Market Analysis

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

January 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Happy New Year!

Looking Ahead

January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god. Janus had two faces: one looking back and one looking forward.  

2020 may be the beginning of the “real” 21st Century, and change may be its signature. Artificial intelligence may be key. As we step into the beginning of this first month in a New Year, it might be best to focus on Janus’ forward seeking face.  

Real estate in B.C. continues to see significant changes in the industry itself. Real estate outcomes in major centres (Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna) continue to be impacted by provincial government suppression measures. Salt Spring’s main buyer profile continues to be someone who has sold in Vancouver and who is seeking a new lifestyle.  

Buyers Create Markets

As we enter January, on Salt Spring we note continuing thin inventory available for a buyer’s choice. If renewed buyer action continues to increase and the inventory continues to remain low, we may see price escalation by mid-2020. Supply and demand, our old economic friends, do predict price outcomes. Sellers and realtors do not create markets…buyers do that.

In January, it’s a good idea to attend financial seminars, to listen to those who make financial projections, to pay attention to geopolitical events (we are all part of a bigger picture), and then to bring our own thoughts to the table. The idea of New Year’s resolutions is really about creating a lifestyle plan. Early January is the time to be thoughtful.  

Discovery always comes in from the edges

In change lies opportunity. To see it, perhaps take time to practice periphery vision. If we just head down the prepared (by the media, by those with an agenda) channels, then we are using tunnel vision. Goes nowhere. Brings agitation. Discovery always comes in from the edges, our periphery envelope. Maybe that’s Janus’ forward-facing message? Be open? Seek future solutions? Hmmm…..

Meantime, if you are seeking a real estate outcome, whether selling or buying, on special Salt Spring Island, please call me. Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, experience…your best interests are always my motivation.

December 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

The winter season on Salt Spring Island changes from year to year…sometimes there are brief snowfalls (snow is rare and islanders love to take photos, capturing the beauty of this unexpected short reminder of the rest of Canada’s winter life).

Southern Gulf Islands Climate

Usually, though, winter on the Southern Gulf Islands is more like a long late Fall…or a prolonged early Spring…depending on one’s point of view. The micro-climate found on the Gulf Islands, known as “cool Mediterranean”, does offer a gentler winter season experience.

Real estate showings continue in this softer season, as potential buyers want to “see things at their worst”…on the theory that everything looks great in the summer…so best to check out winter.

Salt Spring offers a year-round lifestyle. There is always something happening and it’s always a good time to visit. More info? Call me!

Sales often take place in the last two months of a calendar year and into the first weeks of the new year. Possibly buyers came earlier, viewed, then went off to view options on nearby Vancouver Island…buyers like to “be sure” about their destination choice, and so it seems that an interviewing of places is now a part of that introductory search.

For some substantial time, the main buyer profile for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, and the Interior communities has been from Vancouver.

In past years, the Gulf Islands had seen many buyers from Alberta and the U.S. These former buyers have been replaced by Vancouver/Lower Mainland potentials.

The provincial government tax suppression measures (late 2017 to late 2019), to cool real estate activity in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, were successful. Salt Spring action is now tied to Vancouver outcomes.

Racing to the Bottom?

The sluggish sales during these past several months may explain the several and specific price reductions from one local Salt Spring company…an effort to push action. It did not result in a big increase in sales, but did create further reductions from other local companies, in an effort to remain competitive. It may also have affected serious buyers in their offer amount decisions. It is possible, in a small area, to create a mini-market via pricing.

Unintended Consequences of Measures?

Have the government tax measures to suppress action in the city markets, ostensibly to create affordable housing, really just erased an owners equity? Will that affect an owners retirement income? Hmmm…there’s that “unintended consequences” issue again. Supply and demand create the affordability outcomes…has the government encouraged new construction of rental accommodations?

In August, for whatever reason (and perhaps global issues / geopolitics were involved), the Vancouver market began to experience an uptick in action, in spite of the provincial government tax interventions. Both September and October saw substantial increases in sales volume, in Vancouver. Sellers there began to reappear in the rural coastal regions, including on Salt Spring. Most sales remain (for the moment) in the entry level residential segment, in both the primary and secondary home marketplaces.

Contact Directly for Best Information

The Southern Gulf Islands are overlapped by three different real estate boards: Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island boards are represented. A board is the portal for a realtor to input a listing onto the geographic MLS. In a “grey area” (which describes the overlapping on the Southern Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring), a realtor’s private client service will only show listings on that realtor’s board…the information is a drip feed from that board. Only partial information is available on a realtor’s private client service.

To see all available listings, a consumer needs to view (the geographic MLS site).

