Tag Archives: Salt Spring Island Real Estate

February 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Signs of Early Spring

February. Longer days, bursts of Winter mingled with signs of very early Spring. Snowdrops are out, camellias budding, early rhododendrons in bloom, daffodils in bloom…early Spring is an energizing time on the great Pacific Northwest Coast and Salt Spring is a part of this…watch Nature unfurl.

Market Projections?

Market projections? Low listing inventory continues to be the main feature of the Salt Spring, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island marketplaces. There appears to be renewed buyer desire, and in all property types/price categories.  

It remains the case that it’s Vancouver sellers who become the main buyers in all the secondary home areas…including on Salt Spring.  

Thin inventory coupled with buyer interest usually results in price increases…buyers always set the pace in a real estate market trend.

It’s a good idea to wait for final thoughts until we see the provincial government’s February budget…will there be further measures to suppress real estate markets in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna?  

It was the provincial government’s 2018 February budget’s taxation measures that suppressed real estate sales in the above mentioned four areas…between late February 2018 and October 2019 sales activity was correspondingly slow in the secondary home markets, too.  

For Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, the outcomes in Vancouver’s market are still the statistics that strongly influence sales here.  

Geopolitical Events Influence

Geopolitical events influence all markets…one cannot ignore big picture happenings. That would include world health issues.

Marshall McLuhan predicted the “global village” scenario back in the 1970s…the same decade that saw the creation of the Islands Trust, by the then provincial government.  

The result of the Islands Trust form of governance for the Gulf Islands was to cap growth. The mandate of this government body was “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents.  

Intentions More Narrowly Interpreted

Over time, the original strict zoning/bylaws have been more narrowly interpreted. Growth has been controlled. This means, over time and beyond market trends, that the Gulf Islands will end by being places that one will have to be able to afford. They are basically parks. Inventory will remain low because of the Trust’s non-growth policies.  

The Islands Trust remains the form of governance for Salt Spring and the majority of Gulf Islands. These islands are governed by the provincial government’s Islands Trust body. Two trustees are elected per island, at the civic election time (4 year terms). Planners maintain the official community plan (OCP), and guide the elected officials. On Salt Spring, there is also an elected CRD (Capital Regional District) director…again, the CRD is mainly focused on Victoria issues. Who is really in charge for the Southern Gulf Islands (included in the CRD)?

After a two year study on governance models, with all such models retaining the two elected trustees and the overall Trust documents, Salt Spring voted (63%) in September 2017 to retain the current 1974 model…. The idea behind the two year study: to see if Salt Spring would become a Gulf Islands special style of municipal structure…along the lines of Bowen Island. Trust remained, but off island planners replaced by local councillors. This outcome was strongly voted down on Salt Spring.

Salt Spring offers all services/amenities for a pleasing lifestyle and it also offers excellent transportation options (3 different ferry routes, 2 regular sked floatplanes). There’s a hospital plus 3 elementary, a middle, and a senior school. An indoor pool and several health/wellness opportunities. An Arts Centre (ArtSpring) is an important creative hub on the Island. Sustainable farming is featured (vineyards, wineries, olive groves, cheese-makers, craft brewery, cideries, farmers markets). Salt Spring is a seasonless experience and offers a true year-round stand-alone lifestyle. It is easily accessible to major centres and yet is wonderfully apart. More information? Call me!

As we enter this very beginning of February,

  • there are 87 residential listings on Salt Spring, priced between 349,000 and 6,688,900
  • Forty-two of these residential listings are listed over one million.
  • There are 78 land only listings, priced between 139,000 and 2,495,000.
  • As soon as one defines a property search by price and type, it is immediately clear that inventory is extremely low. There have been 8 “solds to date”in 2020, ranging from 156,000 to 1,748,800.

Although genuinely seasonless…buyers are always around…the main grid of sales activity does tend to fall between March Break (mid-March) and the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) for all coastal secondary home markets.

February: let’s enjoy the early spring side of this leap-year month. Seedy Saturday weekend will inspire your gardening ideas. The Family Day Weekend, mid-month, is a moment of reconnections. Time to rediscover hiking/walking trails? Time to do a little forest bathing? Time to remember February’s homage to romance? Whatever the scenario: enjoy!

January 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Happy New Year!

Looking Ahead

January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god. Janus had two faces: one looking back and one looking forward.  

