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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.

Market Analysis, October 2017, Salt Spring Island

October, 2017

October is often seen as the divide between early Fall (with echoes of September charms) and late Fall (another word for early Winter, on the Pacific Northwest Coast).

On Salt Spring, the harvest season is with us: Apple Fest, Canadian Thanksgiving, Sip and Savour, Tuesday Farmers Market, Saturday Market-in-the-Park…plus the rediscovery of the softer season on this delectable Island.

Sunday afternoon sailing races, hiking/walking trails (Ruckle Park, Mt Maxwell, Mt Erskine, Burgoyne Bay Park, Channel Ridge trails), studio tours, craft fairs…these are all a part of the Fall Season on special Salt Spring Island.

Real estate discoveries and sales are a strong feature…the Fall Market can be one of the busiest of the year.

As we arrive at the beginning of October, we are noting a thin inventory of properties for sale, no matter the type or price point.

This does not mean the listings will all rush towards a buyer.

Secondary Home Markets

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are secondary home markets. This means they are “by choice”/discretionary regions. No one “has to” move to Salt Spring Island…or any Gulf Island.

The first visit from the mainly non-local buyer is always about the island itself…that first visit is about deciding if Salt Spring itself offers the buyer’s desired lifestyle option. If it does…then there will be a second visit to seriously look at available listings.

Often, it takes three visits before there is an offer. In a secondary home area, it simply takes the time it takes, to achieve a sale moment. Days on Market is not a relevant thing in any discretionary marketplace.

Buyers set prices and markets…not sellers or realtors.

If a buyer is not interested in achieving a property in a secondary home market, then it’s a flat sales picture.

The economic downturn (October 2008 to mid-March 2016, in our region) saw serious price reductions, few sales, and a slow recovery.

Interruptions by government (an offshore purchase tax in metro-Vancouver (where our main buyers were from) in August, 2016) and weather vagaries (a once-every-20-years La Niña “real winter”, that lasted from Dec 3, 2016 to May 15, 2017) conspired to hold up the general market recovery…there was a nine month pause in activity.

The Summer market was about six weeks late in arriving…took till July 15/16 to kick in. So…here we are…rushing into the shorter Fall Season.

In spite of hesitations, the inventory is historically small. Buyers are around. Yes, they are looking in many coastal communities…Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands have competition now, in decisions. Yes, one does have to sell the island first, before any buyer will look at listings. It remains the 2-step dance it’s always been: first, “decide for” the particular Island. Then: choose the property.

All that said, the combination of low inventory and price stabilization forecasts a market uptick in pricings. This may be with us by the early Spring 2018 market.

Add that to the Islands Trust cap on growth (the outcome of those 1974 bylaws/zoning restrictions), and the temperate “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate that encourages small holdings farming, plus the sense of safety and “apartness”, yet proximity to major centres…and one can see why there is an allure to the Salt Spring Island lifestyle.

More information? Call me. There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trends. A seller? It’s your moment. Still takes patience, though, while the buyer “considers”.

Market Analysis, July 2017, Salt Spring Island

July 2017

July begins our main season…both for tourism/visitor experiences and for real estate discoveries and sales.

In a way, Salt Spring Island is seasonless. People turn up at any time, and real estate sales occur in December and January as well as in August and September.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island


The Pacific Northwest Coast, though, does seem to call forth most activity and arrivals in the late summer/early fall time. Although gardens spill over into spring beauty in April/May/early June, the arrivals time for serious property seekers has evolved into that mid-July to end of October timeline.

Since mid-March, 2016, and even with interruptions from city off-shore tax ramifications and results of “real winter” (added up to 7 months of “pause”), we began to recover from that 8 year global economic downturn…and we have now arrived at an authentic seller’s market.

The classic definition of a seller’s market: low inventory plus high buyer demand. The outcome of a seller’s market: price increases.

That said, there are always opportunities for a buyer.

To own property on a Gulf Island, including on Salt Spring Island, is a long-term and enviable asset.