My driveby lists & “solds to date” information will also show all listings, regardless of realtor, company, or board affiliation. It’s important to me that the consumer sees everything, in order to be able to make that all-important informed decision. More info? Call me.

Inventory remains very thin…as soon as one specifies a type of property and a price range, one can see how low the current inventory of listings really is. Will this lead to price increases in 2020? An unknown. Perhaps it’s best to remain in the “now”, re purchase or sale decisions.

The Islands Trust, Salt Spring

The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, is the form of governance on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands. Growth is controlled by severe zoning/bylaws restrictions. Does this control of growth lead to higher property prices over time? Perhaps. The Canadian Gulf Islands are the jewels of the Pacific Coast. Over time, they may end by being places one will have to be able to afford. Low inventory (both market driven and Islands Trust no-growth policies) combined with strong buyer desire are usually a guarantee of price escalation, over time.

In June, 2018, changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C. came into being. Change is continuing in the industry. Questions? Just ask. The important bottom line: protection of the consumer.

Along with changes to the Act, the emergence of other purveyors of real estate information and the escalation of technology to disseminate information are both impacting the way real estate has previously been done. Stay tuned!

Seasonless Adventure Here on Salt Spring

December brings a season full of light and joy, and Salt Spring offers craft fairs, gallery openings, theatre, seasonal choral events, studios open, special menus in our great restaurants, plus local shopping delights. It is a time of traditions being celebrated and an inclusive spirit that welcomes others to enjoy with us. The leaves are off the trees, which visually opens up the hiking/walking trails…get out and about and rediscover the minimalist pleasures of this winter face. Salt Spring really is a seasonless adventure.

November 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

November is a hiatus between late October’s palette of brilliant reds and golds…leaves holding late Fall’s signature…and then the sudden bare branches…a signal of almost-Winter. Shorter days, a mix of cool sun and rain spattered windstorms. November is a grab bag of weather rhythms.

Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island

It remains a time when potential buyers still turn up to view properties…some saying that they want to see things at their worst…anything looks good in July. Not a bad idea. It does become a mainly weekend business, though, at these closing weeks of the year.

Inventory & Taxation Measures

Thin inventory remains a feature of Salt Spring’s listings. As soon as a buyer specifies price and property type, it’s clear that there is not a lot of choice.

The current provincial government set out, upon election (late 2017), to suppress the buoyant real estate market in Vancouver (and then in Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna). Various severe taxation measures were brought in…including a 20% offshore purchase tax…and a speculation (vacancy) tax. Their idea was that this suppressing of a market would make homes more affordable in the four affected areas and would also open up more rentals.

Between late 2017 and late 2019, a pause in sales developed…due to these government measures. The secondary home marketplaces also paused. Vancouver sellers had become the buyers in rural areas, including on Salt Spring.

Brief Recovery Period

The very brief recovery in the secondary home regions in 2016 (five months only on Salt Spring), after the nine year downturn caused by the global economic meltdowns, had been driven totally by sales in Vancouver. Those city sellers had fanned out over the coastal communities and into the Okanagan…their brisk buying was the reason for the uptick in all secondary home regions, between late 2015 and late 2016. Then: government tax interventions totally stopped the real estate recovery.


Recently, (August/September), after a two year decimated real estate market because of the government’s taxation measures, Vancouver began to show a slow improving sales trend. Salt Spring usually sees a corresponding uptick in activity within 3 to 4 months of a Vancouver outcome.

There may be many reasons for Vancouver’s improving trend, including geopolitical issues, but, for some substantial time, Vancouver sellers have been the majority of buyers in all the coastal secondary home markets.

Reflecting the government suppression pauses, some local companies engaged in severe price reductions in 2019, on all their listings…trying to create a market. Few sales followed. The pause in action may not have been a price issue. If a buyer (for whatever reason) is reluctant to act…then nothing happens. A buyer activity always creates and sustains a market…this side of the transaction equation is beyond the control of a seller or a realtor.

Renewed Interest in Buying

Now, very very recently, Salt Spring is seeing a renewed interest in actual buying…as opposed to only viewing. It may be that the remaining two months of this year will experience stronger sales. Most activity remains in entry level residential options.

At the very beginning of November, there are

  • 111 residential listings, not separating out townhomes, single family, or waterfront. They range between 279,000 and 6 + million. 56 of these listings are below 998,000.

  • There are 88 land listings (not separating out lots, acreages, or waterfronts. Prices range from 148,800 to 2,495,000.

  • There have been 128 sales to date. They range from 125,000 to 2,300,000. And 99 of these sales are below 950,000.