2020 may be the beginning of the “real” 21st Century, and change may be its signature. Artificial intelligence may be key. As we step into the beginning of this first month in a New Year, it might be best to focus on Janus’ forward seeking face.  

Real estate in B.C. continues to see significant changes in the industry itself. Real estate outcomes in major centres (Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna) continue to be impacted by provincial government suppression measures. Salt Spring’s main buyer profile continues to be someone who has sold in Vancouver and who is seeking a new lifestyle.  

Buyers Create Markets

As we enter January, on Salt Spring we note continuing thin inventory available for a buyer’s choice. If renewed buyer action continues to increase and the inventory continues to remain low, we may see price escalation by mid-2020. Supply and demand, our old economic friends, do predict price outcomes. Sellers and realtors do not create markets…buyers do that.

In January, it’s a good idea to attend financial seminars, to listen to those who make financial projections, to pay attention to geopolitical events (we are all part of a bigger picture), and then to bring our own thoughts to the table. The idea of New Year’s resolutions is really about creating a lifestyle plan. Early January is the time to be thoughtful.  

Discovery always comes in from the edges

In change lies opportunity. To see it, perhaps take time to practice periphery vision. If we just head down the prepared (by the media, by those with an agenda) channels, then we are using tunnel vision. Goes nowhere. Brings agitation. Discovery always comes in from the edges, our periphery envelope. Maybe that’s Janus’ forward-facing message? Be open? Seek future solutions? Hmmm…..

Meantime, if you are seeking a real estate outcome, whether selling or buying, on special Salt Spring Island, please call me. Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, experience…your best interests are always my motivation.

September 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Farmers Market, Salt Spring

September arrives with a sense of renewed purpose.

Although the calendar says Summer carries on until September 20-21, everyone accepts that Labour Day and “back to school” signal a new season.

On the great Pacific Northwest Coast, the days are slowly shortening…another seasonal sign.

September & October Can See a Strong Real Estate Picture

As we begin this new month, it’s good to remember that September and October can see a strong real estate sales picture. Perhaps potential buyers viewed earlier and perhaps they are just arriving now, but these two months can be very active.

Inventory, as soon as one fills in desired price point and property category, remains “thin”. Many owners do not want to be sellers. If one “has to” sell, for whatever reason, that may bring a few new listings onstream, but generally there is a small choice in properties right now for a prospective buyer.

The Buyer Profile

The main buyer profile is still someone from Vancouver/Lower Mainland…when they sell in the city, they become the buyers in the secondary home markets…and this includes on Salt Spring Island.

The main competing area to Salt Spring right now might be the Cowichan Valley. Sellers need to remember that Vancouver Island is also being looked at by that Lower Mainland potential buyer. This interviewing of destinations takes time, and is the main reason for time lags between viewing a property and deciding to offer on it.

Late Market Momentum

This 2019 year has been a shorter “season” than usual…the “once every fifty years” windstorm damage (end of December) is still being addressed in many areas…the unusual snow storms that refused to melt (February/March) added to the “pause”. The first three months of the year were effectively erased, and one could say that the Spring Market did not really get going until around April 5th.

The usual pause between end of May and beginning of June (a traditional hiatus between seasons) saw one local company dramatically reducing prices on all their company listings. These reductions did not lead to resulting strong sales.

The summer market is often a little haphazard…viewings but not always actions. The short pause towards end of August, as people with children return to home locations to organize “back to school”, saw the same company bring in another round of very dramatic reductions on all their company listings. It will be interesting to see if sales follow.

I do this market report at the beginning of a month and offer updates via my blog.

Geopolitics & Our New Media

Geopolitics (Hong Kong unrest, tariff wars), plus elections/media reporting, and continuing provincial government measures to suppress real estate values in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna…all these elements do affect buyer decisions re the timing of a purchase. Hmmm….

Price reductions may not be germane until the mainly non-local buyer physically turns up on Island…at that point, price spreads will matter.

At this beginning of September moment,

  • There are 134 residential listings (not separating out townhomes or waterfronts). 34 of these are below one million.
  • There are 96 land options (not separating out lots, acreages, or waterfronts).
  • There are 14 commercial listings (not separating out business only from land and business).

As soon as one puts in a parameter (type of property and price point) the choices quickly shrink.

  • There have been 105 sales to date (between 130,000 and 1,837,500). 39 of these sales are below one million.

