Tag Archives: all things salt spring

March 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

First Whispers of “The Season”

It’s here…the month that sees the segue from winter-into-spring. Gulf Islanders/Salt Springers recognize March as the month that brings the first whispers of “the season”.

Mid-March to mid-October is often seen as the best weather time in the great Pacific Northwest Coast, and Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands benefit from a “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate. Less rainfall/more hours of sunshine…a welcome temperate pattern.

Even with the ongoing closures and pauses and delays of covid, this time of year brings with it a special enjoyment…that awakening of the earth that Spring delivers. Gardens and orchards and roadside bushes flower forward. Longer days. Sun warmth at patio coffee stops. Beauty everywhere.

The real estate market on Salt Spring is now mirroring the same explosion of sales first experienced in Vancouver and then fanning out to Sunshine Coast, to the Interior, to Victoria, and to Vancouver Island. Now it is occurring on Salt Spring and on the Gulf Islands.

The inventory of listings is shockingly low.

Most buyers are still from Vancouver. There are now multiple offers and “bidding wars” in some price ranges. Buyers do have to put their best foot forward.

Hastings House

Hastings House

The Vancouver sellers do become the buyers in all the rural/secondary home markets. The Vancouver market, which did suppress between 2017 and 2019, because of provincial government taxation measures to do so, is perhaps being driven by sales to Hong Kong based residents, with Canadian passports. These buyers ignore the provincial 20% offshore purchase tax.

It appears to be a lifestyle rewrite that is underway.

Many things are occurring: the initial covid shut-downs in 2020 pushed everyone into the digital world. The ability to work from home is now accepted as mainstream. Extraordinarily low interest rates. A desire to leave the city. A concern over all the monies being printed by governments…the seeking of preservation of capital by turning to hard asset investments. Hmmm…a perfect storm? Maybe.


Sales Data March 2021

So, at this very beginning of March, there are 31 residential listings on Salt Spring Island, not separating out waterfront, view, townhome.

  • 11 of these residential listings are between 445,000 and 998,000
  • 9 listings between 1,069,000 and 1,985,000
  • One listing at 3,100,000
  • One listing at 4,995,000
  • One listing at 5,995,000
  • One listing at 6,688,800
  • One listing at 12,000,000
  • Two listings at 14,000,000

Only 11 fall into the category of “entry level” pricings. Hmmm….. usually there might be over 200 residential listings available. This is a sellers market.

At this very beginning of March, there are 49 land listings, ranging from 239,900 to 2,495,000. (Not separating out lots, acreages, view, waterfront). Land listings up to 500,000 remain the most active, at this moment.


At this very beginning of March, there have been 51 “solds to date”. That is a huge increase in sales in the first two months of the year.

  • Seven sales have been between 199,000 and 298,000
  • Four sales have been between 430,000 and 455,000
  • Six sales have been between 505,000 and 552,000
  • Ten sales have been between 605,000 and 685,000
  • Four sales were between 730,000 and 799,000
  • Three sales were between 800,000 and 878,500
  • Five sales took place between 900,000 and 979,000
  • Eleven sales took place between 1,015,000 and 1,850,000
  • One sale took place at 5,645,000

For the first time in several years, consistent high end sales are underway. It appears that the Vancouver buyers plan to live on Salt Spring…these are not recreational only buyers.

Not Since 9/11

The entry level residential options and the lower priced land options have all sold. The last time we saw a lifestyle rewrite was after 9-11. Between 2003 and 2006, there were few listings and prices rose by 60%. However, at that time, owners, who may have wanted to cash out, did start to slowly list.

Salt Spring Island Coast

Salt Spring Island Coast

Right now, though, with the faceless potential killer of covid still with us, most owners want to sit tight. Where would they go? Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands offer the allure of safety, in their cohesive apartness. The arrival of consistent vaccinations may be the solution to this treading water time.

Still on Hold, Virtually

Meantime, March sings its way through our lives and the Gulf Islands are offering virtual reminders of their pleasures. Loved events will be on hold until next year, as the provincial government prohibition on gatherings continues. It’s interesting, that virtual connection. Neither good nor not good…just different.

