave McCoy entity that has controlled and operated the ski resort," explains Youngfellow. "Prior to Intrawest, Mammoth Lakes was a "plantation town" controlled by Dave McCoy, the founder, owner and operator of the ski area. The Mountain Resort was by far the largest, and only significant, if seasonal, employer in the area."
Intrawest has brought significant change to Mammoth, says Youngfellow. "Since their arrival, construction has become the most important employer," he says. "Since 1996, the company has developed an 18 hole golf course, subdivided the most expensive subdivision in Mammoth, Starwood, constructed and marketed Juniper Springs Lodge, Sunstone, hotel-condominiums, the Timbers, Mammoth Green, Eagle Run, Juniper Crest - all condominiums projects. But most importantly, Intrawest is now engaged in their foremost project to date: Phase I [166 condominiums] of The Village at Mammoth Lakes."
Yet, despite such auspicious developments and potential for growth, Mammoth is in a buyer's market.
"Last year, it appeared that many buyers were making full-price offers if they wanted to buy property in Mammoth," says Youngfellow. "In the last quarter of 2001, according to the MLS, a substantial number of properties listed for sale posted price reductions. The number of units sold and gross sales revenue have declined over the last two years. Inventory is up from 1999. And "days on the market" have increased. Lastly, the percentage of sales to list prices has declined."
So, if it's now a buyer's market, should you buy now?
"We all have our differing resources to help us predict the future," says Youngfellow. "I can only share with you my experience listening to people lament their decision to "wait and see" during the latter half of the 90s. I also know that the planning for regular American Airlines air service and Intrawest's Village at Mammoth Lakes [opening early in 2003] will generate intense demand for Mammoth real estate when these attractions are closer to reality."