September offers summer days, the Saturday Market and the Tuesday Farmers Market both continue, the annual Fall Fair is not to be missed…plus farm to plate dinners, Harvest delights at farmgate stands, gallery openings/receptions, wine tastings, cider tastings, craft brewery discovery. Hiking/walking trails beckon and kayaking/sailing invite. The month begins in Summer mode and closes with authentic Fall.

Salt Spring in September/October is a delight. Discover for yourself.

July 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island, BC

July, August, September are always the key months for tourism outcomes and for real estate activity, in our Gulf Islands marketplace.

Beginning of Season

I do these market reports at the beginning of each month, and so we are just starting into this year’s busier season. Inventory remains thin, and there are qualified buyers seeking a Gulf Islands/Salt Spring Island property.

Where is Salt Spring Island?

The Southern Gulf Islands are positioned between Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle. With excellent ferry service (three different ferry routes service Salt Spring), and two year-round floatplane services, and with schools, a hospital, and all services/amenities provided on Island, Salt Spring offers a pleasing lifestyle…and all while enjoying the natural world protected by the Islands Trust (a non-growth policy, to preserve the environment on the Gulf Islands). This Trust has been in place since 1974.

Are Market Conditions the same on Salt Spring Island?

No area is immune from global intricacies, and the Gulf Islands did experience, along with most secondary home regions, an almost nine year downturn, after the 2008 economic collapses. During that time, inventory built up and there were few buyers around. The secondary home areas began to recover in March 2016 and, in spite of government tax measures to suppress real estate action in city markets, a slow improving trend was underway in all rural/discretionary regions.

Where is the market currently?

On Salt Spring, we have now arrived at the classic definition of a seller’s market: low inventory coupled with increased buyer desire. Price increases can be an outcome, over time.

It’s interesting that one local company reduced prices on almost all their listings in late May/early June. Also, in mid-June, a waterfront listed with another company sold for well above list price (which implies a “bidding war”). Transition periods are often characterized by different outcomes, all on the table at once.

As we enter July, there are 122 residential listings.

  • 38 of these are below 799,000
  • 59 of these are over one million

There are 88 lots/acreages listings

There are 77 “solds to date” (Solds range from 135,000 to 1,700,000).


Most owners do not want to be sellers, right now. The inventory of available listings is very low…as soon as one differentiates between price and type, this is immediately clear.

What is the impact of technology on real estate?

Along with the narrow specifics of our local marketplace, 2019 is ushering in the true 21st Century to the real estate industry as a whole.

PropTech has already visited our sister industry, the financial investment world. E-trade, for example, connects users directly with the means to trade. There is no middleman.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, data-driven investing, globalization of search, changes to privacy of information, PropTech, tokenization of real estate, block chain technology that eliminates lawyers and realtors and puts sellers and buyers into direct touch, crypto currencies that avoid bank charges…real estate’s organization and execution will soon be different and very quickly so.


This is an interesting aspect when one considers a rural/discretionary property segment. Each property in a secondary home marketplace often mirrors the lifestyle of the owner…it’s even difficult for an appraiser…there are no comparables…each property is uniquely itself.

If one cannot use real comparisons to rank sales data, then how can cloud robotics state that such data is valid? Hmmm…perhaps this might mean that the interpretive voice of a knowledgeable local real estate agent will still be needed?

Definitely different days, and initial choices will be made on analyses of data. Interpretation of raw data will be important, but perhaps not at the beginning of an investor-buyer’s initial search. Data first…then interpretation…then it becomes information? Hmmm…..

So…how to position a seller’s property to catch maximum interest? So…how to facilitate an investor-buyer’s successful outcome? It is not business as usual, in this globally structured cloud universe.

Real Estate is a “People Business”

Real estate at its heart is a “people business”. Choices of location and style are often emotion based. We love a home. We feel at ease on a property. We are inspired by a location. These are emotional responses. Raw data is about statistical reports on past events, in an attempt, perhaps, at verifying future decisions.

Both are needed.

Happy Canada Day (July 1st)

Meantime: here we are at the very beginning of July (Canada’s birthday on July 1st and the U.S. celebration on the 4th). Salt Spring welcomes its visitors and both locals and visitors alike enjoy the many special summer events.

