Market Analysis

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

Market Analysis, November 2017, Salt Spring Island

November 2017, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island, November, 2017, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island

There’s a total of 170 listed properties (November 2017, Salt Spring) at this moment (counting only residential of all types & undeveloped residentially zoned land of all types…not including commercial or industrial zoned listings).

In a “slow/downturn” market, there can be between 380 to 420 listings (residential and undeveloped lots/acreages).

The listing inventory, since mid-March 2016 to current date, has thinned out. Mid-March 2016 was the very first sign of a small recovery on Salt Spring, after the long 8 year downturn.

It was a very slow sales volume increase, however, between then & now, with several non-market driven “pauses”.

The 15% offshore tax in early August, 2016, for metro-Vancouver, for example, also completely stopped the secondary home regions recovery…those Vancouver sellers had become the buyers on Sunshine Coast, on Vancouver Island, and on Salt Spring Island. On Salt Spring, Aug/Sept/Oct, of 2016, were “lost”.

Then: “real winter” (between Dec 3 & May 15) struck: all over the Coast. Both tourism & real estate viewings on Salt Spring were dramatically slowed.

Almost a 9 month pause, then, between August 2016 & May 2017.

The Summer Market was 6 weeks late…it usually starts in last week of June, & did not kick in until July 15, 2017. There were pauses within the summer season, as well…due to smoke from both Interior & Washington State fires…again, affected the whole Coast, but also caused significant delays in Salt Spring activity.

That 6 weeks later scenario seemed to carry into the Fall Market, too. Perhaps October was really September!

August 2017 may also have seen a hesitation in activity due to the incorporation vote on Sept 9th…several people, on either side of the question, were waiting for the vote outcome. There was a lot of off island media coverage leading up to the vote. It may have caused a bit of a “digestion” pause throughout September. Difficult to track these kinds of hesitations.

All these fits and starts sales rhythms aside, the main sales on Salt Spring Island remain below 850,000.

November 2017, Salt Spring

To date, the sales are as follows, from January 1, 2017 to October 31, 2017:

  • 21 sales between 95,000 & 199,500.
  • 25 sales between 200,000 & 299,000.
  • 31 sales between 305,000 & 396,000.
  • 43 sales between 400,000 & 489,000.
  • 30 sales between 500,000 & 599,000.
  • 20 sales between 605,000 & 690,000.
  • 16 sales between 700,000 & 795,000.
  • 12 sales between 800,000 & 899,000.
  • 6 sales between 900,000 & 950,000.
  • 25 sales between Private Island Estate.
  • 4 sales between 2.2 and 2.5.

The sales between one & two million were either waterfronts (both ocean & lake) houses, or very large farms (20 to 104 acres), or large ocean view acreages/houses. The majority of them were waterfronts.

The sales over two million were waterfronts (3 ocean & one lake), with houses.

These sale price ranges in November 2017, Salt Spring, do not include price reductions…they are the completed sale price points. In some cases, in the over a million category, there were substantial reductions at the point of a sale.

What is the main buyer profile around Salt Spring Island?

The main buyer profile is still out of Vancouver/Lower Mainland. Alberta & U.S. (used to be 50% of our buyers) are still not in evidence. A smattering appear from Ontario, U.K., Europe…but they do not always focus on Salt Spring as a final destination choice. Most Vancouver buyers are seeking to buy down, if they have achieved a good sale price at their end.

It takes time to sell any property in all the secondary home markets, and this is true of Salt Spring, too. The first step is to choose “for” the Island…and then to choose for a property. It usually takes 2 visits (often 3), before a buyer acts on a specific property.

A showings pattern is about the buyer…not about sellers, or properties, or realtors. It just takes the time it takes. Time is a very significant element in every secondary home market transaction.

Properties still remain on the market here for lengthy timeframes, before capturing a sale. Price can sometimes be an allure factor…though not always.

So…here we are…in the closing weeks of a calendar year. Low inventory in all property types and prices. Sellers often achieving list price or close to it. Back up offers in place, if not small bidding wars. A sense that 2018 will see the beginning of serious price escalation, based on that thin inventory/buyer demand scenario.

