May 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

The world has changed completely, within eight weeks.

The “Before”, for Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands, describes life before March 12th.

We are not yet in the “After”. Are we even half-way to a recovery?

All of B.C. was told to shut-down on March 12th…to stay home and, if had to be out, then social distancing was required…in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the covid-19 virus.

Salt Spring Island

Businesses closed, schools closed, people suddenly out of work, massive government funding options created, cancellation of events, and a total turn to an online world. Nothing is untouched.


On the Gulf Islands: Accommodations closed, restaurants closed unless could offer take-out, all non-essential businesses closed, and visitors to recreational regions encouraged to stay home/not to visit (campgrounds and parks closed), and even owners of cottages/seasonal homes in such recreational areas requested not to go to them.


B.C. Ferries cancelled some major routes and reduced sailings on others. People were requested to only use ferry travel for essential services. Floatplanes not flying regular routes.

Sea Plane

The governments fears throughout Canada: the health services would not be able to cope with an inundation of virus affected citizens, and so this led to these massive closures/sheltering in place requirements.

There is no knowledge yet as to when these restrictions will be softened or lifted. Some projections say “maybe” by Summer…others worry about a resurgence of the virus in the Fall…some think possibly by Spring 2021…still others say not until there is a successful vaccine (two years?).

The Federal and the B.C. governments stated in mid-April that the current stay at home/social distancing measures would remain in place until at least mid-May. All government spokespeople continue to remind us that it will never be a return to life as it was, pre-March 12th.

Farmer’s Market

Has the pandemic affected the Salt Spring Island Real Estate market?

At this beginning day of May, then, in Salt Spring and Gulf Islands real estate, we are seeing a continuation of a very thin listing inventory. This lack of listings trend began in November, 2019.

Most sales to date in 2020 took place in January, February, March…the “Before”. Some completed sales took place in April, but they were based on business that began, and became “firm” (unconditional), before March 12th.

March showed a divide: the first two weeks were showing strong activity and a sellers market projection. The last weeks of March were seeing the opposite: hesitation and lack of action. April extended this lack of activity.

My Office

The very few new offers that did come in during April seemed to be from people who had already been looking (sometimes for two years or more) at Salt Spring, and who had finally sold their Vancouver house, and so could finally act. These few April completions were what I call “old business” outcomes. Currently, “new business” is on hold.

With people stuck at home, they may be looking at MLS and other realty sites as a sort of entertainment. Earlier, when super busy, such searchers may not have easily found property listings on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

What should sellers do during the crisis?

Now, with time to spend, delving about in the secondary home/rural/recreational areas, there is a serendipity/discovery thing going on. A good idea, then, for sellers to remain visible to potential buyers…even when these buyers are not able to turn up physically, in immediate response to what caught their attention online.

Fulford Harbour

Such city dwellers may also have it in mind to seek smaller communities, after things lift, with the ability to garden/to be self-sufficient. A seeking of a gentler “back to the land” experience?

The inquiries level is high, in spite of the fact that physicality to view is not possible right now.

With the Ferry schedule changes in early April, it is no longer possible to do a day trip viewing on a Gulf Island, if arriving from Vancouver/Lower Mainland…where most of our buyers still come from.

There may be a pent-up demand now building for all secondary home coastal communities…if one considers the strengthening inquiries.

BC Ferries

Be visible, is my advice for sellers…and be patient. Although follow-up visits for interested inquirers are not possible right now, they clearly want to come. Another interesting feature: exceptionally low interest rates.

What are the prices for real estate currently on Salt Salt Spring?

Prices on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are remaining stable for now…and if the listings remain low, then price reductions may not be a factor in any “After” experience. With little activity in April, media statistics won’t look good in May…but such a read-out is artificial. A “pause” is not necessarily a “fall”. That said, the financial collapses due to the shut-down have caused inability of some buyers to complete a purchase. All aspects of a purchase can be affected by a particular buyer’s financial distress.

How are real estate agents in BC dealing with the protective measures & social distancing?

When any viewings do take place, the same protocols will be in place as for any other business serving the public: gloves, masks, social distancing, sanitizers for hands, surfaces, door knobs. It may be necessary for viewers to sign a “sign-in” sheet, attesting that they have not recently travelled out of the country and also that they are not experiencing any symptoms. These protective measures are there to benefit both seller and buyer.

The key to sales outcomes for Salt Spring and other secondary home areas? It’s dependent on the “When” of a recovery. This timing issue will also affect pricings…the longer things remain “stuck”, the more it will affect price points for real estate. Uncertainty is not good for any market economy.