Saturday Market (one of Canada’s best), Tuesday Farmers Market, concerts in the Park (Tuesdays), sailing races (Wednesdays), kayaking to Chocolate Island, ArtCraft, Ganges galleries openings, Treehouse live music every evening, dining on a deck or patio (Salt Spring Inn, Auntie Pesto’s, Moby’s, Treehouse, Rock Salt, Piccolo’s, Kitchen), ArtSpring events. Forest breathing at Ruckle Park, Burgoyne Park, Channel Ridge trails. Wine tastings, cider tastings, craft brewery offerings. Salt Spring is a foodie paradise!

So many things to enjoy…look forward to hearing about your summer experience faves.

June 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

June. It’s a lovely hiatus month, between two real estate market moments: it straddles early Spring and Summer market patterns.

June also welcomes graduations, weddings, school’s out/summer holidays enthusiasm, and, on the great Pacific Northwest Coast, it can often be a showery weather month.

Gardens are in full array, roses are at their abundant bloom best, farmers markets, vineyard tastings…the opulence of Salt Spring’s rural heritage surrounds us.

Upper Tier & Entry Level Activity

At this hiatus moment, between two real estate sales patterns, it’s evident that entry level priced properties were where the action was in our short (due to weather vagaries between December 20 and end of March) early Spring cycle.

The upper tier priced properties don’t usually begin to see activity until after the Victoria Day Holiday Weekend, in mid-May.

Between mid-May and end of October, our real “season” takes place…and it invites buyers, in all price ranges and seeking all property types, to come forward to view.

Listing Inventory

The listing inventory remains very thin. We are seeing price reductions, but are also seeing that the very few new listings coming onstream are at higher price points than would have been the case in the previous year. Everything on the table at once means we are in a transition market…with an apparent upward momentum. Few listings, coupled with buyer desire, can lead to price increases. This outcome may not be evident until mid to late August.

I do this market update at the beginning of a month. June can have a “pause” in the first two weeks. Perhaps it’s about those family celebrations, but it might also be that late June begins summer travels and so early June is calmer.

At the beginning of June, then, we have 124 residential listings on the market. This does not separate out townhomes or waterfronts…it’s just residential/dwellings listings. There are 79 lots/acreages on the market. There have been 60 “solds to date”.

This is an extremely low listing inventory, particularly in the entry level priced categories. Most sales remain in that entry level price segment.

Of the 124 residential listings, at beginning of June

  • 12 under 500,000
  • 10 were under 700,000
  • 19 were under 800,000
  • 18 were listed below 900,000
  • 7 listings were under 1,000,000
  • 40 listings between 1 & 2,000,000
  • 12 listings between 2 & 3,000,000
  • 5 listings are between 3 & 4,000,000

Of the 79 lots/acreages, without separating out waterfronts, at beginning of June

  • 27 were listed under 300,000
  • 20 listed below 500,000
  • 16 were listed below 600,000
  • 10 were below 1,000,000
  • 6 were listed between 1,020,000 and 2,495,000

Of the 60 “solds to date”

  • 28 were below 600,000
  • 12 sales below 800,000
  • 10 sales were below 1,000,000
  • 10 sales between 1,000,000 and 1,700,000

Patience in the Secondary Home Markets. Invaluable

Patience is a part of all sales in all secondary home markets. A decision to buy is a choice…no one “has to” move to Salt Spring. In deciding about that choice, there are always time lags. Buyers do look in competing areas, “just to be sure”. It can take three visits before a decision is made.

Obstacles Can Play a Role

There are always issues facing all communities: for Salt Spring, the lack of affordable housing/work rental is also a problem. There are three public (and one private) affordable housing/rental options that are funded and permitted and they cannot go ahead because of the water moratorium.

Brought in by the three volunteer board members of NSSWD (North Salt Spring Water District) in 2014/15, this effectively prohibited connections to the water systems. There may be a capture/distribution issue on Salt Spring, but there is not a water shortage issue.

Water is under Improvement Districts at the provincial government level. The government has off-loaded Improvement Districts onto municipalities. Salt Spring is not a municipality…it is part of the Islands Trust. The CRD (Capital Regional District) out of Victoria could assume the NSSWD, but has not done so.

The lack of work rental options led to the Trust bylaw enforcement officer shutting down airb&b/short term vacation rental options (STVR). This was done under the assumption that vacation rental landlords would then rent to regular annual tenants. This is the Trust response to lack of work rentals.

The lack of people wanting to rent to regular tenants has to do with the current provincial government’s change to the B.C. Tenancy Act. The government canceled the Fixed Tenancy option, in Fall, 2017. This is why people do not want to be landlords to regular tenants…unless the owner moves in, one cannot give notice to a tenant.

