Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island real estate in depth monthly analysis by Sea to Sky Properties’ broker, Li Read

Market Analysis, August 2018, Salt Spring Island

August 2018, Salt Spring

The Mid-way Point

The first of August reminds us all that summer-summer is at the mid-way point.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Well, for those with school-age children that’s certainly the case…summer is over with the back-to-school ads.

The calendar, though, says summer ends on September 20th.

The real estate market on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands became a summer/fall market, some years back. Many sales take place between August and December. So…for real estate, summer and fall remain busy.

Sellers who panic when July folds into August need to remember that the main business on Salt Spring is just ramping up.

And what about that business? Thin inventory in any property type below one million is a fact. Prices have stabilized. There are both small bidding wars and back-up offers.

Although the market segment between one and three million is a slower paced sales pattern, that more affluent buyer also tends to turn up from August on. There is also a growing interest in estate style properties between 2 and 5 million (Canadian Dollars).

No matter the property type or the price point, the inventory is the thinnest I can remember, since 2003.

Salt Spring Islands Trust

Salt Spring is governed by the Islands Trust. This provincial body was formed in 1974, with the mandate “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. This cap on growth maintains a pleasing and community based lifestyle. A “yesteryear” experience coupled with everything required for a 21st Century life…a winning combination. It’s also a reminder of Economics 101: low supply coupled with high buyer demand create price increases.

Sellers and realtors do not create markets…buyers do that. The Gulf Islands were in an almost nine year downturn (late October, 2008 to mid-2016), as a result of the economic meltdowns of late 2008. Buyers vanished in those downturn years, and sellers lingered on the market…price reductions did not generate action. That was the classic buyer’s market (lots of listings and no buyers).

Now, we are in the classic seller’s market in the recreational/secondary home marketplace of the Gulf Islands: low inventory and lots of buyers. During the slow recovery of mid 2016 to late 2017, there was a sales volume increase in that entry level residential segment.

At the moment, as we start into August, most buyers are seeking residential options between 650,000 and 1.3 million. In waterfronts, we are seeing interest between one and three million. With the main part of our sales window still before us, there is an expectation that we may be looking towards significant price increases by 2019. If so, it will be based on continuing lack of inventory and the continuing return of buyer interest.

Government-Induced “Pauses”

There have been many government-induced “pauses” during the current slow market recovery. It is true that in all areas, city or rural, there is a lack of affordable housing and/or work rental options. Salt Spring struggles with this, too.

The current provincial government has turned to taxing an owner’s asset (their primary or secondary home) via severe taxation measures, in an attempt to create both affordable homes and a rental stock….this does not alleviate the problem. It may actually make things worse.

Vancouver is experiencing these taxation measures and the Lower Mainland market outcomes do affect the Gulf Islands. (The Gulf Islands are exempt from the vacancy tax, because they are part of the Islands Trust).

Yes, in 1974 the then provincial government capped growth on every Gulf Island…now, in 2018, we see the outcome of this 1974 decision…never a lot of listings and varying buyer desire patterns…it keeps choices lower and prices higher. In 2017, Salt Springers voted (63%) to retain the Trust, without change, as the form of governance.

Where do these buyers for the Gulf Islands come from? In the early 2000s, we saw a lot of buyers from Alberta and the U.S. After the economic crash of late 2008, this buyer profile disappeared.

The recovery that slowly began in 2016 was driven by Vancouver sellers. The Vancouver area still supplies most of the buyers on Salt Spring. This is why we pay attention to the real estate rhythms of Vancouver…those sellers have become our buyers. Any market cooling there will affect sales here.

Any questions about the changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C., which came into being on June 15? Call me.

Market Analysis, June 2018, Salt Spring Island

June 2018, Salt Spring

So…summer-summer is underway on the great Pacific Northwest Coast, and Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are a part of this alluring time of year.

June brings vacation seekers, the third annual Tour des Iles event (private boat links between the Southern Gulf Islands) at end of June is always fun, all the studios are open (pick up a map at the Visitor’s Centre), and the hiking/walking trails beckon. Kayaking, cycling, foodie markets (Saturday Market & Tuesday Market), artisans and artists on display, ArtCraft celebrates 20 years with its opening reception at Mahon Hall in mid-June, gallery openings/receptions in Ganges Village, continuing live music venues, farmgate stands..and the fun of Canada Day special events that segue into July.

Enjoy the natural world that has been preserved on all the Gulf Islands…since 1974, when the provincial government body known as the Islands Trust came into being.