Ganges Harbour

IF restrictions soften by Summer, and there are limited business openings allowed in the recreational regions, and IF Ferries offer more sailings, there may be a very short sales “season” for the Gulf Islands/Vancouver Island…If no changes, and restrictions continue unabated, then many local tourism businesses may never reopen. This is a societal shift and an online communications world may not favour all small businesses, especially in seasonal and rural areas.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are currently experiencing Spring’s largesse. The Southern Gulf Islands are some of the most beautiful areas in Canada. All seasons offer something special, but late Spring and early Summer are truly breathtaking for the Islands. The Pacific Northwest Coast smiles at this time of year.

If you are lucky enough to live here, it is important to “look around”…to enjoy Nature’s display. Those Romantic era poets and musicians were right…imbibing Nature does restore one.

For those not here, and unable to visit due to the restrictive measures, it’s a time to remember previous visits, to look at tourism site photos as reminders, to think about future trips when one can again re-experience the delectable Gulf Islands and special Salt Spring Island.

Drummond Park

What’s Salt Spring Like Anyway?

The Salt Spring Chamber’s tag line: “Discover Yourself Here!” Is a promise for the future. These generous and welcoming Islands await your future return. “Beauty is a joy forever” (as John Keats, one of those Romantic poets, reminded us).

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are a land and a sea experience. Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, are all opportunities in the Gulf Islands. They are renowned as being in some of the best protected boating waters in the world. There are lakes that offer fresh water fishing. Hiking/walking trails abound. Parks beckon. Beachcombing pleasures await.

Floatplanes, when back to regular schedules, also offer 30 minute “discover the islands” flights. There are vineyards with wine tastings, olive groves, berry farms, cheesemaker gem with bistro, plus cideries and craft brewery tastings. The artist presentations at ArtCraft, at the Saturday Market, on the studio tour inspire us all. Alternative wellness/spa experiences energize us. Farmers markets and farm gate stands offer organic produce. Our superb restaurants and coffee stops bring us great food, delivered with an Island welcoming service.

Twang & Pearl

These pleasures are waiting for us when the economic engine on the Gulf Islands restarts. It is a seasonal/visitor economy. All Gulf Islanders/Salt Spring Islanders look forward to welcoming everyone back…just later.

April 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

When Seamanship Counts

Salish Sea, Mount Baker in the Distance

We appear to live in a ricochet world now…daily change is upon us.

In a significant storm at sea, a sailboat puts out drag items that slow, even an anchor, to keep the ship as steady as possible and as much on course as one can steer. This is when seamanship counts.

Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce

Every storm is a new experience, but the knowledge to ride it out is based on past information about what worked in previous bad storms.

A good image to hold, as we face the real 21st century…a time of huge societal change…and health pandemics are a part of this. Chaotic fear is not the antidote.

March saw governments around the world trying to interrupt (“flatten the curve”) the spread of the covid-19 virus. Shutting down businesses and insisting on social distancing/staying at home were the preferred routes of such interruption.

Stay at Home in the Gulf Islands?

In B.C., various federal and provincial government edicts came down…the result being insistence on self-isolation/staying at home, cancellation of events in order to prohibit crowds, a “social distancing” requirement, promises of monetary help, curtailing of non-essential travel, border closings, online banking and credit card payment only (no cash), closures of restaurants and pubs that were unable to offer take-out…cumulatively, these are just a few of what will be long-term societal shifts.

It may be that the virus will be with us until late summer…more daily lifestyle changes may occur. Certainly, many small businesses in tourism based seasonal economies may not recover.

Social Distancing on Salt Spring

Social distancing and a complete turn to online options could be speeding up the creation of the real 21st century. The virus will be contained, in the end, but the changes wrought meantime, by reliance on staying at home/turning to online options for business/shopping/interaction/news, will hasten this communication method. It will become the norm and face to face interaction may no longer be the chosen style.

A Rebirth of Society?

There are always pivotal and global shifts throughout history. In the 14th century, the Black Death (bubonic plague) killed a third of the population, was misunderstood until later as to transmission, and may have speeded up the end of the medieval (feudal) society…it may have encouraged humanism and the Renaissance (the birth of individualism).

World War One was a global catastrophe and, at the end of it, its chaos unleashed the global Spanish ‘Flu epidemic…which killed more people than the war. The real beginning of the 20th Century began: the end of colonialism, the creation of new countries, mini-regional wars, and the rise of competing political movements. Some feel that those changes are still being worked out today.

