We have arrived at the very beginning of December, in this most awkward and disturbing year.
Covid, and its attendant government closures to flatten the curve of this potentially deadly virus, have caused several interruptive pauses throughout 2020.
Although the calendar says Winter starts officially around December 20th, we in the great Pacific Northwest Coast know that November signals the seasonal shift in our region.
‘Tis the Season (of 2020)
A darker time of year, coupled with continuing covid closures, is disturbing to many…and afflicts many businesses struggling to survive.
It’s rare that the Southern Gulf Islands get snow…when it happens, islanders love to take photos…and when it occurs, it doesn’t last long. I always think that Winter in this area is like a long late Fall or a lengthy early Spring…depending on one’s point of view. Shorter days are a factor.
Covid has cancelled the seasonal traditional pleasures at this December time of year. It is so important to listen to the shop local, think local, be local messaging in each small community. The hope is that visitor-centric communities will see business survival over the winter season.
People in many locales are decorating, putting seasonal lights up, and doing it earlier. A great idea! To be a billboard of light, for those passing our homes, gives such pleasure…maybe that’s our holiday gift to family, friends, neighbours.
How is Covid-19 affecting Salt Spring Island?
And what about real estate in the time of covid? That first closure, on March 12th, which lasted for 10 weeks, and a bit longer on the Gulf Islands (travel is tied to ferry schedules and they had to reinstate routes and sailings), signaled a lifestyle change. City dwellers, able to work via the internet and thus able to choose a rural area for their year-round living choice, began to check out all the secondary home/rural regions.
Hong Kong Chinese, many with Canadian passports, looked beyond the provincial government tax suppression measures that had caused a pause in Vancouver sales (between 2017 and 2019). Suddenly, Vancouver sellers were turning up in all secondary home regions as buyers, and this also ignited sales on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.
Is the Real Estate Market Up or Down in BC?
Locally, the market clicked into place around June 23rd, for residential properties. Vancouver sellers had sold a house and needed a house at this end. To begin with, most sales were below 800,000…and then the price point went steadily up to around 1.4. A handful sold between 2 & 3 million. There may have been price reductions en route to an offer and there were still many price reductions at the point of an offer.
Undeveloped Land On the Gulf Islands
Now, at the beginning of December, the inventory for residential listings is exceptionally low. Very recently, we have seen buyers starting to consider buying an undeveloped land parcel and to begin a building project. This usually occurs as soon as good residential options have evaporated. It often presages, too, price escalation. At this moment, prices have stabilized.
So, at this very beginning of December…approximately…
- 55 residential listings
- 66 land listings.
- 220 “solds to date”
The inventory of available listings remains extremely low and sales volume has increased over the year, in spite of various covid-related closures.
Salt Spring Island Market Trajectory 2020-2021
Projections are calling for continuing interest in rural regions, and with price increases for any new listings may be on the rise. It is not expected that inventory will increase substantially. Low inventory and high buyer demand usually lead to price escalation. It may take until late February to see the tone of 2021.
When will the Canada-U.S. Border Reopen
No place is apart from global outcomes. A change of government in the U.S. will affect Canada. A majority NDP government in B.C. will affect provincial outcomes.? A vaccine against covid will bring change. A re-opened Canada-U.S. border may allow the re-emergence of a traditional buyer in the Gulf Islands. Change, change, everywhere a change…..
Hard asset investment may be another reason why real estate is looked on favourably right now. What I call “land bankers” are now recently turning up to look at undeveloped land parcels. The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, did cap growth through its strict zoning bylaws. This cap on growth, over time, is appealing to that investor-buyer.
The season/weather is actually irrelevant in our Gulf Islands area. Although more people might visit Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands in the summer months, it is very usual to see Fall-Winter offers/sales. The Gulf Islands are “seasonless” regions and real estate interest and outcomes occur year-round.
How may I help you to fulfill your Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island desired real estate outcomes? Look forward to hearing from you.