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Market Analysis, September 2016, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Beginning of the Fall Market

So…we begin the Fall Market…here it is, the beginning of September. The calendar says summer goes on till the 20th, but most of us see Labour Day Weekend as the “end”.

Sales volume in the Spring/early Summer market has gone up markedly on Salt Spring Island, in residential properties below $750,000. Over that price point, it remains softer.

In that entry-level residential segment, though, it could be described as sellers market conditions.

What does a seller’s market mean? Limited inventory plus strong buyer demand creates a seller’s market. Price escalation occurs with lack of product.

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory. The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, with the mandate to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, also effectively “capped” growth.

On Salt Spring Island

On Salt Spring Island

Growth in the Gulf Islands is controlled by strict zoning/density bylaws. On Salt Spring, commercial zoning is focused in both upper and seaside Ganges Villages, and they can’t expand beyond their boundaries. The small commercially zoned options at Vesuvius, Fulford, and Fernwood cannot expand. Home occupations are encouraged, but there are rules around these usages, too.

As soon as growth is limited, values do appreciate over time. Between 2002 and 2005, prices escalated by around 60% on Salt Spring. Then a pause developed in 2006 and 2007. Late 2008 delivered the global economic downturn, and secondary home/recreational areas (globally) saw a sharp fall-off in activity. Between early 2009 and early 2015, prices locally had reduced by around 45%.

Buyers who acted between 2013 (the “worst” year?) and late 2015, have benefitted by that dramatic levelling off of prices, in the secondary home markets. It’s difficult for people to act before clear signals of a market shift are in place…those who do act seem to have that “wolf’s sniff the wind” directional arrow.

Important always, though, to be looking down the highway and not in the rear view mirror…opportunity is ahead.

By late 2015, one could see an improving trend coming into play in the secondary home markets. The Sunshine Coast and the Okanagan saw renewed activity in the Fall of 2015. Early Spring brought action to Victoria and to some Vancouver Island communities. Mid-Spring delivered activity to the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring (perhaps because of its year-round lifestyle opportunities) usually shows market improvement first, among the Gulf Islands choices.

The interesting thing is the change in the buyer profile for Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands: almost 100% from Vancouver.

Traditionally, a Gulf Island buyer has come from Alberta (perhaps 20% of coastal buyers?) or from the U.S. (perhaps 30% of coastal purchasers?). This time, it’s buyers from Vancouver, who have sold during the extremely “hot” market there. They are seeking new areas to reside…not just recreational/seasonal buyers, thus.

These previously Vancouver based buyers will live here year round, and that has all sorts of good outcomes for the day to day business life on the Island. Shop Local becomes a viable item when there is a year round resident, and not just a seasonal impact.

Within the past 11 weeks, sales volume dramatically rose (perhaps tripled?) in the entry-level residential segment. On Salt Spring, that would be between 300,000 and 750,000. Low inventory with high buyer demand leads to price escalation. Couple that with an area with a no-growth policy (Islands Trust) and you can see that we may be returning to that 2002 to 2005 model.

Opportunity continues to exist in upper tier priced residential, in undeveloped lots and acreages, in recreational cottages/cabins, and in commercial options. These market segments have not yet seen the quick sales of the entry level priced residential properties. As these property categories start to sell (and they are slowly becoming more and more active), and inventory begins to thin out, price points will also stabilize/rise.

The sales stats to date break out as follows.

January 1 to August 28 “solds to date”:

  • 26 sales between 1 and 200,000.
  • 29 sales between 2 and 300,000.
  • 47 sales between 3 and 400,000.
  • 45 sales between 4 and 500,000.
  • 44 sales between 5 and 600,000.
  • 26 sales between 6 and 700,000.
  • 10 sales between 7 and 800,000.
  • 9 sales between 8 and 900,000
  • 5 sales. between 9 and 1 million.
  • 16 sales between 1 and 2 million.
  • 3 sales between 2 and 3 million.
  • 2 sales between 3 and 4 million.

There is always opportunity in any market trend. Creativity wins the day in a discretionary region. A buyer’s market means lots of inventory and few buyers. A seller’s market means little inventory and lots of buyers seeking.

Market Analysis, July 2016, Salt Spring Island

‘Tis The Season!