In 1974, the provincial government created the Islands Trust. It’s mandate: to preserve & protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. Through strict zoning/bylaws, the Trust effectively capped growth.

A limited inventory, both structurally and by market forces, does predict an escalation of prices, over time.

These early days of recovery in the real estate sector have seen most of the sales activity in the entry level priced properties. It may be that this action will now start to be seen in the mid-range to the upper tier priced options. What is also interesting, at this point: undeveloped land options have also seen sales action. A market recovery does always begin with sales in the entry level residential segment. As inventory thins, land options and a building project are considered.

July and August are key months for all businesses in our rural/recreational region…tourism is the main industry in the Gulf Islands. A successful visitor experience can result in a real estate sale.

Looking to sell? This may be an optimum time to consider listing your property. Low inventory coupled with buyer demand does favour a seller. Prices have stabilized. In many cases, properties are selling at list prices. In a few instances, if a property is unique and there are no comparables, there are small bidding wars. There are often back-up offers, due to lack of supply. That said, the buyers are, in the main, not “local”. They are looking in other coastal communities, too. Salt Spring has competition as a destination for a buyer. All sellers need to treat offers with respect. The Gulf Islands are discretionary/”by choice” areas.

Seeking to buy? A creative approach can often keep a property purchase at budget. It’s important, though, in an offer moment, that one puts in one’s “highest & best” offer response. A seller’s market means that the negotiating window that buyers enjoyed, two years ago, has been erased. There is competition from other buyers now. More information, on how to enjoy a successful property purchase, as a buyer? Call me!

There is always opportunity, regardless of a market trend in play at any specific time.

Market Analysis, April 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market Analysis, February 2017, Salt Spring Island

February 2017

The real estate market shows its tone by mid-February, in our secondary home marketplace. It seems that the first six to seven weeks of a New Year continue the tenor of November and December of the previous year.

February 2017

A resurgence in sales, resulting in a very thin inventory and a stabilizing of prices….these are continuing signs of a market uptick. An increase in tax assessments that reflect the strong sales in the previous year…such assessments are mailed out to property owners in early January…is another marker. Multiple bids and higher selling price over list price: that has happened, if a property is unique, and is another sign of an authentic turn into seller’s market conditions.

It is wise to allow January and early February to unfold. The secondary home markets see their busiest moments between mid-March and end of October. Best, perhaps, to let the first weeks of a new year bring forward the clues to the rest of the year. By mid-February, the first whispers of the main trend start to be heard.

So, meantime, attend conferences that offer arrows of information about the future. Pay attention. Be aware of shifts and changes.

It’s the fallow field moment: the roots are busy, but very little shows above ground.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands remain extraordinary places to visit, to enjoy, to choose as special places to live. They are “seasonless” experiences. There is always something to discover and to be inspired by.

More information? Call me! Your best interests are my motivation…I will make sure that you see all property opportunities available in your preferred categories.

Pop by my office for free maps, weekly driveby lists for all listed properties, regardless of realtor or company or board affiliation. All current listings, totally up-to-date, to help you in your search. Welcome!

Market Analysis, January 2017, Salt Spring Island

January 2017

The real estate market shows its tone by mid-February, in our secondary home marketplace. It seems that the first six weeks of a New
Year continue the tenor of November and December of the previous year.

A resurgence in sales, a thin inventory, a stabilizing of prices….these are continuing signs of a market uptick. An increase in tax assessments that reflect strong sales in the previous year…such assessments are mailed out to property owners in early January…is another marker.

It is wise to allow January and early February to unfold. The secondary home markets see their busiest moments between mid-March and end of October. Best, perhaps, to let the first weeks bring forward the clues to the rest of the year.

So, attend conferences that offer arrows of information about the future. Pay attention. Be aware of shifts and changes.

It’s the fallow field moment: the roots are busy, but nothing yet shows above ground.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands remain extraordinary places to visit, to enjoy, to choose as special places to live. They are “seasonless” experiences.