The inventory is exceptionally low…which usually foretells a coming market uptick. With government tax suppression measures firmly in place, however, this may not allow natural market forces to play out.

November on Salt Spring sees craft fairs, harvest menus in our great restaurants, gallery openings/receptions, the Ag Alliance birthday bash dinner event, the Chamber’s Salty Awards (business & community recognitions). It’s a great time to re-encounter the hiking/walking trails network. The sailing races now take place on a Sunday afternoon (crew are always welcomed!). November is a good time to follow Nature’s pattern…a little withdrawing to nurture next steps can be a positive idea.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands remain good investments. The Islands Trust, a provincial government body, in place since 1974, restricted growth through severe zoning/bylaws…the idea was to “preserve & protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. Over time, escalation in value becomes a feature of protected regions.

October 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Fulford Harbor, Salt Spring Island, BC

October begins…real Fall is with us.

On Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, real estate sales continue throughout this last quarter of the year.

Salt Spring is “seasonless” for real estate…many transactions often take place between early October and year end. Perhaps buyers viewed earlier, but they act in the Fall.

Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands became strong Fall sales windows several years ago.

At the beginning of October, then, we have 117 residential listings (not separating out townhomes, waterfronts, farms…simply a residential category).

Market Statistics

  • 62 are listed between 239,000 (a Brinkworthy Park mobile) and 998,000 (a renovated tidal waterfront cottage-home).
  • 42 of these are listed between 1,020,000 (an updated character home on 10 acres) and 1,999,900 (a cottage on 30 acres on Blackburn Lake).
  • 9 residential listings are between 2,150,000 (architect designed waterfront) and 2,999,900 (two adjacent waterfront
  • lots, architect designed home).
  • 2 of the listings are 3,499,000 (for a view home with cottage on 4.95 acres) and 3,895,000 (waterfront home with studio).
  • 1 listing is an 84 acre farm, potential subdivision possibility, asking 6,688,900.

At the beginning of October there are 90 land listings (lots or acreages…not separating out waterfront or farms)actively on the market.

  • 28 of these are listed between 148,800 and 299,000.
  • 25 parcels are listed between 309,000 and 499,000.
  • 30 properties are listed between 519,000 and 995,000.
  • 5 parcels are listed between 1,020,000 and 1,395,000.
  • 2 are over 2 million asking (2,150,000 and 2,495,000…both are very large waterfront acreages).

At the beginning of October, the solds to date number 125:

  • 35 were selling between 125,000 and 494,000.
  • 18 sales were between 515,000 and 589,000.
  • 15 sales were between 601,000 and 699,000.
  • 13 sales between 712,000 and 794,000.
  • 10 sales took place between 800,000 and 894,000.
  • 7 sales took place between 900,000 and 950,000.
  • 26 sales between 1,000,000 and 1,837,500.

Of these

  • 13 were waterfronts.
  • 8 of these were very large acreages/farms.
  • 17 of the 26 sales over a million sold below 1.275.
  • 3 of the 26 sales over a million sold between 1.375 and 1.438.
  • 6 sold between 1.6 and 1.837,000.

There was 1 sale over 2 million (a waterfront point that reduced from 3.1 to 2.6, and sold for 2.3 (in late September).

Chasing Down the Market. Helpful?

We have two natural annual pause periods in our secondary home/discretionary market. One is late May/early June. The second is late August. A local real estate company severely reduced prices on almost all their company listings, in early June. Other companies did not follow suit. The same company further severely reduced their company listings in late August…and another company did follow suit. The same company brought in further reductions in mid-September. It appears that only two such reduced listings have sold (in September).

The listing inventory remains very thin. Generally, Salt Spring might see between 380 and 420 residential listings available (residential and land). As we begin October, we have a total of 207 listings for a buyer to consider. As soon as a buyer criteria includes price and type, the scarcity of listings is very apparent.

Taxation & Policy Measures

It is clear that the various taxation measures from the provincial government, in 2018/2019, to suppress real estate markets in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, have worked.

The Vancouver market had been the main propeller of a sales recovery in the Gulf Islands (between early 2016 & early 2018)…it was the same in all the secondary home markets. The further faltering in Vancouver, because of provincial government tax interventions, directly affected sales on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands. More information? Call me.

Patience is Key

Patience on the part of a seller is always necessary in all secondary home markets. The buyer has to first choose “for” a specific location before deciding on a property. Time lags are a part of this view/think/choose/buy scenario. When government measures intrude, time delays can further escalate.