It’s true that the property inventory available for sale is very “thin” right now. There are still buying opportunities…it might mean looking at undeveloped land and building your dream. There will always be less for sale on any Gulf Island due to the Trust’s “cap” on growth. A stronger real estate market is also a reason for the low inventory. Lack of product plus strong buyer desire does result in Sellers Market conditions. More info? Call me.

Big Changes Afoot in Real Estate Industry

Very big changes are afoot in the real estate industry as a whole. The first change will be on June 15. At that time, Limited Dual Agency will be deleted from the Real Estate Services Act.

In place since 1995, Limited Dual Agency allowed a real estate agent to act for both seller and buyer, in the same transaction, with the permission of both parties.

Going forward, after June 15, a listing agent cannot also represent a buyer for their own listing. Listing agents will then refer any buyers wanting to view that listing agent’s own listing to another realtor. Teams cannot refer to each other.

There are many more upcoming changes, but the 23,000 plus real estate agents in B.C. need to be retrained via continuing education courses, plus new contractual forms need to be created/printed, and “working with a realtor” information forms changed to reflect the new realities. The first significant change will be the deletion of Limited Dual Agency, on June 15. More info? Call me.

In change lies opportunity, of course.

Change also brings unexpected consequences.

One item I wonder about: many busy realtors do market their listings in print and digital media. In the past, they hoped to encounter a buyer looking for that kind of advertised property. All marketing is a significant expense, and is paid for by the realtor. If a listing realtor cannot deal with a buyer who answers that property ad, will that agent continue to spend dollars on such advertising? Will specialty print magazines and real estate supplements, reliant on listing agents property advertisements, go by the wayside? Hmmm….

Summer is a short season. The natural world flowers forward. Enjoy the calmer moments delivered by these longer days. What did Omar Kayham say? The bird is on the wing? Catch the vibe…it’s summer-summer. Enjoy!

Market Analysis, May 2018, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

May 2018, Salt Spring

It may be that the Islands Trust (created and put in place, in 1974, by the provincial government) will have done more than “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents.

It may be that the Trust will also have preserved a way of life that is disappearing, globally.

The outcome of the technology era, with artificial intelligence, with robotics and virtual, meshed, augmented realities, is rapidly changing our culture.

These technological outcomes make all knowledge, as we understand it right now, outmoded within 18 months. Speed of change continues to ramp up.

It really is like Alice Through the Looking Glass: we have to run very fast just to stay still. It’s interesting that this supposed children’s book, from the early days of the last century, was written by a mathematician. Hmmm…..

All of our cultures, globally, are undergoing massive change. Marshall McLuhan, back in the 1960s/70s, noted that “the medium is the message”.

Meanwhile, there sit the Gulf Islands, firmly anchored in 1974. Hmmm…..

Preserve & Protect?

In severely curtailing growth, through strong zoning/bylaws, since 1974, the Trust maintained the “preserve and protect” mandate. On September 9, 2017, Salt Springers voted 63%, in a referendum, to retain the 1974 form of governance, without change.

Will the Islands rise in value, so that only the very wealthy will be able to afford the properties? Will they be seen as places to recharge, to experience “real reality” in its authentic form? Will they be seen as Shangri-La opportunities…restorative withdrawal niches? Hmmm…

Change is with us. In change lies opportunity.

How do you envision these time tunnels known as the Gulf Islands, in two years? Five years? Ten?

Demographics, globalization, technology impacts, population movements, cultural shifts, economic changes…we are all in a moment of substantial shift, similar to what was unleashed onto the Middle Ages by Gutenberg’s life altering printing press in the 14th Century…similar to the impact on the agrarian world with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th Century. These are big picture shifts. Ways of living vanished and were replaced with new options, in these earlier eras.

Will Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands remain as they are? Hmmmm…..

Meantime, several local groups are meeting and creating information bases, to address the outstanding issues still facing Salt Spring, after the vote to remain “as is”. In October, at the civic election time, two trustees and a CRD director will be elected, for a four year term. Stay tuned.

The Real Estate Market?

And, what about the real estate market as we enter May? Thin inventory below 900,000, plus strong buyer demand in entry level, keeps a strong sales picture in place. Many buyers are from Vancouver and plan to live on Salt Spring. The market, up to a certain price point, could be described as a seller’s market. Perhaps half of the listings currently available, in residential offerings, are above one million Canadian dollars.

Please pop into my office for my weekly “driveby” lists…they show all available listings, regardless of realtor, company, or board affiliation.

The realtor.ca site is geographic and also shows all current listings.

The Southern Gulf Islands are a “gray area”…meaning that 3 boards are represented on them (Vancouver, Victoria, & Vancouver Island). Boards are a portal for a realtor to get their listing onto the geographic MLS.

