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Market Analysis, September 2018, Salt Spring Island

September 2018, Salt Spring

The beginning of September…still technically summer, yet somehow accepted as early Fall. All those back to school memories, perhaps, signalling a season change?

The Fall Market in Gulf Islands real estate can be busy…September/October/November do see a lot of sales going through. Perhaps buyers looked earlier, but they often wait till early and late Fall to “act”.

Some Statistics …

As we start into September, on Salt Spring there are approximately:

126 residential offerings CURRENTLY LISTED:

  • 60 below 1 million (309,900 to 995,000)
  • 66 over 1 million (1,020,000 to 4.8 million)

There are approximately 90 lots/acreages CURRENTLY LISTED:

  • 79 of them between 159,000 and 995,000
  • 11 of them between 1,020,000 and 2,495,000

There have been approximately 145 SALES TO DATE

  • 124 of these sales ranged between 155,000 and 999,000 (with most of such sales coming in below 800,000)
  • There were approximately 21 sales between 1,005,000 and 2.85 (with most between 1,005,000 and 1.95.
  • Only two sales over two million (2.15 and 2.85)

Most sales above one million were waterfront properties. (The “solds to date” include residential and undeveloped land options).

Over half of Salt Spring’s residential zoned listings are priced over one million, while (to date) most sales are below 900,000.

Time to sell or buy? Are we in a balanced market?

The current coalition provincial government’s February 20th budget brought in several tax measures that were meant to cool “hot” real estate markets. Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna were specifically targeted by these measures.

For many Vancouver Island communities and Gulf Islands, including on Salt Spring, the main buyer profile for past 18 or so months has been a seller who had previously sold in Vancouver and was then seeking a new home location. The measures to halt Vancouver’s market have worked…and abruptly so. That primary residence market has softened markedly and Salt Spring’s recipient market has also softened in response.

Government intrusion, then, mainly targeting Vancouver, has also affected our local Salt Spring and Gulf Islands market.

Real estate boards like to call this kind of a slow down in action a “balanced market”.

A buyer’s market is characterized by many listings and few buyers. A seller’s market is about few listings and many buyers. This often leads to price stability, and then can lead to price escalation.

Is a balanced market somewhere in between, or is this just “realtor speak” to put a positive spin on a changing market? Too soon to say.

The late summer/fall market can be a busy sales window on the Gulf Islands. It has been this way for several years. If new listings don’t pop onto the market, and buyers consistently want to be here, then we will see many more sales as we go through to year end…low inventory, coupled with buyer desire, maintain a seller’s market.

I do this market report at the beginning of each month, and do updates via my regular blogs.

At this exact moment in time, the very beginning of September, it seems that there is a hesitancy afoot. It may be a momentary reaction to the B.C. government’s move to soften real estate markets…by late October, we will see if there have been further repercussions.

Sellers and buyers are disturbed, in Vancouver, about the measures to halt that market’s rhythm. Non-local buyers are reluctant to encounter the speculation (vacancy) tax, the offshore purchase tax (now 20%), and the extra schools tax for properties assessed over 3 million. The vacancy tax and schools tax apply to local owners, too. (Luckily, Salt Spring and all Gulf Islands were exempted from the speculation (vacancy) tax, on March 26th).

That pausing in the Vancouver primary residence marketplace has outcomes on Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring is not immune to market forces in other areas.

Alberta and the U.S. buyers (once 50% of Salt Spring’s buyer profile, before the economic meltdown of 2008) have not reappeared. Vancouver remains the principal engine of activity in all coastal communities.

Harvest Time

This September/October will tell the tale of the 2018 market. We begin this new month, at this lovely harvest time of year, with thin inventory in all property categories/price points. Buyers are still around, but mainly seeking residential properties below 900,000. Will we see continuing clear out of inventory, perhaps at a slower pace, or will activity plateau due to the government intervention to suppress “hot” markets?

Hmmm…stay tuned.

Meantime, here we are, folding into the poet John Keat’s evocative description of Fall…“season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Many things are there to delight us on Salt Spring Island: Fall Fair, Farmers Markets, studio tours and gallery openings, Sip & Savour, harvest dinners in our great restaurants, craft fairs, Apple Fest, Canadian Thanksgiving…and there is much to be thankful for on this special Island. More info? Call me!

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.