Hmmm…it does appear that in November 2017, Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands have returned to the buoyant times between 2002 and 2005. A nine year downturn now being followed by a nine year uptick? Stay tuned.

Market Analysis, October 2017, Salt Spring Island

October, 2017

October is often seen as the divide between early Fall (with echoes of September charms) and late Fall (another word for early Winter, on the Pacific Northwest Coast).

On Salt Spring, the harvest season is with us: Apple Fest, Canadian Thanksgiving, Sip and Savour, Tuesday Farmers Market, Saturday Market-in-the-Park…plus the rediscovery of the softer season on this delectable Island.

Sunday afternoon sailing races, hiking/walking trails (Ruckle Park, Mt Maxwell, Mt Erskine, Burgoyne Bay Park, Channel Ridge trails), studio tours, craft fairs…these are all a part of the Fall Season on special Salt Spring Island.

Real estate discoveries and sales are a strong feature…the Fall Market can be one of the busiest of the year.

As we arrive at the beginning of October, we are noting a thin inventory of properties for sale, no matter the type or price point.

This does not mean the listings will all rush towards a buyer.

Secondary Home Markets

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are secondary home markets. This means they are “by choice”/discretionary regions. No one “has to” move to Salt Spring Island…or any Gulf Island.

The first visit from the mainly non-local buyer is always about the island itself…that first visit is about deciding if Salt Spring itself offers the buyer’s desired lifestyle option. If it does…then there will be a second visit to seriously look at available listings.

Often, it takes three visits before there is an offer. In a secondary home area, it simply takes the time it takes, to achieve a sale moment. Days on Market is not a relevant thing in any discretionary marketplace.

Buyers set prices and markets…not sellers or realtors.

If a buyer is not interested in achieving a property in a secondary home market, then it’s a flat sales picture.

The economic downturn (October 2008 to mid-March 2016, in our region) saw serious price reductions, few sales, and a slow recovery.

Interruptions by government (an offshore purchase tax in metro-Vancouver (where our main buyers were from) in August, 2016) and weather vagaries (a once-every-20-years La Niña “real winter”, that lasted from Dec 3, 2016 to May 15, 2017) conspired to hold up the general market recovery…there was a nine month pause in activity.

The Summer market was about six weeks late in arriving…took till July 15/16 to kick in. So…here we are…rushing into the shorter Fall Season.

In spite of hesitations, the inventory is historically small. Buyers are around. Yes, they are looking in many coastal communities…Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands have competition now, in decisions. Yes, one does have to sell the island first, before any buyer will look at listings. It remains the 2-step dance it’s always been: first, “decide for” the particular Island. Then: choose the property.

All that said, the combination of low inventory and price stabilization forecasts a market uptick in pricings. This may be with us by the early Spring 2018 market.

Add that to the Islands Trust cap on growth (the outcome of those 1974 bylaws/zoning restrictions), and the temperate “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate that encourages small holdings farming, plus the sense of safety and “apartness”, yet proximity to major centres…and one can see why there is an allure to the Salt Spring Island lifestyle.

More information? Call me. There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trends. A seller? It’s your moment. Still takes patience, though, while the buyer “considers”.

Market Analysis, September 2017, Salt Spring Island

September, 2017

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

September on the Pacific Northwest Coast is often one of the most beautiful months. A lingering summer mixes with shorter days and a back-to-school rhythm. (I wonder how many of us still think of this month as the start of a “new year”?).

In real estate, for a market overview, I always designate a year as the month I’m in and then look back to the same month of the previous year. So…September 2016 to September 2017 is the “year” right now.

After an eight year downturn, due to the global economic collapses in 2008, Salt Spring’s secondary home market finally saw an up-trend begin in mid-March, 2016.

Most of these sudden buyers were from Vancouver, and had sold their properties there to mainly off-shore buyers. Between mid-March and end of July, a sales volume rise occurred…and prices began to stabilize.