The IoT Revolution

The internet electronic revolution in communication had a slow start. Now we are experiencing the “internet of things” (yes your smart fridge can talk to your car, and yes, Alexa listens to you even when you think she’s off)…combine all this with the speed of connectivity (now 5G), and no wonder the integration of machine and human is well underway. This corona virus pandemic is encouraging the shutting down of human personalized interaction and bringing in distanced online interconnectivity (smart phone to smart phone).

Will this encourage or discourage further globalism? Hmmm…..

Salt Spring Island COVID-19 Mandates

Meanwhile, back on Salt Spring: many events were cancelled in March, following the government guidelines to stay home whenever possible and to limit numbers at any gathering. The government required closures of businesses, unless essential services.

As a recreational and tourism based economy, the cancellation of events and closure of small businesses, at the beginning of our traditional season, directly affects the entire community. Salt Spring’s many small enterprises may not all recover.

It is essential that all local groups, government and private, work together to help to sustain and then renew our visitor economy. Check with the Chamber of Commerce to see suggestions for best steps forward. Your help and ideas are needed. We are, indeed, all in this together.

Why Live on Salt Spring Anyway?

Real estate in secondary home markets can sometimes be oddly busier in a time of crisis. Seeking a recreational retreat, far from crowds, and yet easy to get to, can be alluring. It is possible to spend a day on Salt Spring, coming out of Vancouver (our main buyer profile on the Southern Gulf Islands), and to view property opportunities…one can stay in one’s car on a ferry, and follow a realtor to the various viewings. At the moment, it is a mixed scenario as to viewings and any potential following transactions. There have been some listing cancellations, as sellers do not want strangers in their homes. For those seeking undeveloped land, it is easier to view on one’s own, with full information to guide one. It’s a tremulous moment right now. The government, however, has now said that lawyers, realtors, and land registry are non-medical essential services. On Salt Spring Island, the Trust and CRD have sent strong messages not to visit the Gulf Islands at this time.

Interest rates remain extraordinarily low. If one is able to act, it is a good time to be a buyer. Inventory also remains low (since late Fall…a beginning move to a seller’s market), yet there are still worthy options to consider. More information? Your best interests are my motivation. Benefit from my experience, expertise, and knowledge of inventory and trends.

Some Stats

At the very beginning of April, then, there are approximately 73 residential properties for sale…not separating out waterfront, views, or farms, or lots/acreages. Of these listings, 39 of them are below one million and 36 of them above.

There are approximately 79 land listings….not separating out lots, acreages, waterfronts, views.

There have been 31 “solds to date”, selling between 156,000 and 1,840,000. Of these, eight sold below 500,000, nine below 700,000, six below 800,000. One sold at 865,000 and one sold at 980,000. There were six sales between 1,090,000 and 1,840,000. Many of the January/February sales were completions of transactions begun between November 2019 and January 2020.

A total of 152 listings, houses and land combined, as we enter April, is not a big inventory. In more regular times, there could be around 380 such listings on Salt Spring.

What’s the Impact of Corona Virus on Salt Spring Island?

The impact of the corona virus, and its subsequent closure of businesses, staying at home government requirements, have also affected real estate outcomes in all secondary home regions. Those now sheltering in place, until the pandemic measures ease, are viewing MLS and other sites…possibly as entertainment. When things once more invite travel and property discoveries, these current “inquiries only” may lead to pent-up demand. The key? How long will the suppression measures last?

An investment on a Gulf Island is worth considering. The Islands Trust, the form of governance for the Gulf Islands, created by the provincial government, and in place since 1974, basically capped growth on all the islands…”this much, and no more”. Is this the description of a protected investment? Over time, this lack of growth creates higher values than in some other areas, where growth is encouraged. More information? Call me!

April is a lovely month on the Gulf Islands. It segues from early Spring at its beginning to full Spring at its end.

Yes, there have been postponements or cancellations of events and all non-essential businesses have closed in response to the provincial government’s “social distancing” requirement…and potential visitors to the Gulf Islands are being discouraged by the Trust…the small populations may have a larger category of “over 60” residents, and so the risk of infection from visitors to the islands increases…and yet the wondrous eruption of Spring remains all around us.

For those who live here, even when forced to stay at home/close their business, with all those serious attendant worries, there is still much to be thankful for on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Remember the words of a Canadian poet (W.H. Davies):

“A poor life this, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

When lucky enough to be present, be sure to look around you…be inspired by Salt Spring’s amazing and restorative Spring face…enjoy small pleasures.