So…going forward? In spite of the provincial government’s suppression measures, there seems to be a resurgence in Vancouver sales activity. Geopolitics create larger markets and no area is immune to events in Asia, Europe, Americas. Coastal B.C. and the city of Vancouver offer a pleasing destination. A Vancouver seller remains the principal buyer in the secondary home areas.

Meantime: October brings lovely crisp days, mingled with rainy weather patterns. It’s a Harvest season on special Salt Spring. The Saturday Market and the Tuesday Market are still occurring. The Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-month, special harvest menus at our great restaurants, farm-gate stands are open, the annual Sip & Savour takes place (showcasing local fare), and music and theatre presentations are underway (ArtSpring, Folk Club). SSNAP (Salt Spring National Art Prize) continues (Mahon Hall). Wine tastings, cideries, craft brewery…live music venues in Ganges…and hiking/walking trails beckon. Enjoy!

Seeking a property on special Salt Spring? Benefit from my knowledge and expertise. How may I help you to discover and to buy your Gulf Island property gem? Call me.

September 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Farmers Market, Salt Spring

September arrives with a sense of renewed purpose.

Although the calendar says Summer carries on until September 20-21, everyone accepts that Labour Day and “back to school” signal a new season.

On the great Pacific Northwest Coast, the days are slowly shortening…another seasonal sign.

September & October Can See a Strong Real Estate Picture

As we begin this new month, it’s good to remember that September and October can see a strong real estate sales picture. Perhaps potential buyers viewed earlier and perhaps they are just arriving now, but these two months can be very active.

Inventory, as soon as one fills in desired price point and property category, remains “thin”. Many owners do not want to be sellers. If one “has to” sell, for whatever reason, that may bring a few new listings onstream, but generally there is a small choice in properties right now for a prospective buyer.

The Buyer Profile

The main buyer profile is still someone from Vancouver/Lower Mainland…when they sell in the city, they become the buyers in the secondary home markets…and this includes on Salt Spring Island.

The main competing area to Salt Spring right now might be the Cowichan Valley. Sellers need to remember that Vancouver Island is also being looked at by that Lower Mainland potential buyer. This interviewing of destinations takes time, and is the main reason for time lags between viewing a property and deciding to offer on it.

Late Market Momentum

This 2019 year has been a shorter “season” than usual…the “once every fifty years” windstorm damage (end of December) is still being addressed in many areas…the unusual snow storms that refused to melt (February/March) added to the “pause”. The first three months of the year were effectively erased, and one could say that the Spring Market did not really get going until around April 5th.

The usual pause between end of May and beginning of June (a traditional hiatus between seasons) saw one local company dramatically reducing prices on all their company listings. These reductions did not lead to resulting strong sales.

The summer market is often a little haphazard…viewings but not always actions. The short pause towards end of August, as people with children return to home locations to organize “back to school”, saw the same company bring in another round of very dramatic reductions on all their company listings. It will be interesting to see if sales follow.

I do this market report at the beginning of a month and offer updates via my blog.

Geopolitics & Our New Media

Geopolitics (Hong Kong unrest, tariff wars), plus elections/media reporting, and continuing provincial government measures to suppress real estate values in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna…all these elements do affect buyer decisions re the timing of a purchase. Hmmm….

Price reductions may not be germane until the mainly non-local buyer physically turns up on Island…at that point, price spreads will matter.

At this beginning of September moment,

  • There are 134 residential listings (not separating out townhomes or waterfronts). 34 of these are below one million.
  • There are 96 land options (not separating out lots, acreages, or waterfronts).
  • There are 14 commercial listings (not separating out business only from land and business).

As soon as one puts in a parameter (type of property and price point) the choices quickly shrink.

  • There have been 105 sales to date (between 130,000 and 1,837,500). 39 of these sales are below one million.

September offers summer days, the Saturday Market and the Tuesday Farmers Market both continue, the annual Fall Fair is not to be missed…plus farm to plate dinners, Harvest delights at farmgate stands, gallery openings/receptions, wine tastings, cider tastings, craft brewery discovery. Hiking/walking trails beckon and kayaking/sailing invite. The month begins in Summer mode and closes with authentic Fall.

Salt Spring in September/October is a delight. Discover for yourself.

August 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island

For many years now, Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands have seen strong sales between August and year end.

The Gulf Islands became predominantly summer/fall markets several years ago.

Some sellers don’t list their properties until August, as they want unencumbered enjoyment of their properties, for one last summer season.

The Evolution of the Salt Spring Island “Buyer”

Some buyers, who might have viewed a Gulf Islands property in the Spring season, might now be willing to act with an offer…there might be a little psychology at play, along the lines of: “seller may be noting that we are nearing the close of a seasonal marketplace, and so may be willing to accept a lower offer”. This could be so…although an outcome might also depend on motivation of a seller to sell.

