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….

Market Analysis, May 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

May 2017

May to end of September might be the main grid of tourism and real estate activity on the Gulf Islands.

Real estate sales do take place throughout the year, and in a way the Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island can be described as “seasonless”, but the predominant arrivals time for the mainly non-local buyer profile does fall between these late Spring – into – late Summer months.

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

The Islands are in the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world, and the boating season coincides with this early May to end of September timeline.

After an eight year downturn (end of 2008 to early Spring 2016), the secondary home/discretionary markets on the Pacific Northwest Coast began to see an improving trend, throughout 2016, in both tourism and in real estate sales. This upward trend has continued in the first months of 2017.

I think there is a direct link between a successful visitor experience and a decision to purchase a property, in all discretionary and recreational regions.

A buyer has to choose “for” a place first…and then will choose “for” a property in that place. This is why it can take longer in a secondary home location, regardless of market trend in play, for a sale to take place…the buyer has to be sure about the region choice…that’s step one, always.

It is, however, quickly turning into an authentic seller’s market on Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands…and in Vancouver Island communities, too.

A seller’s market is characterized by few listings and strong buyer demand.

In the beginning, prices stabilize…buyers have to offer closer to or at sellers list prices…then back-up offers, multiple offers, offers over list become next steps, if a property is unique or listed below market. Price rises follow. The law of supply and demand governs all markets.

Hmmm…. Yes, there are fewer listings, and yes, prices have solidified…but there are always opportunities. Seeking a Gulf Island/Salt Spring Island property? Call me, for suggestions on how to make the current market work for you.

Our 2017 Spring has arrived a good 4 to 6 weeks later than usual…it seems more like early April, not early May. This past winter was one of the once-every-twenty-years La Niña events….lasted from Dec 3 to March 12 (even skating on Cusheon Lake!). The last part of March and most of April have remained unseasonably cool and also rainy. Apparently, precipitation records have been broken.

May is welcome!

Sales at close of April:

  • 7 sales between 160,000 and 199,500.
  • 6 sales between 200,000 and 299,000.
  • 11 sales between 305,000 and 396,000.
  • 16 sales between 400,000 and 487,000.
  • 11 sales between 506,250 and 599,000.
  • 7 sales between 625,000 and 690,000.
  • 4 sales between 710,000 and 769,000.
  • 5 sales between 800,000 and 899,000.
  • 2 sales between 900,000 and 945,250.
  • 5 sales between 1,075,000 and 1,750,000.
  • 3 sales between 2,200,000 and 2,500,000.

The trend is clearly towards less inventory in all property types and price points. The main sales are still below 750,000. Upper tier priced residential offerings are now also starting to see interest and subsequent sales. Undeveloped land sales are on the increase.

The buyer profile still is mainly from Vancouver, with smatterings from U.S., Ontario, U.K., Europe, China. Alberta is still not yet seen as a strong buyer profile, although that buyer had been involved in about 20% of sales in previous years.

Sales will start to be less, compared to 2016 statistics, simply because less inventory is available.

The referendum asking Salt Spring whether to incorporate or not will be held on September 9th. The Trust documents will remain in effect in a “yes” vote (these documents govern all of the Gulf Islands and this provincial government body, the Islands Trust, has been in place since 1974). The CRD (Capital Regional District) will still have a presence. Two trustees and one CRD director will still be in place. The difference: a mayor and council will be elected locally, to manage Salt Spring locally. At the moment, decisions are often made by off-island parties. More information? Be informed. It may be time to introduce 1974 to 2017…important to have all information and to be thoughtful about your response to the yes/no question on September 9th.

May welcomes in several events as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. These events began in mid-April and will continue through to early October…150 days of celebration events. July 1st is Canada Day. Time to be on Salt Spring! (P.S. the Flower Power event is encouraging gardeners to plant red and white flowers).

The great Pacific Northwest Coast is a superb locale at this time of year, and Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands are a part of this coastal allure. Enjoy!

Market Analysis, April 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

April 2017

We experienced the yin and yang of a La Niña weather pattern on the Pacific Northwest Coast…from early December to mid-March.