Meantime, on Salt Spring, hike the Mt Erskine Trail, picnic at Ruckle Park, watch the floatplanes chortle in and out in Ganges Harbour, enjoy a coffee break on a patio or deck (many to choose from…try them all), sunset watch from Vesuvius Beach, kayak out to Chocolate Island beach, and always always follow the protocols and support local.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands swim enticingly in the Salish Sea. Their welcome is always there.

Market Analysis, November 2018, Salt Spring Island

November 2018, Salt Spring

The Fall Real Estate Sales Season

November 2018, Market Analysis

The Fall real estate sales season separates into two parts: late summer/early Fall (end of August to mid-October) and late Fall (mid-October to early December).

Salt Spring is really a “seasonless” market…buyers turn up throughout the year, and sales from later in a calendar year can take place right into very early January of the following year.

Although tourism is most evident in late Spring/Summer months, and a successful visitor experience usually leads to a real estate purchase in our discretionary marketplace, the two don’t always occur at the same time.

It often takes two visits, if not three, for an interested potential buyer to decide to make an offer. There can be substantial time lags between visits…it can take one to two years to have a successful sales transaction, even in a buoyant real estate trend.

Where Do the Buyers Come From?

Buyers are not local. They look in other areas, too. It’s perhaps about “being sure” about the “where”.

Whether they live a ferry trip away or are a substantial flight distant, the buyer usually leaves some time between visits (a few weeks to several months). Their own lives come first and it just takes the time it takes to have a result in any secondary home/discretionary marketplace.

That said, we enter November 2018 with a continuing “thin” inventory of available listings.

Prices stabilized in Fall, 2017.

The provincial government’s February 20, 2018 budget included taxation measures to cool the Vancouver market.

These measures were also expanded to include Victoria, Nanaimo, and Kelowna.

Since mid-2016, Salt Spring has been chiefly dependent on Vancouver buyers. As a recipient marketplace, Salt Spring is affected by events in the areas where the buyers come from.

Anecdotally, it seems that people take around five months to get over anger at something and then to just get on with things. The lack of solid action between February 20 and September 15 has now been replaced with some increased activity. Hmmm….

The last two months of a year and the first two of the following year can be seen as a cohesive timeline.

A Market Trend for properties below 900,000

The market trend right now is showing most action in properties below 900,000. Over half the current listings are over one million. Will we see substantial price reductions at the point of an offer, in order for a transaction to proceed to completion? Will prices begin to suppress, to reflect those marked reductions now evident in Vancouver? Are we starting back into buyer’s market territory? Hmmm….

November 2018, Salt Spring Real Estate Market

Although there is a lovely sense of apartness to the Salt Spring lifestyle, no location is exempt from global issues. Currency concerns, tariff wars, prohibitive tax measures, etc…outcomes in countries around the world also end by impacting SSI. There’s that butterfly concept again.

Uncertainty is not good for any market. We began 2018 with a strong seller’s market underway. We are ending 2018 with the impacts of the coalition provincial government measures to suppress that Vancouver “hot market”. These measures, short term, have been successful.

At the same time, there does seem to be renewed interest out of Ontario (other provinces like to retire to coastal communities). Toronto does not have the tax suppression measures seen in Vancouver. That may augur well, going forward into 2019.

Albertans & US Buyers?

We are still not seeing Albertans or U.S. buyers. Before the economic meltdowns of late 2008, these two buyer profiles were 50% of our buyers. They were also seasonal. The Vancouver buyers want to live on Salt Spring. This may be why they take longer to choose the “where”. Salt Spring has competition from nearby Vancouver Island communities…why choose here? Why not there? Hmmm….

Late Fall-into-Winter season, a softer time for tourism, is also an opportunity. The fallow field moment allows for some creative thinking, to keep that Salt Spring allure in play. The outcomes of the “real” 21st Century are around us all…Salt Spring is not exempt from the profound technological changes that are now the surround sound of our lives. Yes…block chain technology is our present.

Initially, the Islands Trust, created by the provincial government in 1974, had the purpose of preserving the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents…the Trust capped growth and effectively created a park-like ambiance. Now, in our always-on, always-connected world, perhaps the real value of visiting and of living on Salt Spring Island is the ability to enjoy an experiential lifestyle…and not a mere searchable environment.

The Gift of Reality

The gift of reality…real reality, not virtual, not augmented…perhaps that’s the point of 1974 meeting up with 2018?