Underlying Issue

The underlying issue, lack of affordable housing/work rental, gets back to the volunteer driven NSSWD moratorium on connecting to water systems. In our non-municipal form of governance, there is a lack of proactive oversight.

Summer Begins!!!

Meantime, the summer-summer season begins with June…and visitors to Salt Spring generate the economic well being of business enterprises. Check with the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce for more information.

So, lovely June is upon us. Time to dine al fresco on restaurant decks and patios, to enjoy live music venues (Treehouse Cafe, Moby’s, Woodley’s), to meander Ruckle Park trails, to go jump in the lake (St Mary’s, Cusheon, Weston, Stowell) and swim to your heart’s content, to paddle board off Vesuvius, to kayak to Chocolate Beach, to enjoy Saturday and Tuesday Markets, to simply “be”, and to definitely stop and smell those roses.

Seeking a real estate outcome on delectable Salt Spring Island? No matter the market trend in play at any given time, there is usually a way to make things work. Call me! Let’s discuss. Your best interests are my motivation.

March 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island

March 2019, Salt Spring Island Market

The entire Pacific Northwest Coast region experienced a once-every-twenty-years winter season weather pattern, which erased the 2019 projected early market.

A hurricane force wind on December 20th, with resulting power outages and severe forest damage, was replaced by an Arctic Front and snowstorm sequences (no melt between storms, due to cold)…the result of all of this was to cause a cancellation of potential viewers/buyers. Christmas/New Year week and February’s Family Day Holiday Weekend were both affected by weather-induced pauses. The good news: everyone did rebook and March appears to have “busyness” at its heart.

Listings remain very low, in both residential and in undeveloped land options. With renewed buyer interest, coupled with this lack of owner desire to sell, we may see price escalation begin. It may take until late April/early May to see the true tone of this year, since weather issues have created a slow start to the market.

Vancouver Real Estate Market 2019

The Vancouver market is also beginning to reactivate, including in the higher end property segment. Vancouver sellers have been the main buyers on Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands, since mid-March, 2016. Hesitations from then to now can be attributed to various provincial government tax measures, specifically created to suppress the Vancouver market, plus El Nino/La Nina weather vagaries.

March to Spring

March sees the beginning of Spring, showcases the allure factors of Salt Spring, and invites market activity…to enjoy a property between late Spring and early Fall (the best weather months in our area), one pretty well has to buy in March/April.

Low Canadian Dollar against the U.S. dollar, low interest rates, lack of inventory that may drive future price increases (would see this, if turns out to be the case, by summer), and a renewed global seeking of a safe haven destination, are all reasons for increased action. The hesitations of 2018 (mostly a reaction to the many provincial government tax burdens in Vancouver) seem to be over.

How can you make this current market work for you?

How can you make this current market work for you? Whether a seller or a buyer, and no matter the market trend, there are always elements that can work to your benefit.

At the very beginning of March:

  • 87 residential listings (not separating out waterfronts, townhomes, farms)
  • 60 undeveloped land listings (lots/acreages)
  • 14 commercial/business listings

10 sales to date, all residential, from 440,000 to 1,700,000.

It is more usual to see a total of 380 to 420 listings on Salt Spring…this lack of current inventory (147 residentially zoned options, including dwellings and undeveloped land), if continues, could lead to price escalation by the summer season.

March is an interesting month. It eases from winter into spring, daylight saving returns, and everywhere the resurgence of growth ignites our natural coastal beauty.

The Best Time to Visit Salt Spring Island

An annual Home and Garden show sponsored by the Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce takes place in mid-March and the beginning of the Saturday Market in the Park “season” is in place by month’s end. Live music continues at Moby’s, at Woodley’s, at the Legion. ArtSpring showcases special events. And the days are enticingly longer…time to rediscover Salt Spring’s hiking/walking trails, beachcombing pleasures, gallery spring openings…time to consider a garden.

April through October

Although Salt Spring is seasonless, in the sense that there is always something to discover and to enjoy, it is true that April to October are the famously most delightful months on the great Pacific Northwest Coast. March is the shaking off of winter and the preparation for “real Spring”. Time for all of us to mirror the month and to shake it up a little.

Thinking of real estate this March? Call me. Benefit from my knowledge of inventory and market trends. Your best interests are my motivation.