In a “gray area”, if you go onto a realtor’s private client service, you will only see the listings on that realtor’s board…you would miss, perhaps, 50% of the actual listings. Very important, then, to take the time to view realtor.ca (for full information on “what is”).

So, low inventory, the lowest I’ve seen since 2003, few new listings, price stability, some small price increases as the few new listings do come onstream, and we are just now entering our main grid of activity (May to September)…we may see dramatic price rises by August.

Market Analysis, April 2018, Salt Spring Island

April 2018, Salt Spring

Welcome to my world!

I am lucky to be able to live and to work on Salt Spring Island. I hope you enjoyed this video by a Vancouver based travel writer…who hopes to one day also live on Salt Spring. I thought he caught the essence of this magical place.

April is perhaps the true beginning of our real estate market “season”. Whispers of the year’s tone can appear around March Break, but the main action becomes evident by April.

We entered Spring with a very thin inventory of listings, in both residential and undeveloped land options. A lack of inventory, coupled with renewed buyer desire, does result in price escalation…the economic dynamic of supply and demand.

The “Speculation Tax” in the BC Real Estate Market

There can be interruptions to a market flow…the suggested speculation tax mentioned in the provincial government’s February budget appeared to be about to become such a non-market interruption. However, in late March, the government agreed to exempt the Gulf Islands from this tax. Initially, the capital regional district boundaries had put the speculation (vacancy tax) onto the Southern Gulf Islands, too.

The Islands Trust (the form of governance since 1974, on the Gulf Islands) created a secondary home/recreational/discretionary region.

Lack of affordable housing and work-rental choices are issues everywhere…Salt Spring’s approved affordable housing projects are not able to proceed because of a CRD water moratorium. The CRD needs to address this. More info? Call me.

April is an interesting month…it starts with the cool of March and ends with the largesse of almost-May. Every day is longer, softer temperatures encourage “real Spring” to energize us, and the exterior world welcomes us back.

Inventory

Whether inventory grows again and stabilizes prices or whether inventory remains thin and prices start to rise, Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands remain their serenely beautiful selves…and with some creative thinking, it is always possible to seek ownership. Some ideas? Call me! There is always opportunity.

We live in a time of shift. Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands enjoy proximity to major centres…they are apart but are not isolated.

Artificial Intelligence brings new technological benefits to our lives. The Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island, are time tunnels to previous times. Frozen by the 1974 Islands Trust mandate (“to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents), the islands are all about direct experience of the natural world.

Salt Spring welcomes you to enjoy its parks, hiking/walking trails, farmgate organic produce, farmers markets, winery tastings, cheesemaker farm, art galleries, studio tours, live music venues, theatre experiences, marine discoveries…spas, alternative health opportunities, yoga retreats…great restaurants to tempt the palate…feed the body, the mind, the soul on these tranquil Gulf Islands.

Market Analysis, March 2018, Salt Spring Island

March 2018, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

March…it brings with it “real Spring” (the one marked on the calendar), plus is the beginning of our main grid of sales activity.

Beginning of the Canadian Market Season

March Break to the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) signals our “season” in our secondary home/discretionary/recreational region.

The busiest months are July, August, September, of course, and these months also encompass high tourist season, but holiday weekends in earlier months, and school holidays (March Break), begin the rhythms.

March is beginning with very little inventory for sale. High buyer demand (in the entry level residential segment) continued throughout January/February, in spite of weather hesitations. There may be some few new listings yet to come onstream, but there is much less choice for a buyer.

The definition of a buyer’s market: lots of listings and very few buyers. A seller’s market? Few listings and many buyers. This scenario often leads to higher list and sale prices.

Sellers and listing agents do not set markets. Buyers do that. Strong buyer demand and few purchase choices create rising values. The economic maxim of supply and demand is a real one.

There are always opportunities for a buyer in a seller’s market. If interested in a property, though, one must be prepared to act. Bidding wars are rare on a Gulf Island…but back-up offers do come into play.

How will new tax affect real estate market?

The new coalition provincial government raised the offshore purchase tax to 20%, at their February budget. It still applies to metro-Vancouver, but now will also apply to Victoria, to Nanaimo, and to Kelowna. For Salt Spring, many buyers are from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Will the tax create a hesitation in sales there, as the initial tax did in August, 2016? Those sellers in Vancouver have become many of our Island buyers.

The provincial government is stating that they are bringing in empty home taxes, in an effort to stop speculation…in their words: to stop people treating the housing market as a stock market. They tie this to the affordable housing crunch, which is a feature of all communities, but this also involves the B.C. Tenancy Act (many people choose not to rent their homes).