Then: at beginning of August, 2016, the then provincial government brought in a 15% tax for off-shore buyers, for metro-Vancouver. This immediately cooled Vancouver’s market and also stopped Salt Spring’s recovery…the Vancouver sellers had become the buyers in the secondary home coastal markets.

Traditionally, August, September, October are busy sales months on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands. In 2016, there was a pause in activity, due to the outcome of that Vancouver property purchase tax. The Gulf Islands did not see that usual busier Fall.

Then: the once-every-twenty-years La Niña “real winter” arrived, and between December 3 and May 15, the unseasonably cool weather kept property seekers and tourists away. This cold weather pattern affected the entire Pacific Northwest Coast.

The Spring Market did not take place in 2017, due to the weather pattern. It seems that this year’s rhythm has been six weeks late (both in nature and in real estate action). The summer market did not start up until mid-July, and did not really hit its stride until early August.

Although most sales remain residential and below 700,000 (most really below 600,000), prices have firmed up and inventory has thinned out. Sellers are often achieving their list price and back-up offers are becoming a feature.

Some few new listings have come on at higher price points, perhaps testing the market. Both undeveloped land sales and higher end residential offerings are also now slowly finding their buyers.

It may be, then, that the early spring market in 2018 will see a continued and stronger recovery in the coastal secondary home marketplaces. Meantime: the usual steady sales pattern of late summer/fall, on Salt Spring, is currently underway.

This monthly market report is written at the beginning of a month…updates as the month proceeds are found in my weekly blogs. At the end of August, then, sales on Salt Spring were:

  • 1 at 95,000
  • 19 between 112,500 & 199,500
  • 20 between 200,000 & 299,000
  • 24 between 305,000 & 396,000
  • 36 between 400,000 & 489,000
  • 28 between 500,000 & 599,000
  • 13 between 605,000 & 690,000
  • 12 between 700,000 & 770,000
  • 10 between 800,000 & 899,000
  • 2 between 900,000 & 945,250
  • 21 between 1,000,000 & 1,900,000
  • 4 between 2,200,000 & 2,500,000

Most buyers remain from Vancouver. A few Ontario buyers are also beginning to reappear. Our traditional Alberta and U.S. buyers are still not in evidence.

September also brings with it the referendum for Salt Springers to decide if the Island will become a Gulf Islands municipality (the Trust remains, with two elected trustees, and others would be elected to act as a mayor and council) or whether to remain “as is” (planners appointed from Victoria). Several years ago, Bowen Island chose this specialized type of Gulf Islands municipal structure.

September further brings with it the first legislature sitting of the new coalition provincial government. Both these parties suggested, in the last election, that the offshore property purchase tax should be brought in throughout B.C.

Hmmmm…outcomes in September, thus.

September is the harvest month…farmers markets and farmgate stands offer the largesse of the season. Fall Fair is a part of Salt Spring’s September pleasures. A reconfigured Sip & Savour will be enjoyed.

Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands have benefitted from a renewed visitor discovery. Travel writers, foodie publications, and adventure maps are showcasing this delectable part of the Coast.

With a temperate micro-climate, an interesting and interested population, with an authentic artists community, and an inspiring natural world (and in the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world), Salt Spring enjoys a year round lifestyle. Close to major centres, with easy access, and yet wonderfully apart, the Island welcomes you.

Market Analysis, August 2017, Salt Spring Island

Market Analysis, August 2017, Salt Spring Island

We are…at the mid-point of our summer season.

An interesting picture of our market, in past several months…up & down, down & up. Lots of pauses en route to steadier outcomes. A definite sales volume increase.

On March 16, 2016, we experienced the beginning of a market recovery, after the almost eight year economic downturn. It was propelled by those people who had sold in Vancouver’s “hot market”.

Between mid-March 2016 and end of June 2016, we saw steady sales, mainly in entry level residential options. At the beginning of the recovery, sellers reduced to meet buyer expectation. Slowly, sales began to favour the seller, and that large spread between list and sale pricings narrowed dramatically.