Salt Spring fell into “real winter” on December 3, 2016 and experienced yet another serious snowfall on March 5, 2017. In between: snow, cold, with ice build-up remaining on roads between the frequent snow storms, only main roads to ferries cleared (side roads and driveways on their own). There was skating on the lakes…that was a fun item. The last time the Coast experienced the La Niña effect was in 1996.

The entire Coast was affected, including Vancouver. The weather did affect real estate viewings…potential buyers couldn’t get out of where they were, never mind not being able to easily get around on Salt Spring!

December, January, February, and first half of March (higher elevation properties only saw the “melt” begin around March 12th) caused a slowdown in new action. Many of the reported sales of early 2017 had their beginnings in late Fall of 2016.

Although we often describe Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands main sales window as falling between March Break and the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, the reality is that the busiest months are May, July, August, September.

The Islands are secondary home/discretionary/recreational markets…I call them recipient markets. Sellers have to wait for a buyer to first visit, then decide if a particular island works for them, and then to really start their search for a specific property. Time is always an element of sales in all secondary home/recreational regions.

That said, it’s clear that 2016 was a sales volume increase year…a cleaning out of inventory that had built up during the eight year economic downturn. Prices stabilized, but did not increase.

In a “by choice” area, such as Salt Spring (and the Gulf Islands), there is always a time lag component in sales outcomes.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Often, a tourist with a successful visitor experience becomes a buyer in our region. Usually two, if not three, visits take place before a purchase decision. The non-local buyer wants to “be sure”, before committing to a purchase. When a property sells quickly, it often means that a property is listed exactly when a buyer has returned for that second or third decision-making visit.

With less inventory to choose from, however, we may now start to experience some bidding wars, IF a property is unique.

2017 has had a slow start, solely due to the unusual weather vagaries, but all signs are there for further inventory clean-out (especially in the upper tier priced residential properties and in the undeveloped land segment). After that? No crystal ball, but the signs are definitely in place for price increases in any new (and potentially few) new listings.

The tone of 2017 may be fully in place by late May. It may be that buyers who acted in the first three months of this year will turn out to have been the last buyers able to catch a seller’s interest with a lower than list price offer. In other coastal regions, which often catch the wave of change before it’s seen on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, the price escalation due to lack of inventory is in evidence.

Between 2000 and 2002, sales volume increased by around 50%. Between 2003 and 2005, prices rose by around 60%. Our dollar was low against the U.S. currency. International buyers were in evidence. Hmmmm…… Similar soundtrack?

Stay tuned.

To date, there have been 55 sales between January 1 and March 31. The first several (below 200,000) were undeveloped lots. The higher end residential did see price reductions at the point of an offer, but residential below 500,000 often sold at (or close to) list pricings.

  • 6 sales between $160,000 and $199,500.
  • 4 sales between $234,000 and $280,000.
  • 8 sales between $305,000 and $396,000.
  • 8 sales between $400,000 and $485,000.
  • 9 sales between $506,200 and $599,000.
  • 5 sales between $625,000 and $690,000.
  • 3 sales between $729,000 and $769,000.
  • 3 sales between $800,000 and $878,000.
  • 2 sales between $900,000 and $945,250.
  • 4 sales between $1,075,000 and $1,750,000.
  • 3 sales between $2,200,000 and $2,500,000.

I do this market analysis at the beginning of each month…updates may appear in my blog entries.

Along with the transition from a buyer’s market (few buyers and many listings) to a seller’s market (few listings and many buyers), there is the Islands Trust (government body in place since 1974, which capped growth on the Gulf Islands via strict zoning/land use bylaws)…the inventory will always be less on a Gulf Island, thus, beyond market trends).

Salt Spring will be asked on September 9th whether or not to retain the status quo (2 elected trustees and one elected CRD director…the actual decisions, however, are currently made from a central Trust office in Victoria…and these government appointees do not reside on Salt Spring), or whether to incorporate as a Gulf Islands municipality (two trustees elected, per usual, plus councillors & a mayor…the Trust documents remain in place, but decisions re governance would be made on Island & not in Victoria). Keep in the loop of the conversation on both sides of this important issue.

Meantime…the beauty of the Island calls to us. Check out the Food Network’s one hour showcase of Salt Spring…the travelling chefs came last summer and I think they caught the essence of this magical island.

Looking for your special property on Salt Spring Island or on a Gulf Island? Call me. There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trend in play.