July is the mid-point in our year and is also the beginning of our “real season” in real estate showings and subsequent sales. Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, and many of the Vancouver Island communities, are secondary home markets. They are busiest between July and October.

salt

Secondary home/recreational areas do not follow the sales rhythms of primary residence/city regions. Thus, although eventually propelling activity in discretionary areas, Vancouver and Victoria real estate outcomes are quite different from those on Salt Spring or Mayne or Gabriola or in Parksville.

The huge sales volume in Vancouver, with resulting price increases, appears to now be mirrored in some parts of Victoria. That kind of sales frenzy is never the outcome on a Gulf Island or on Vancouver Island…the Islands are “by choice”/discretionary areas. By choice, I will buy on Salt Spring…by choice, I’m moving to Pender…by choice, I’m considering Qualicum…and so on.

What does this mean for a seller in these secondary home regions?

It’s become essential to have maintained one’s property.

It may be that all those popular HGTV style home shows have created a buyer who expects things to be “done”. Buyers do not want to call in a contractor…they are not looking for a fixer upper or a handyman special. If one has that kind of deferred maintenance property to sell, it may be necessary to come to market with a severely below market price tag. It’s interesting, this lack of buyer desire for a property needing “work”.

A new roof, a new deck, a septic system in good order, a well with water treatment system in place…these are now considered essentials. Interior items? Kitchens and bathrooms remain the two key components that will attract a buyer’s interest. Next would be flooring choices. Home ownership does bring with it consistent maintenance care. Renovations to update an older more dated home are often required.

Stiff Competition Remains

In our global post-Internet world, all secondary home areas are in competition with each other. It’s not just about a Salt Spring property being in competition with another Salt Spring home. A Salt Spring property is now competing for a buyer’s attention with a home on Galiano or on Thetis or in South Cowichan or in Parksville or in Courtenay/Comox…and also in Sidney or in Victoria. That means that a buyer also has to choose for the community itself, and not just a house in that location.

One thing that is of interest for any purchase on any Gulf Island: the form of governance has “capped” growth via strict zoning/density controls. The Islands Trust’s mandate (in place since 1974) is to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands. There is no opportunity then to see an explosion of growth on any Gulf Island.

On Salt Spring, as one drives about the Island, one is pretty well looking at “what is”. This retained beauty is important, but a cap on growth also leads to an escalation of prices, over time. Buyer interest coupled with low inventory of properties does lead to price stability and price rises.

The past downturn in all secondary home markets, and globally so, has eased or ended. It was a long eight year downturn. That lack of buyer interest did lead to lots of inventory and to lower prices. This is apparently now over.

Sales volume has dramatically increased on Salt Spring and inventory has returned to low levels.

The same dynamic is in play on other Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island.

The difference from previous times? That competition factor. A house in Qualicum is competing with one on Salt Spring which is competing with a property in Sidney…the playing field between locations has broadened.

This means that one has to sell Salt Spring itself, not just the property located there. Hmmm….another reason to shop local and so to ensure the continuing allure of Salt Spring Island? Interested in how to help to do this? Connect with the Chamber of Commerce and become a supporter of the entire community.

At this mid-point moment: between $300,000 and $750,000 price range, there are very few residential options left. Spring sales volume doubled and little new inventory came onstream. Low inventory plus renewed buyer interest leads to price increases.

Now, we are seeing interest in undeveloped land…with a view to putting up a modular or packaged home…or building a cottage and then the house. This scenario might allow one to remain at budget.

Slowly, we are seeing the upper tier priced residential offerings capturing interest. Inventory is also thin in that price point. There is renewed interest in commercial options.

January 2016, Market Analysis

January 2016, Market Analysis – Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island


A New Year…a new adventure.

2016 may turn out to be the authentic first post-meltdown year, for discretionary real estate sales.

Salt Spring Sales – Between 2008 & 2014

In the secondary home markets, between end of 2008 and end of 2014, there was scant activity. Although most sales in 2015 occurred under the label “entry level residential”, such sales volume may have doubled and listing inventory dramatically thinned. This is a marker of an authentic recovery. In the end, all property types/price points find their buyer.

Hard Asset Investing

It’s called hard asset investing, and is perhaps the antidote to years of quantitative easing. When currency uncertainties are a factor, ownership of a good real estate option is a solid route to safe haven investing.