Markets are always a wave of up and down. Over time, an investment in real estate, in an area where growth is strongly controlled, where a community blueprint pays homage to 1974 concerns about over-growth, will become an enclave area…it will rise in value. Important, then, to always be thinking five years out.

At this moment in time, listings remain low, buyer interest is very present, and the allure of Salt Spring as a destination is high. Projections for early 2019, in areas that deliver buyers to Salt Spring, are about a bounce back in real estate dynamics. Hmmm….

Meantime, November unrolls before us: craft fairs (WinterCraft), Village galleries showcasing their artists, studio tours, continuing Farmers markets, theatre and dance and choral presentations at ArtSpring, hiking/walking trails beckon, and kayaking adventures and sailing races delight year-round.

There’s always lots to see and to do, on special Salt Spring Island.

Enjoy the softer season!

Market Analysis, August 2018, Salt Spring Island

August 2018, Salt Spring

The Mid-way Point

The first of August reminds us all that summer-summer is at the mid-way point.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Well, for those with school-age children that’s certainly the case…summer is over with the back-to-school ads.

The calendar, though, says summer ends on September 20th.

The real estate market on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands became a summer/fall market, some years back. Many sales take place between August and December. So…for real estate, summer and fall remain busy.

Sellers who panic when July folds into August need to remember that the main business on Salt Spring is just ramping up.

And what about that business? Thin inventory in any property type below one million is a fact. Prices have stabilized. There are both small bidding wars and back-up offers.

Although the market segment between one and three million is a slower paced sales pattern, that more affluent buyer also tends to turn up from August on. There is also a growing interest in estate style properties between 2 and 5 million (Canadian Dollars).

No matter the property type or the price point, the inventory is the thinnest I can remember, since 2003.

Salt Spring Islands Trust

Salt Spring is governed by the Islands Trust. This provincial body was formed in 1974, with the mandate “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. This cap on growth maintains a pleasing and community based lifestyle. A “yesteryear” experience coupled with everything required for a 21st Century life…a winning combination. It’s also a reminder of Economics 101: low supply coupled with high buyer demand create price increases.

Sellers and realtors do not create markets…buyers do that. The Gulf Islands were in an almost nine year downturn (late October, 2008 to mid-2016), as a result of the economic meltdowns of late 2008. Buyers vanished in those downturn years, and sellers lingered on the market…price reductions did not generate action. That was the classic buyer’s market (lots of listings and no buyers).

Now, we are in the classic seller’s market in the recreational/secondary home marketplace of the Gulf Islands: low inventory and lots of buyers. During the slow recovery of mid 2016 to late 2017, there was a sales volume increase in that entry level residential segment.

At the moment, as we start into August, most buyers are seeking residential options between 650,000 and 1.3 million. In waterfronts, we are seeing interest between one and three million. With the main part of our sales window still before us, there is an expectation that we may be looking towards significant price increases by 2019. If so, it will be based on continuing lack of inventory and the continuing return of buyer interest.

Government-Induced “Pauses”

There have been many government-induced “pauses” during the current slow market recovery. It is true that in all areas, city or rural, there is a lack of affordable housing and/or work rental options. Salt Spring struggles with this, too.

The current provincial government has turned to taxing an owner’s asset (their primary or secondary home) via severe taxation measures, in an attempt to create both affordable homes and a rental stock….this does not alleviate the problem. It may actually make things worse.

Vancouver is experiencing these taxation measures and the Lower Mainland market outcomes do affect the Gulf Islands. (The Gulf Islands are exempt from the vacancy tax, because they are part of the Islands Trust).

Yes, in 1974 the then provincial government capped growth on every Gulf Island…now, in 2018, we see the outcome of this 1974 decision…never a lot of listings and varying buyer desire patterns…it keeps choices lower and prices higher. In 2017, Salt Springers voted (63%) to retain the Trust, without change, as the form of governance.

Where do these buyers for the Gulf Islands come from? In the early 2000s, we saw a lot of buyers from Alberta and the U.S. After the economic crash of late 2008, this buyer profile disappeared.

The recovery that slowly began in 2016 was driven by Vancouver sellers. The Vancouver area still supplies most of the buyers on Salt Spring. This is why we pay attention to the real estate rhythms of Vancouver…those sellers have become our buyers. Any market cooling there will affect sales here.

