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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 NiƱa “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, June 2017, Salt Spring Island

Restaurant For Salt, Salt Spring Island

June 2017

The interest in all secondary home/recreational markets continues…on Vancouver Island, on the Sunshine Coast, and on the Gulf Islands.

Salt Spring Island remains a sought-after destination…it is a “stand alone” community, with a year-round lifestyle opportunity, and is very attractive to those seeking more than just a “summer place”.

Salt Spring offers a hospital and good related health segment. There are three elementary schools, a middle and a senior school. There is an indoor pool, an arts centre (ArtSpring), a modern Library/Resource Centre, and myriad park hiking/walking trails to explore. In the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world, Salt Spring Island is beautifully sited in the Salish Sea.

Salt Spring Island, Skywater

Salt Spring Island, Skywater

B.C. residents) effectively capped growth on all the Gulf Islands. This control of growth, via strict zoning/density bylaws, has preserved a lovely yesteryear ambiance…yet all that is required for an optimum 21st Century lifestyle is immediately at hand, on Salt Spring Island.

With a micro-climate that supports vineyards, olive grove, orchards, small farm holdings, it is possible to enjoy a self-sufficient living choice.

The real estate market, though experiencing a fits and starts rhythm (offshore tax in Vancouver plus a once every twenty years burst of “real winter” caused significant pauses, approximately six months in total) in 2016…yet now, in retrospect, that 2016 year is showing itself as the sales volume increase year.

So far, in 2017, it continues to be about lack of inventory, continuing high buyer demand, and subsequent price stabilization…it may be that price increases will be a feature of the final 2017 market report.

A buyer’s market simply means lots of inventory and few buyers…prices remain suppressed. A seller’s market means little inventory, lots of buyers seeking property, and resulting buoyant pricings. It is always about supply and demand in a market driven industry.

June is an interesting month. A divide between winter-spring and summer-fall markets. Often quiet in the first three weeks, the serious “season” begins in that final week. July/August/September remain very active in sales, in all the secondary home/discretionary markets.

To date, from January 1 to close of May, the sales on Salt Spring are:

  • 10 between 159,000 and 199,500.
  • 12 between 200,000 and 299,000.
  • 18 between 305,000 and 396,000.
  • 22 between 400,000 and 487,000.
  • 17 between 500,000 and 599,000.
  • 9 between 625,000 and 690,000.
  • 5 between 710,000 and 769,000.
  • 8 between 800,000 and 899,000.
  • 2 between 900,000 and 945,250.
  • 7 between 1,075,000 and 1,750,000.
  • 3 between 2,200,000 and 2,500,000.

The listing inventory (residential/lots-acreages/commercial) remains very “thin”. Although prices have not yet gone up, they have stabilized…in many cases, properties are selling at full list price. Back-up offers are in play and a very few have been in mini-bidding war territory.

The last half of the year will showcase the rhythm of sales for 2017. Am not sure when we went to a late summer/fall market for actual sales, but that is the current tone. People may view earlier…but they often act later. Hmmmm….

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, 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.