March 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island

Gulf Islands Preserve

In our “always on” era, perhaps the value in a Gulf Islands form of governance (the Islands Trust) is going to turn out to be the preservation of a past lifestyle. Will this allow a “breathing room” for those who visit or live on a Gulf Island?

The Islands Trust is a provincial government body, created in 1974, with a mandate “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. This goal was successful. The Gulf Islands are park-like areas. Growth was controlled via severe zoning/bylaw restrictions, put in place in 1974.

Two trustees are elected per island, at civic election time. Planners (from Victoria) administer. Along with the Trustees, the governance model also includes, for the southern Gulf Islands, the CRD (Capital Regional District), in Victoria. A CRD director is also elected at civic election time (four year terms).

In being a part of the Capital Regional District, the Southern Gulf Islands are considered urban entities, although very rural areas in character. They are noted as rural on tax assessments. In being characterized as urban, under CRD, many government funding opportunities open to rural regions are not available to the Southern Gulf Islands. Again, the CRD burocracy is mainly focused on Victoria concerns.

After a recent two year governance study, Salt Spring voted on whether to become a Gulf Islands municipality (following the lead of Bowen Island). The Trust would have remained in place, but planners would have been replaced by locally elected council/mayor, and many CRD files would also have been under such elected representatives. All tax monies raised on Salt Spring would have stayed on Salt Spring. In September, 2017, Salt Spring voted (63%) to leave things “as is”. Effectively, the island remains in 1974.

In 2020, the inadequacies of 1974 ideas can be seen. Many different groups are meeting and trying to make inadequacies “work” under the old system. Lack of affordable housing/work rental is only one outstanding item.

In our always connected/never off world, perhaps being able to drop into a 1970s experience will act as a restorative function…along the lines of the Japanese concept of forest bathing.

Salt Spring, with its natural beauty, its small Village atmosphere in the few designated commercially zoned areas (zoning was set in 1974, remember), and the overall non-growth policy for the Gulf Islands, may now have created a place for one to be restored to basic humanity. Now: it may be beyond just preservation of a natural world and have evolved into preservation of the human psyche. Could be…like a pocket place…a withdrawing chamber. Hmmm…..

Technological Advancement

Virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G & beyond speed of connectivity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the expanding Internet of things, 3-D printers…is the shock of dropping into 1974’s ethic the “change that is as good as a rest”? Would it be like the “time out” offered to over-active children? A way to rediscover our true selves?

Hmmmm….maybe add this restorative quality to promotional marketing about the preserved natural beauty of the Gulf Islands?

Meantime: all real estate market indications are still pointing to seller’s market conditions. This simply means few listings and many buyers…which usually (by the end of such a cycle) lead to higher prices.


From the Beginning of March

Residential

At the very beginning of March there are

  • 87 residential listings, not separating out waterfronts, farms, oceanviews, or acreages
  • 48 of them are listed between 269,000 – 999,800
  • 29 of them are listed between 1,035,000 – 1,900,000
  • 8 listings between 2,125,000 – 2,999,900
  • 1 listing is at 3,499,900
  • 1 is listed at 6,688,900

Land & Acreage

At the very beginning of March there are

  • 81 land listings, not separating out waterfronts, farms, ocean view, lots, acreages
  • from 139,000 to 3,135,000

Commercial

  • 16 commercial listings on the market, at the beginning of March, some of them are business only options and others are land/business opportunities
  • range between 175,000 and 15 million

Solds To Date

  • There have been 20 “solds to date”, at the beginning of March.
  • The sales range between 156,000 and 1,840,000.

The listing inventory remains exceptionally low. As soon as one delineates the price and type of property being sought, it immediately becomes clear just how few the choices are for a buyer. Current listings (houses and land together) add up to: 168. In a more “normal” market, one might see a total of houses and land listings around 380.

Low inventory times need creative seeking on the part of a buyer.

Should I Move to Salt Spring

To move to Salt Spring is a choice. Like all secondary home areas, the Gulf Islands are discretionary regions. No one “has to” move to Salt Spring or another Gulf Island. Competition exists from nearby Vancouver Island communities. This means that a seller will look seriously at a buyer’s best offer.

Meantime…whether a visitor or a resident…enjoy the opportunities of March. Home and Garden show is offering a Wellness component…discover Salt Spring’s trades and suppliers and also the vibrant alternative health options. ArtSpring showcases theatre, dance, music offerings, and gallery openings. The Ganges galleries are highlighting Spring with receptions celebrating their artists. Studios are getting ready for the season. Hiking trails beckon. The new Salt Spring Marina is ready to welcome boaters. Live music venues and special seasonal menus at our great restaurants…all part of the season’s wake up call.