Any questions about the changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C., which came into being on June 15? Call me.

Market Analysis, June 2018, Salt Spring Island

June 2018, Salt Spring

So…summer-summer is underway on the great Pacific Northwest Coast, and Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are a part of this alluring time of year.

June brings vacation seekers, the third annual Tour des Iles event (private boat links between the Southern Gulf Islands) at end of June is always fun, all the studios are open (pick up a map at the Visitor’s Centre), and the hiking/walking trails beckon. Kayaking, cycling, foodie markets (Saturday Market & Tuesday Market), artisans and artists on display, ArtCraft celebrates 20 years with its opening reception at Mahon Hall in mid-June, gallery openings/receptions in Ganges Village, continuing live music venues, farmgate stands..and the fun of Canada Day special events that segue into July.

Enjoy the natural world that has been preserved on all the Gulf Islands…since 1974, when the provincial government body known as the Islands Trust came into being.

It’s true that the property inventory available for sale is very “thin” right now. There are still buying opportunities…it might mean looking at undeveloped land and building your dream. There will always be less for sale on any Gulf Island due to the Trust’s “cap” on growth. A stronger real estate market is also a reason for the low inventory. Lack of product plus strong buyer desire does result in Sellers Market conditions. More info? Call me.

Big Changes Afoot in Real Estate Industry

Very big changes are afoot in the real estate industry as a whole. The first change will be on June 15. At that time, Limited Dual Agency will be deleted from the Real Estate Services Act.

In place since 1995, Limited Dual Agency allowed a real estate agent to act for both seller and buyer, in the same transaction, with the permission of both parties.

Going forward, after June 15, a listing agent cannot also represent a buyer for their own listing. Listing agents will then refer any buyers wanting to view that listing agent’s own listing to another realtor. Teams cannot refer to each other.

There are many more upcoming changes, but the 23,000 plus real estate agents in B.C. need to be retrained via continuing education courses, plus new contractual forms need to be created/printed, and “working with a realtor” information forms changed to reflect the new realities. The first significant change will be the deletion of Limited Dual Agency, on June 15. More info? Call me.

In change lies opportunity, of course.

Change also brings unexpected consequences.

One item I wonder about: many busy realtors do market their listings in print and digital media. In the past, they hoped to encounter a buyer looking for that kind of advertised property. All marketing is a significant expense, and is paid for by the realtor. If a listing realtor cannot deal with a buyer who answers that property ad, will that agent continue to spend dollars on such advertising? Will specialty print magazines and real estate supplements, reliant on listing agents property advertisements, go by the wayside? Hmmm….

Summer is a short season. The natural world flowers forward. Enjoy the calmer moments delivered by these longer days. What did Omar Kayham say? The bird is on the wing? Catch the vibe…it’s summer-summer. Enjoy!

Market Analysis, April 2018, Salt Spring Island

April 2018, Salt Spring

Welcome to my world!

I am lucky to be able to live and to work on Salt Spring Island. I hope you enjoyed this video by a Vancouver based travel writer…who hopes to one day also live on Salt Spring. I thought he caught the essence of this magical place.

April is perhaps the true beginning of our real estate market “season”. Whispers of the year’s tone can appear around March Break, but the main action becomes evident by April.

We entered Spring with a very thin inventory of listings, in both residential and undeveloped land options. A lack of inventory, coupled with renewed buyer desire, does result in price escalation…the economic dynamic of supply and demand.

The “Speculation Tax” in the BC Real Estate Market

There can be interruptions to a market flow…the suggested speculation tax mentioned in the provincial government’s February budget appeared to be about to become such a non-market interruption. However, in late March, the government agreed to exempt the Gulf Islands from this tax. Initially, the capital regional district boundaries had put the speculation (vacancy tax) onto the Southern Gulf Islands, too.

The Islands Trust (the form of governance since 1974, on the Gulf Islands) created a secondary home/recreational/discretionary region.

Lack of affordable housing and work-rental choices are issues everywhere…Salt Spring’s approved affordable housing projects are not able to proceed because of a CRD water moratorium. The CRD needs to address this. More info? Call me.

April is an interesting month…it starts with the cool of March and ends with the largesse of almost-May. Every day is longer, softer temperatures encourage “real Spring” to energize us, and the exterior world welcomes us back.

