Tag Archives: market analysis

Market Analysis, October 2016, Salt Spring Island

A Market Surge & A Different Buyer

Markets, markets…never at equilibrium…driven by unforeseen events. The Black Swan image.

After an 8 year downturn in our secondary home market coastal region, a resurgence in sales volume finally took place in entry level residential options, between early March and late July.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

The buyers, however, were not the traditional purchasers for Gulf Islands properties.

For some substantial time, Alberta and the U.S. had been the main buyers on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands. In the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world, and with a temperate climate, these Islands did appeal to boaters.

The driver of the activity between March and July was very different…almost all sales were to people from Vancouver who had sold to offshore buyers and were thus seeking new places & new lifestyles.

In late June, & into July, a very few upper tier priced residential properties began to sell…some had been listed an appreciable time & had reduced in price point over that time.

A buyer’s market simply means lots of inventory and no buyers. A seller’s market means lots of buyers and little inventory. Again, most of these new higher end residential purchasers were from Vancouver.

Affordable housing, whether rental or purchase opportunities, is a serious issue everywhere. Vancouver’s affordability lack is not just a Vancouver issue. This is also a problem on Salt Spring Island.

The 15% purchase tax in Metro Vancouver, for offshore buyers, may have been brought in by the provincial government to address affordability concerns/criticisms, but there were unexpected consequences to the immediate faltering of Vancouver’s “hot market”.

Salt Spring, A Recipient Marketplace & the Vancouver Tax

Salt Spring, like all secondary home/recreational regions, is a recipient marketplace. Buyers often start as visitors…they fall in love with the Island, call a realtor, and then everyone else gets busy (trades, restaurants, shops, etc).

If real estate purchases falter, then the community as a whole suffers attrition. Shop Local is a serious community item.

The Vancouver buyers planned to live in the areas they were choosing for relocation…including on Salt Spring.

In creating a tax, from outside a market pattern, with little warning, the government created trickle down outcomes for all recipient / by choice markets…it resulted in a pause in activity.

On Salt Spring, most sales had been below 750,000, with latterly a smattering between one & four million. The Vancouver buyers wanted step-in ready residential, were mainly buying down and putting money in the bank…they were seeking new lifestyles. The Vancouver tax immediately halted new activity in other regions.

Change does often momentarily stop action. It has to be digested. The Vancouver buyer profile has stopped for the moment, and that has created a pause in Salt Spring Island and Gulf Islands real estate outcomes. Will the rhythm return?

People do digest change. The unknown? The speed of digestion.

Where is Inventory going in to the Fall 2016?

What we do know, entering October: inventory remains very thin. Prices stabilized between March and July. In a few cases, post-tax and possibly reacting to the sudden pause in action, some realtors locally have reduced prices (by as much as 100,000). Is this too fast a response to the tax pause? Although the hot market in Vancouver has cooled, prices there have not come down.

As we enter October, we also know that Salt Spring has recovered its tourist/visitor experience vibe. A successful visitor encounter often leads to a real estate outcome. Will we start to see the return of our more traditional and often seasonal buyers?

A recovery in a secondary home/recreational market is never quick. A choice to purchase on a Gulf Island is not a fast decision either.

Buyers are from elsewhere, they respond to promotional marketing, they turn up, they view, they decide to buy…but not usually on the same trip. Very often, it takes two to three visits for that purchase connection to take place. A buyer also has to choose “for” Salt Spring or another Gulf Island…then they will choose a property. It’s always a two-step dance, regardless of market trend in play.

At the end of September, the sales stats are as follows:

  • 26 sales up to 200,000.
  • 32 sales between 200,000 & 300,000.
  • 49 sales between 300,000 and 400,000.
  • 51 sales between 400 and 500,000.
  • 46 sales between 500,000 & 600,000.
  • 29 sales between 600 and 700,000.
  • 12 sales between 700 and 800,000.
  • 10 sales between 800,000 and 900,000.
  • 7 sales between 900,000 & one million.
  • 17 sales between one and two million.
  • 3 sales between 2 and 3 million.
  • 2 sales between 3 and 4 million.
  • 1 sale at 4 million even.

The sales over one million were mainly waterfronts.

I do this “market thoughts” report at the beginning of a month. As things progress/change throughout that month, I update via my blog.

In change, lies opportunity. There are always good options out there for a buyer, regardless of market trend in play. I look forward to helping buyers to connect with sellers on Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands.