This is an excellent opportunity for many to consider amplifying their property portfolio: to consider a recreational purchase as a means to grow their asset base. Undeveloped land opportunities may be the “best buy” venue.

Interest rates still remain at almost historic lows. Sellers might agree to hold a mortgage in order to facilitate a sale. Prices reduced over the past eight year downturn; recreational options are affordable. Vacation rentals can help to offset costs. And, there is the enjoyment aspect in this “always on” post-Internet world. A ferry to a retreat…hmmm…a recipe for a pleasing lifestyle?

BC Ferries

BC Ferries

A Time For Action

A cottage. A garden. A kayak at a dock. A deck to invite one to ponder a view. A beach to stroll. A mountain trail to hike. A decompression chamber? Plus an appreciation component that makes the enjoyment also a good investment.

Timing is all. January reminds us of the message of the double faced Roman god who left his name on this beginning month: one face looked back to past days, and one viewed forward. A quick glance back shows a market finally in recovery. A glimpse forward sees a moment in time that invites participation.

A new year, a new adventure…will you answer the call? Time for that recreational purchase? Time to turn that daydream into reality? Time for action.

November 2015, Market Analysis

November 2015

Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island

Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island


We are now sliding into the Fall-into-Winter moment.

There is often a perception that Salt Spring, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island are seasonal markets…busier in late Spring and Summer…with less happening in the supposed “off season”. Not so.

It’s important to be presented to the marketplace at all times, in this post-Internet era. The Google search eye never sleeps. Someone, somewhere is searching.

In our secondary home/discretionary region, on this thin strip of the beautiful Pacific Northwest Coast, potential buyers now turn up, physically, between mid-summer and late fall…to view what had caught their attention earlier, on the net.

Many sales thus take place between August and end of the year. This catches many sellers off guard, if they have only a Spring/Summer mindset for a possible sale.

At this point, in a still busy sales time, we can point to continuing signs of an authentic market shift…in a strong upward direction:

  • Thinning inventory.
  • Rising price levels in the entry level residential priced category.
  • Sales of undeveloped land.
  • Stronger interest in higher end residential options…with more sales in this segment.
  • Buyer desire to buy a retirement or recreational or investment property.
  • Concerns over currencies making hard asset investments of interest.
  • Media reporting on all the above.

No matter the market trend in play at any time, there is always opportunity in a property purchase. Over time, a real estate investment is an important one. It is a wealth builder and a wealth preserver, although it is a “long tail” investment decision.

If you are considering a purchase of a Salt Spring Island, other Gulf Island, or Vancouver Island property, call me. My strong referral network will connect you to the best agents if your wish list lies in an area outside my circle of expertise. Benefit from my knowledge, of both inventory & of trends…let me help you to discover the right property for you.

The transition period between a buyers and a sellers market is rapidly closing, in our Gulf Islands area.

In the entry level priced residential properties (below $550,000, say?), we are already seeing sellers conditions. In undeveloped land sales, it’s still early days. Waterfront & superlative ocean view acreages always see earliest activity, in upper tier residential (over $900,000), and this pattern has just started (since August?)…waterfronts and equestrian friendly acreages are currently most in demand. The spread between list and sale price points is rapidly narrowing in all property types.

These are the key factors pointing to the close of the transition period: narrowing price spread, thinning inventory, sales volume increase.

Our coastal secondary home regions only began to see “soft” recovery in late 2014. Now, although still not even-handed, and many properties still not seeing “fast sales”, we are almost through the transition period…many people, locally, liken both our current real estate and our small business recovery to 2006/2007 patterns. Pre-economic collapse of 2008, then. All good news!

How may I help you to buy your special Salt Spring Island, Gulf Island, or Vancouver Island property? Call me! Look forward to working with you.

June & July 2015, Market Analysis

June & July 2015, Market Analysis

Well…here we are…it’s the month when the calendar spells Summer…& the great Pacific Northwest Coast erupts into lush beauty.

Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are nestled in the heart of the very best protected boating waters in the world…and summer-summer is the premier season of all.