By the end of July, 2016, along with this subtle beginning of a seller’s market, we began to see a developing interest in higher priced residential opportunities. Waterfront estate properties began to receive offers, in June and July.

Then: the provincial government brought in the 15% offshore tax in metro-Vancouver, in early August 2016, to cool Vancouver’s “hot” real estate market.

The tax did immediately crash Vancouver’s market.

It also stopped the secondary home market recovery…including on Salt Spring. We lost August/September/most of October in 2016. These months are usually very active in real estate sales on Salt Spring.

Then, on December 3rd, “real winter” set in all over the coast…including on Salt Spring. This once every 20 years La Niña weather pattern lasted until May 15, 2017. (Between October 1 and April 30, records going back 122 years, for cool temperatures and significant precipitation, were broken, on the entire Pacific Northwest Coast. For first time in my career, I would say that weather affected winter’s real estate outcomes).

Vancouver tax…plus long and unusual winter…no Spring market in 2017…it added up to almost eight months of “pause”. It appears that July 6/7 began the “season”, for this 2017 year. Short and intense outcomes perhaps?

In spite of the long pauses and haphazard connections, a steady attrition in listings had continued between 2016 and 2017.

The signs of an improving market: low inventory, higher buyer demand, the beginning of sales of undeveloped land.

The result of low supply and high buyer interest can be significant price increases. It may be that we will see such increases by Spring 2018.

At the moment, as we enter our main grid of action (mid-July to mid-October), we are seeing some small bidding wars, for unique properties, plus full-price offers, plus back-up offer situations. Sales of raw land lots/acreages are well underway.

Sellers are now in control of the improving trend, in the transaction moment. Buyers need to make their highest and best offer when considering a purchase. An improving trend means less latitude for a buyer to negotiate. More information? Call me.

Salt Spring in the Summer is a very pleasing experience. The Saturday Market in the Park, the Tuesday Farmers Market, the artistic offerings at ArtCraft in Mahon Hall, the events and gallery displays at ArtSpring, studio tours throughout the Island (pick up the map at the Visitor’s Centre), the Ganges Village galleries, the farm stands with organic produce, the hiking/walking trails to encourage the experience of the natural world, the kayaking and sailing opportunities in this part of the Salish Sea…the vineyard tastings, cidery, craft brewery, cheese-makers…superb restaurants creating great menus with local fare…ocean and lake delights…it’s called summer-summer, and is there to enjoy!

Market Analysis, July 2017, Salt Spring Island

July 2017

July begins our main season…both for tourism/visitor experiences and for real estate discoveries and sales.

In a way, Salt Spring Island is seasonless. People turn up at any time, and real estate sales occur in December and January as well as in August and September.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island


The Pacific Northwest Coast, though, does seem to call forth most activity and arrivals in the late summer/early fall time. Although gardens spill over into spring beauty in April/May/early June, the arrivals time for serious property seekers has evolved into that mid-July to end of October timeline.

Since mid-March, 2016, and even with interruptions from city off-shore tax ramifications and results of “real winter” (added up to 7 months of “pause”), we began to recover from that 8 year global economic downturn…and we have now arrived at an authentic seller’s market.

The classic definition of a seller’s market: low inventory plus high buyer demand. The outcome of a seller’s market: price increases.

That said, there are always opportunities for a buyer.

To own property on a Gulf Island, including on Salt Spring Island, is a long-term and enviable asset.

In 1974, the provincial government created the Islands Trust. It’s mandate: to preserve & protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. Through strict zoning/bylaws, the Trust effectively capped growth.

A limited inventory, both structurally and by market forces, does predict an escalation of prices, over time.

These early days of recovery in the real estate sector have seen most of the sales activity in the entry level priced properties. It may be that this action will now start to be seen in the mid-range to the upper tier priced options. What is also interesting, at this point: undeveloped land options have also seen sales action. A market recovery does always begin with sales in the entry level residential segment. As inventory thins, land options and a building project are considered.