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.

September 2015, Market Analysis

September 2015, Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island, 2015

Salt Spring Island, 2015


Real estate is always a sure-fire conversation starter. “What’s the market doing?” is a classic opener.

For those who have been holding secondary homes/recreational properties, during an almost eight year downturn, it’s welcome news indeed that the answer is now “Definitely improving!”.

All markets are cyclical in nature

All markets are cyclical in nature. Sellers would prefer to sell on a high, and buyers would love to buy on a low. Recognizing pivotal market trends is a tough call. It’s usual to understand things when they have already passed by…easier to enjoy that 20/20 vision of the past.

The recreational markets are particularly difficult to call. Unlike a primary residence/city marketplace, where one lives year-round, works there, sends children to school there, the secondary home/rural marketplaces are by choice areas.

Old Scott Road

Old Scott Road

No one “has to” buy a property on a Gulf Island or in a rural community on Vancouver Island. Such a decision is totally discretionary, and does require consumer confidence in economic outcomes.

The post-Internet world we all now inhabit has changed the fabric of recreational ownership. It’s probable that 100% of such purchases start with an Internet search, and possibly that start occurs a good two years before a purchase is even seriously entertained.

That internet search puts all recreational regions on the same level. The buyer is no longer specifically targeted to one area… all such regions are now in competition with each other. Choice is huge.

The difficulty with several evenly weighted choices is that the viewer of same may put off acting. A buyer wants to “be sure”, before choosing. Why this place? What about that one? How to decide? Too many choices may mean no decision is taken.

I often think that a happy visitor experience in a recreational area can lead to a real estate purchase there. Successful tourism outcomes seem to drive all secondary home economies.

So…tourist discoveries are apparently showing their best patterns since 2007. Real estate sales volume in rural/recreational regions has improved dramatically. We may be just at the beginning of a market trending upward, in such discretionary areas. This might be the brief equilibrium moment between a buyers and a sellers market.

The allure factor that encourages a discretionary property decision might be the opportunity to live, even part-time, in a kinder gentler place. To be self-sufficient. To remember our essential selves.

August 2015, Market Analysis

August 2015, Market Analysis

August on coastal B.C. is an alluring season…& this summer of sun & warmer than usual temperatures is calling forth visitor experiences throughout this beautiful region.

Salt Spring Inn

Salt Spring Inn


I’ve always thought that tourism leads to real estate sales in all secondary home/discretionary areas. During the 7 to 8 year “downturn”, tourist visits were also down.

Most businesses in discretionary regions are once again seeing good economic outcomes this season…many owners feel that things have returned to 2007 levels.

Real estate sales volume has doubled in most secondary home/by choice markets, in that entry level priced residential category.

Price Stabilization

Gulf Islands Hotel

Gulf Islands Hotel

Along with higher sales volume, there is thinning inventory in this same price segment. That usually leads to price stabilization & potential for price increases.

The upper tier priced residential market segment is seeing random sales again. Yes, prices are markedly lower than list, which may have seen several reductions if followed market down, but sales are slowly occurring.

Undeveloped land sales are also beginning to strengthen. Commercial opportunities are slowly catching attention. Both of these property categories are dependent on renewed buyer confidence.

While prices may not yet have stabilized to the point that definite patterns are in evidence, it is clear that the spread between list & sale pricing is rapidly narrowing, & in favour of the seller.

Late 2014 saw the beginning of consistent sales in that entry level residential category &, by late Spring 2015, this segment was seeing the transaction equation swinging to the seller side re sale pricings.

We seem to have become a summer/fall market now, in the Pacific Northwest coastal communities…whether the Gulf Islands, or Vancouver Island, or the Sunshine Coast. It’s important to be “out there“, if a seller, & year round (the buyer profile is mainly non-local in the discretionary areas), so that one is “discovered” & will bring the buyer to eventually choose…physicality, though, does seem to occur more frequently in summer & fall months.

We appear to be at a mid-point in a real estate recovery. Sales volume increases, stabilizing prices, renewed interest from buyers in holding second home/recreational property options…it all points the way to an authentic market recovery in all the secondary home markets.

Our low Canadian Dollar against the Pound & the U.S. Dollar may bring back that traditional buyer to our area. A “safe haven” seeking may be playing a part in showcasing our region as a viable destination choice. Our temperate climate does encourage self-sufficient outcomes.

How lucky we are to call this region “home”.