Sailing, kayaking, power boat discoveries…fishing…hiking, walking, climbing…farm gate stalls & farmers markets pleasures…galleries, studio tours, theatre, dance, live music venues around the town…spas, alternative health explorations, meditative & restorative experiences…it is all here, for your enjoyment, on special Salt Spring Island.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

I often think that real estate sales mirror visitor arrivals, & so the importance of tourism cannot be ignored in any secondary home/discretionary area.

One visits, falls in love, calls a realtor, & then everyone else gets busy: designers, architects, contractors, soft furnishing providers, painters, excavators, septic installers, well drillers, landscapers, gardeners, galleries, food providers, restaurants…you name it…it starts with tourism (which also initially benefits restaurants, hotel, motel, resorts, B&B providers, car and scooter rentals…boat & kayak rentals, fishing charters, whale watching tours…vineyard wine tastings, farmers markets)…you get the drift.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

The main industry on Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands is tourism…and all businesses benefit, whether at the front end or the back end.

The good news?

Visitors are back. Travel to the coastal regions is experiencing a resurgence. And the real estate markets are also on the “improve” side of the equation in all the “by choice” marketplaces. That includes on Salt Spring Island & the Gulf Islands.

A real estate recovery always starts in the entry level residential category. As sales volume increases and inventory “thins”, in this beginning property segment, then either the buyer has to raise the expectation level price-wise, or has to buy inexpensive raw land and build a cottage or move on a modular, to stay on budget. This is another strong sign, the sale of raw land parcels, of an authentic improving real estate market trend.

Many sellers on the Gulf Islands & on Vancouver Island, in the past 5 years, had wondered why the very brisk sales in 4 key neighborhoods of Vancouver had not spilled over onto our side of Georgia Strait.

Well, it’s the great divide between a city/primary residence market and a rural/secondary home marketplace. Totally different dynamics are in play.

In a downmarket, buyers can put a purchase in a discretionary market “on hold”… and indeed, this inaction on the part of buyers characterized the past 7 to 8 years on Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands. Same story on Vancouver Island & on the Sunshine Coast.

Similar statistics in Whistler & in B.C. Interior communities…no one has to retire or choose a softer lifestyle or purchase a recreational/second property for summer/weekends use…one needs a level of economic confidence to consider such “extra” property options.

Now however, (after 7 to 8 years of inaction from buyers) activity has begun…and soon it will be in evidence in all property types and price ranges, in all these recreational/retirement venues.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are very different from small coastal towns on Vancouver Island & on the Sunshine Coast. The Gulf Islands are a part of the Islands Trust, a government body that was created in 1974, to preserve & protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. Salt Spring is not a municipality.

The two trustees & the CRD representative (elected positions) are the form of governance…the restrictive zonings/bylaws, put in place in 1974, to severely control growth, remain in effect.

I think the lovely things of value on the Island have been created by volunteers: ArtSpring, Trail & Nature Club, Island Natural Growers, the Rainbow indoor pool, the Library, the pathways linking the Villages, various clubs & organizations, etc)…all the positive outcomes to benefit the community are the result of volunteers, and their fundraising efforts. Wow! An entrepreneurial & generous community, indeed.

So, when the real estate recovery starts, it’s not immediately even-handed. It begins in the entry level category. As inventory disappears, prices stabilize. The spread between list & sale narrows. In the end (say a year out?), all properties will find their buyer.

Li Read

Li Read

At the moment, we are often seeing substantial price reductions at the point of the offer, in the high end residential. These dream properties are unique/”one offs”…when one sells, that’s it…thus, just as in the case of entry level properties, that spread between list & sale prices in higher end opportunities will also narrow.

Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands basically had growth “capped” when the Trust was created. It’s about supply & demand, just as we learned in Economics 101.

There is a lot of “unrest” afoot in the world. Things that used to “work” no longer do so (thank you Internet world). Economies pretend to recover. Underneath it all, a subtle return to hard asset investment choices is underway. Keep an eye on the fine art sales at major auction houses. A purchase of a unique item is a preservation of capital move, I believe. A purchase of a property where growth is curtailed is a marker of overall uptick, in the long term. Supply and demand is the key. Safe haven investing? More info? Call me!

The good news right this minute?

The amazing Gulf Islands & Salt Spring Island are seeing an authentic recovery of the real estate market, after a very lengthy “pause” (7 long years?). All good news.

In real estate, no matter the terrain of market trends, there is always opportunity. In a shift, one just needs to reposition.