July and August are key months for all businesses in our rural/recreational region…tourism is the main industry in the Gulf Islands. A successful visitor experience can result in a real estate sale.

Looking to sell? This may be an optimum time to consider listing your property. Low inventory coupled with buyer demand does favour a seller. Prices have stabilized. In many cases, properties are selling at list prices. In a few instances, if a property is unique and there are no comparables, there are small bidding wars. There are often back-up offers, due to lack of supply. That said, the buyers are, in the main, not “local”. They are looking in other coastal communities, too. Salt Spring has competition as a destination for a buyer. All sellers need to treat offers with respect. The Gulf Islands are discretionary/”by choice” areas.

Seeking to buy? A creative approach can often keep a property purchase at budget. It’s important, though, in an offer moment, that one puts in one’s “highest & best” offer response. A seller’s market means that the negotiating window that buyers enjoyed, two years ago, has been erased. There is competition from other buyers now. More information, on how to enjoy a successful property purchase, as a buyer? Call me!

There is always opportunity, regardless of a market trend in play at any specific time.

Market Analysis, June 2017, Salt Spring Island

Restaurant For Salt, Salt Spring Island

June 2017

The interest in all secondary home/recreational markets continues…on Vancouver Island, on the Sunshine Coast, and on the Gulf Islands.

Salt Spring Island remains a sought-after destination…it is a “stand alone” community, with a year-round lifestyle opportunity, and is very attractive to those seeking more than just a “summer place”.

Salt Spring offers a hospital and good related health segment. There are three elementary schools, a middle and a senior school. There is an indoor pool, an arts centre (ArtSpring), a modern Library/Resource Centre, and myriad park hiking/walking trails to explore. In the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world, Salt Spring Island is beautifully sited in the Salish Sea.

Salt Spring Island, Skywater

Salt Spring Island, Skywater

B.C. residents) effectively capped growth on all the Gulf Islands. This control of growth, via strict zoning/density bylaws, has preserved a lovely yesteryear ambiance…yet all that is required for an optimum 21st Century lifestyle is immediately at hand, on Salt Spring Island.

With a micro-climate that supports vineyards, olive grove, orchards, small farm holdings, it is possible to enjoy a self-sufficient living choice.

The real estate market, though experiencing a fits and starts rhythm (offshore tax in Vancouver plus a once every twenty years burst of “real winter” caused significant pauses, approximately six months in total) in 2016…yet now, in retrospect, that 2016 year is showing itself as the sales volume increase year.

So far, in 2017, it continues to be about lack of inventory, continuing high buyer demand, and subsequent price stabilization…it may be that price increases will be a feature of the final 2017 market report.

A buyer’s market simply means lots of inventory and few buyers…prices remain suppressed. A seller’s market means little inventory, lots of buyers seeking property, and resulting buoyant pricings. It is always about supply and demand in a market driven industry.

June is an interesting month. A divide between winter-spring and summer-fall markets. Often quiet in the first three weeks, the serious “season” begins in that final week. July/August/September remain very active in sales, in all the secondary home/discretionary markets.

To date, from January 1 to close of May, the sales on Salt Spring are:

  • 10 between 159,000 and 199,500.
  • 12 between 200,000 and 299,000.
  • 18 between 305,000 and 396,000.
  • 22 between 400,000 and 487,000.
  • 17 between 500,000 and 599,000.
  • 9 between 625,000 and 690,000.
  • 5 between 710,000 and 769,000.
  • 8 between 800,000 and 899,000.
  • 2 between 900,000 and 945,250.
  • 7 between 1,075,000 and 1,750,000.
  • 3 between 2,200,000 and 2,500,000.

The listing inventory (residential/lots-acreages/commercial) remains very “thin”. Although prices have not yet gone up, they have stabilized…in many cases, properties are selling at full list price. Back-up offers are in play and a very few have been in mini-bidding war territory.

The last half of the year will showcase the rhythm of sales for 2017. Am not sure when we went to a late summer/fall market for actual sales, but that is the current tone. People may view earlier…but they often act later. Hmmmm….