Nature is erupting into its Spring moments…orchard blossoms are just one signal. Whether it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or vice versa, March is a perfect time to consider a purchase on very special Salt Spring Island. Buying now ensures enjoyment by April/May.

February 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Signs of Early Spring

February. Longer days, bursts of Winter mingled with signs of very early Spring. Snowdrops are out, camellias budding, early rhododendrons in bloom, daffodils in bloom…early Spring is an energizing time on the great Pacific Northwest Coast and Salt Spring is a part of this…watch Nature unfurl.

Market Projections?

Market projections? Low listing inventory continues to be the main feature of the Salt Spring, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island marketplaces. There appears to be renewed buyer desire, and in all property types/price categories.  

It remains the case that it’s Vancouver sellers who become the main buyers in all the secondary home areas…including on Salt Spring.  

Thin inventory coupled with buyer interest usually results in price increases…buyers always set the pace in a real estate market trend.

It’s a good idea to wait for final thoughts until we see the provincial government’s February budget…will there be further measures to suppress real estate markets in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna?  

It was the provincial government’s 2018 February budget’s taxation measures that suppressed real estate sales in the above mentioned four areas…between late February 2018 and October 2019 sales activity was correspondingly slow in the secondary home markets, too.  

For Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, the outcomes in Vancouver’s market are still the statistics that strongly influence sales here.  

Geopolitical Events Influence

Geopolitical events influence all markets…one cannot ignore big picture happenings. That would include world health issues.

Marshall McLuhan predicted the “global village” scenario back in the 1970s…the same decade that saw the creation of the Islands Trust, by the then provincial government.  

The result of the Islands Trust form of governance for the Gulf Islands was to cap growth. The mandate of this government body was “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents.  

Intentions More Narrowly Interpreted

Over time, the original strict zoning/bylaws have been more narrowly interpreted. Growth has been controlled. This means, over time and beyond market trends, that the Gulf Islands will end by being places that one will have to be able to afford. They are basically parks. Inventory will remain low because of the Trust’s non-growth policies.  

The Islands Trust remains the form of governance for Salt Spring and the majority of Gulf Islands. These islands are governed by the provincial government’s Islands Trust body. Two trustees are elected per island, at the civic election time (4 year terms). Planners maintain the official community plan (OCP), and guide the elected officials. On Salt Spring, there is also an elected CRD (Capital Regional District) director…again, the CRD is mainly focused on Victoria issues. Who is really in charge for the Southern Gulf Islands (included in the CRD)?

After a two year study on governance models, with all such models retaining the two elected trustees and the overall Trust documents, Salt Spring voted (63%) in September 2017 to retain the current 1974 model…. The idea behind the two year study: to see if Salt Spring would become a Gulf Islands special style of municipal structure…along the lines of Bowen Island. Trust remained, but off island planners replaced by local councillors. This outcome was strongly voted down on Salt Spring.

Salt Spring offers all services/amenities for a pleasing lifestyle and it also offers excellent transportation options (3 different ferry routes, 2 regular sked floatplanes). There’s a hospital plus 3 elementary, a middle, and a senior school. An indoor pool and several health/wellness opportunities. An Arts Centre (ArtSpring) is an important creative hub on the Island. Sustainable farming is featured (vineyards, wineries, olive groves, cheese-makers, craft brewery, cideries, farmers markets). Salt Spring is a seasonless experience and offers a true year-round stand-alone lifestyle. It is easily accessible to major centres and yet is wonderfully apart. More information? Call me!

As we enter this very beginning of February,

  • there are 87 residential listings on Salt Spring, priced between 349,000 and 6,688,900
  • Forty-two of these residential listings are listed over one million.
  • There are 78 land only listings, priced between 139,000 and 2,495,000.
  • As soon as one defines a property search by price and type, it is immediately clear that inventory is extremely low. There have been 8 “solds to date”in 2020, ranging from 156,000 to 1,748,800.

Although genuinely seasonless…buyers are always around…the main grid of sales activity does tend to fall between March Break (mid-March) and the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) for all coastal secondary home markets.

February: let’s enjoy the early spring side of this leap-year month. Seedy Saturday weekend will inspire your gardening ideas. The Family Day Weekend, mid-month, is a moment of reconnections. Time to rediscover hiking/walking trails? Time to do a little forest bathing? Time to remember February’s homage to romance? Whatever the scenario: enjoy!

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 realtor.ca (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.