Market Analysis, November 2017, Salt Spring Island

November 2017, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island, November, 2017, Salt Spring

Salt Spring Island

There’s a total of 170 listed properties (November 2017, Salt Spring) at this moment (counting only residential of all types & undeveloped residentially zoned land of all types…not including commercial or industrial zoned listings).

In a “slow/downturn” market, there can be between 380 to 420 listings (residential and undeveloped lots/acreages).

The listing inventory, since mid-March 2016 to current date, has thinned out. Mid-March 2016 was the very first sign of a small recovery on Salt Spring, after the long 8 year downturn.

It was a very slow sales volume increase, however, between then & now, with several non-market driven “pauses”.

The 15% offshore tax in early August, 2016, for metro-Vancouver, for example, also completely stopped the secondary home regions recovery…those Vancouver sellers had become the buyers on Sunshine Coast, on Vancouver Island, and on Salt Spring Island. On Salt Spring, Aug/Sept/Oct, of 2016, were “lost”.

Then: “real winter” (between Dec 3 & May 15) struck: all over the Coast. Both tourism & real estate viewings on Salt Spring were dramatically slowed.

Almost a 9 month pause, then, between August 2016 & May 2017.

The Summer Market was 6 weeks late…it usually starts in last week of June, & did not kick in until July 15, 2017. There were pauses within the summer season, as well…due to smoke from both Interior & Washington State fires…again, affected the whole Coast, but also caused significant delays in Salt Spring activity.

That 6 weeks later scenario seemed to carry into the Fall Market, too. Perhaps October was really September!

August 2017 may also have seen a hesitation in activity due to the incorporation vote on Sept 9th…several people, on either side of the question, were waiting for the vote outcome. There was a lot of off island media coverage leading up to the vote. It may have caused a bit of a “digestion” pause throughout September. Difficult to track these kinds of hesitations.

All these fits and starts sales rhythms aside, the main sales on Salt Spring Island remain below 850,000.

November 2017, Salt Spring

To date, the sales are as follows, from January 1, 2017 to October 31, 2017:

  • 21 sales between 95,000 & 199,500.
  • 25 sales between 200,000 & 299,000.
  • 31 sales between 305,000 & 396,000.
  • 43 sales between 400,000 & 489,000.
  • 30 sales between 500,000 & 599,000.
  • 20 sales between 605,000 & 690,000.
  • 16 sales between 700,000 & 795,000.
  • 12 sales between 800,000 & 899,000.
  • 6 sales between 900,000 & 950,000.
  • 25 sales between Private Island Estate.
  • 4 sales between 2.2 and 2.5.

The sales between one & two million were either waterfronts (both ocean & lake) houses, or very large farms (20 to 104 acres), or large ocean view acreages/houses. The majority of them were waterfronts.

The sales over two million were waterfronts (3 ocean & one lake), with houses.

These sale price ranges in November 2017, Salt Spring, do not include price reductions…they are the completed sale price points. In some cases, in the over a million category, there were substantial reductions at the point of a sale.

What is the main buyer profile around Salt Spring Island?

The main buyer profile is still out of Vancouver/Lower Mainland. Alberta & U.S. (used to be 50% of our buyers) are still not in evidence. A smattering appear from Ontario, U.K., Europe…but they do not always focus on Salt Spring as a final destination choice. Most Vancouver buyers are seeking to buy down, if they have achieved a good sale price at their end.

It takes time to sell any property in all the secondary home markets, and this is true of Salt Spring, too. The first step is to choose “for” the Island…and then to choose for a property. It usually takes 2 visits (often 3), before a buyer acts on a specific property.

A showings pattern is about the buyer…not about sellers, or properties, or realtors. It just takes the time it takes. Time is a very significant element in every secondary home market transaction.

Properties still remain on the market here for lengthy timeframes, before capturing a sale. Price can sometimes be an allure factor…though not always.

So…here we are…in the closing weeks of a calendar year. Low inventory in all property types and prices. Sellers often achieving list price or close to it. Back up offers in place, if not small bidding wars. A sense that 2018 will see the beginning of serious price escalation, based on that thin inventory/buyer demand scenario.

Hmmm…it does appear that in November 2017, Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands have returned to the buoyant times between 2002 and 2005. A nine year downturn now being followed by a nine year uptick? Stay tuned.