Inventory

Whether inventory grows again and stabilizes prices or whether inventory remains thin and prices start to rise, Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands remain their serenely beautiful selves…and with some creative thinking, it is always possible to seek ownership. Some ideas? Call me! There is always opportunity.

We live in a time of shift. Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands enjoy proximity to major centres…they are apart but are not isolated.

Artificial Intelligence brings new technological benefits to our lives. The Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island, are time tunnels to previous times. Frozen by the 1974 Islands Trust mandate (“to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents), the islands are all about direct experience of the natural world.

Salt Spring welcomes you to enjoy its parks, hiking/walking trails, farmgate organic produce, farmers markets, winery tastings, cheesemaker farm, art galleries, studio tours, live music venues, theatre experiences, marine discoveries…spas, alternative health opportunities, yoga retreats…great restaurants to tempt the palate…feed the body, the mind, the soul on these tranquil Gulf Islands.

Market Analysis, March 2018, Salt Spring Island

March 2018, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

March…it brings with it “real Spring” (the one marked on the calendar), plus is the beginning of our main grid of sales activity.

Beginning of the Canadian Market Season

March Break to the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) signals our “season” in our secondary home/discretionary/recreational region.

The busiest months are July, August, September, of course, and these months also encompass high tourist season, but holiday weekends in earlier months, and school holidays (March Break), begin the rhythms.

March is beginning with very little inventory for sale. High buyer demand (in the entry level residential segment) continued throughout January/February, in spite of weather hesitations. There may be some few new listings yet to come onstream, but there is much less choice for a buyer.

The definition of a buyer’s market: lots of listings and very few buyers. A seller’s market? Few listings and many buyers. This scenario often leads to higher list and sale prices.

Sellers and listing agents do not set markets. Buyers do that. Strong buyer demand and few purchase choices create rising values. The economic maxim of supply and demand is a real one.

There are always opportunities for a buyer in a seller’s market. If interested in a property, though, one must be prepared to act. Bidding wars are rare on a Gulf Island…but back-up offers do come into play.

How will new tax affect real estate market?

The new coalition provincial government raised the offshore purchase tax to 20%, at their February budget. It still applies to metro-Vancouver, but now will also apply to Victoria, to Nanaimo, and to Kelowna. For Salt Spring, many buyers are from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Will the tax create a hesitation in sales there, as the initial tax did in August, 2016? Those sellers in Vancouver have become many of our Island buyers.

The provincial government is stating that they are bringing in empty home taxes, in an effort to stop speculation…in their words: to stop people treating the housing market as a stock market. They tie this to the affordable housing crunch, which is a feature of all communities, but this also involves the B.C. Tenancy Act (many people choose not to rent their homes).

I write these market updates at the beginning of each month, and do updates via my blog, as the month proceeds. Check out my blog for March 1st. It gives the Vancouver Real Estate Board’s recap of the February Budget. There is some confusion right now, but the offshore purchase tax (at the moment) only applies to Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna.

Changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C.

Changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C. were meant to take place by March 15th. The government wasn’t ready with courses for realtors, or with new contract forms paperwork, for the proposed substantive changes. The date has now been set for June 15th. Until then, it’s business as usual.

2018 seems to be a time of change. For Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, locked into a form of governance from 1974 (Islands Trust), we might appear to be a time tunnel, but these beautiful islands are on the doorstep of major centres (Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle), and being slightly “apart” does not mean isolation.

It is now stated that all knowledge we possess right this minute will be replaced within 18 months. Hmmm…. The creative response of the artist may be needed more than ever.

Meantime, technological shifts are streaking right along, in our post-Internet world: crypto currencies, block chain investing, 3-D printers, robotics, artificial intelligence (will those machines out-think us?), driverless cars, smart homes, smart phones, online lives, meshed reality…. Hmmm….

1974 is beginning to sound pretty good? It still exists on the Gulf Islands…thanks to the Islands Trust. One can always go out to visit and sample the “always on” world and then come back home to your chosen island.

Are you seeking a Salt Spring Island or Gulf Islands property? Call me. Your best interests are my motivation. Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, and negotiation skills.

Salt Spring offers an authentic artists community, a temperate climate that sustains vineyards, olive groves, small holding farming, plus encourages appreciation of the preserved natural beauty. “Discover Yourself Here” is the tag line of the local Chamber…and it’s true.