I write these market updates at the beginning of each month, and do updates via my blog, as the month proceeds. Check out my blog for March 1st. It gives the Vancouver Real Estate Board’s recap of the February Budget. There is some confusion right now, but the offshore purchase tax (at the moment) only applies to Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna.

Changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C.

Changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C. were meant to take place by March 15th. The government wasn’t ready with courses for realtors, or with new contract forms paperwork, for the proposed substantive changes. The date has now been set for June 15th. Until then, it’s business as usual.

2018 seems to be a time of change. For Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, locked into a form of governance from 1974 (Islands Trust), we might appear to be a time tunnel, but these beautiful islands are on the doorstep of major centres (Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle), and being slightly “apart” does not mean isolation.

It is now stated that all knowledge we possess right this minute will be replaced within 18 months. Hmmm…. The creative response of the artist may be needed more than ever.

Meantime, technological shifts are streaking right along, in our post-Internet world: crypto currencies, block chain investing, 3-D printers, robotics, artificial intelligence (will those machines out-think us?), driverless cars, smart homes, smart phones, online lives, meshed reality…. Hmmm….

1974 is beginning to sound pretty good? It still exists on the Gulf Islands…thanks to the Islands Trust. One can always go out to visit and sample the “always on” world and then come back home to your chosen island.

Are you seeking a Salt Spring Island or Gulf Islands property? Call me. Your best interests are my motivation. Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, and negotiation skills.

Salt Spring offers an authentic artists community, a temperate climate that sustains vineyards, olive groves, small holding farming, plus encourages appreciation of the preserved natural beauty. “Discover Yourself Here” is the tag line of the local Chamber…and it’s true.

Market Analysis, February 2018, Salt Spring Island

Year of The Dog

Year of The Dog

February 2018, Salt Spring

February holds early Spring. Longer days, with many sun days between storms, remind us that we are facing forward to the promises of summer.

Real estate patterns in January/February are often a continuation of November/December of the previous year. It may take until later in March to catch the real tone of 2018.

What we can see: a continuing attrition in inventory. Offers are often at full list price. Back-up offers are made, in hopes that a first offer will collapse. Very few new listings are expected to come onstream, and those that do are setting new price levels. Will the summer/fall market achieve sales at these new levels?

Seller’s Market

It has become a seller’s market. Low inventory plus higher buyer demand does evolve into an uptick in prices.

New parameters as to how real estate will be done in B.C. are being worked out…new rules, new contract forms will be law by March 15th. Please call me re these very significant upcoming changes. At the moment, it remains business as usual.

Two different groups have formed after the “no to incorporation” vote on September 9, 2017. None of the many inadequacies facing Salt Spring can be addressed by the current 1974 form of governance.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that the “yes” side did not make it clear that the Trust would always remain (it applies to all Gulf Islands) and that two trustees would still continue to be elected at civic election time.

If the vote were a “YES”

What would have happened with a “yes” vote: appointed planners, many not local, appointed from Victoria, would have been replaced by elected (and thus accountable) local council members. They would have dealt with specifically Salt Spring concerns: water moratorium that prohibits construction of approved affordable housing projects is only one such item. It may not be possible to make changes within the current system. Keep informed.

Year of the Dog

2018 is the Year of the Dog in the interesting Chinese astrological system…which starts with their Lunar New Year this month. Dogs are loyal, but also protective. Hmmm….

It may be that 2018 is also the beginning of the “real 21st Century”. Often, the first 15 to 20 years of a new century have a mix of previous and new societal trends.

Now, with a post-Internet world in place, we are seeing outcomes and acceptance of artificial intelligence, robotics, smart homes, smart appliances, 3-D printers, sharing economies, online consumerism, connectivity between devices, crypto-currencies, accepted knowledge being replaced within 18 months…these are societal altering issues…and McLuhan’s “global village”, described in the 1970s, is with us. Hmmm…

Perhaps the chaos of continual change is what makes Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands so appealing? Perhaps being encased in 1974 is a good idea?

With proximity and ease of travel to major centres, so one is not isolated, coupled with a no-growth governance policy that is imposed on the Islands, date-stamped 1974, this allows for a suggestion of a yesteryear experience?

Salt Spring does offer an authentic artists community. It does offer an experience of the natural world and does encourage small sustainable farming and also alternative health opportunities.

Does this sound a bit like a retro-70s moment? Perhaps Salt Spring needs to run with “what is”…and deliver to visitors that organic feel of how life used to be? Hmmm….

Meantime, always limited inventory (due to the Trust’s mandate, created in 1974, to preserve and protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents), plus renewed buyer desire for Salt Spring, and a lack of available inventory to satisfy that demand…yes, we begin February with a seller’s market. Price escalation may follow.

There is always opportunity, no matter the market trend in play….