At the beginning of August, then, we find a very thin inventory of listings continuing, and yet actual sales still take time to fill in.

Buyers who come to view Salt Spring or another Gulf Island or even a Vancouver Island community, seem to be interviewing areas. The main buyer profile remains someone from Vancouver/Lower Mainland. They plan to live where they choose to buy.

It does make sense then that these buyers will take time to check out the merits of various locale possibilities…why here? Why not there? Often, that “being sure” means two or even three trips to a region, “checking it out”, before deciding to make an offer on a specific property.

Patience is important on the part of a seller. It just seems to take the time it takes to accomplish a sale in any secondary home/discretionary area.

The first decision is always: “I choose for Salt Spring”. Then a potential buyer will be serious about purchasing a property. Before that decision about choosing “for” the Island, as the destination, viewings occur without resulting offers.

Sales & Inventory Analysis

At the beginning of August, there are 135 residential listings (not separating out townhomes, single family homes, waterfronts). Of these, 69 are below one million; the majority are below 900,000. Over half the residential listings are priced over one million. Of these, 49 are listed between 1,020,000 and 1,999,900. Eleven are listed between 2,150,000 and 2,900,000. Four are listed between 3,200,000 and 3,895,000.

At the beginning of August, there are 135 residential listings (not separating out townhomes, single family homes, waterfronts). Of these,

  • 69 are below one million;
  • the majority are below 900,000.
  • Over half the residential listings are priced over one million.
  • Of these, 49 are listed between 1,020,000 and 1,999,900.
  • Eleven are listed between 2,150,000 and 2,900,000.
  • Four are listed between 3,200,000 and 3,895,000.

At the start of August, there are 97 lots/acreages for sale (again, not separating out waterfronts), ranging from 148,800 to 2,495,000.

At the start of August, there are

  • 97 lots/acreages for sale (again, not separating out waterfronts), ranging from 148,800 to 2,495,000.

By the beginning of August, there had been

  • 89 “solds to date”, ranging between 135,000 and 1,700,000.
  • Fifty-seven of these were below 800,000, supporting a pattern that entry level residential offerings were the most active segment in the
  • first half of the year.

In the latter part of the year (August to year end), one often sees interest in upper tier priced properties filling in. It should be clear by mid-October what the upper tier property market sales trend will prove to be in 2019.

Salt Spring Lifestyle

BC Ferries

Salt Spring Island enjoys a year-round lifestyle opportunity. Three ferries service Salt Spring, with consistent year-round service (to Vancouver, to Victoria, to mid-Vancouver Island). There are three elementary schools, a middle school, and a state of the art senior school. There is a hospital on Salt Spring and excellent care. There are regular year round floatplane companies servicing Salt Spring (to Vancouver airport and to downtown Vancouver). All services/amenities required for a pleasing 21st Century lifestyle are available on Salt Spring. It is not necessary to leave the Island, although it is easy to come and go.

Part of the Islands Trust, a body created by the provincial government in 1974, Salt Spring is also a part of the Trust’s mandate: to preserve and protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents. Salt Spring is not a municipality. Effectively, the Trust capped growth on all the Gulf Islands, via strict zoning/density bylaws. Two trustees are elected each civic election and also a CRD (Capital Regional District) director. Many of the wonderful things Salt Spring enjoys have been put in place by volunteers. Ask me about this!

Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are in a microclimate known as “cool Mediterranean”. More hours of sunshine/less rainfall than in other coastal communities. Orchards, vineyards, wineries, craft brewery, cideries, olive groves, cheesemaker’s, farmgate stands…the rural agrarian life is here. Taste your way around the Island!

An authentic artists community, Salt Spring also enjoys a rich cultural life. Ganges galleries, Studio Tour, ArtCraft, ArtSpring. SSNAP (Salt Spring National Art Prize), 2019. More info? Call me!

August offers B.C. Day Holiday Weekend fun, Saturday Market in the Park (one of the 10 best markets in Canada), the Tuesday Farmers Market, live music venues (Treehouse, Moby’s, Legion, Woodley’s), Wednesday evening sailing races, kayaking to Chocolate Beach, sunset viewing at Vesuvius Beach, dining al fresco around the town, whale watching tours, swimming in ocean & lakes, forest breathing, and…your fave summer choices are? Share!

Salt Spring is a delectable place to visit and a very special place to call home. How may I help you with your Salt Spring Island real estate needs? Call me! Your best interests are my motivation. I look forward to your call.