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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.

Market Analysis, May 2016, Salt Spring Island

Market Analysis, May 2016, Salt Spring Island

Market Recovery - Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Signs of a Seller’s Market Recovery

Yes, it’s really true…after an 8 year market downturn, we are finally seeing a resurgence of authentic activity in our secondary home/discretionary real estate market.

Many listings had followed the market down. Fine properties and well-marketed…but few buyers around. In a downmarket, buyers are scarce. In past five weeks, many of these long listed properties have now sold. Very few new listings are coming onstream to replace these steady “solds“…this is the sign of a seller’s market.

At the moment, it appears that sales volume has doubled over the same period as last year and that prices have stabilized (meaning that the buyers are having to offer close to or at list price to secure a property). Price rises and back-up offers may be next.

Salt Spring Island Ganges Harbour - Market Recovery

Salt Spring Island Ganges Harbour

Vancouver Origin

This authentic recovery is very new…began from one-day-to-the-next, approximately 5 weeks ago. Most buyers are from Vancouver. They have sold properties in Vancouver’s hot market, and are now seeking alternative places.

In late Fall of 2015, these property seekers were first looking on Sunshine Coast & in Okanagan communities.

Finally, it’s now the turn of Salt Spring, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island, to be considered as the new lifestyle choices.

The desire for a unique hard asset investment is strong again. The “safe haven” seeking may also be a part of sales in our beautiful coastal region. The natural rhythm of a market recovery…every 10 years there is an uptick?…is also a part of this return to a strong sales pattern. There is never just one reason for a market recovery.

Recoveries are never even-handed, especially when they first begin. There remain very pleasing properties at approachable prices. There are still opportunities for a buyer.

As residential offerings continue to thin out, it may be that an undeveloped land purchase will be in a buyer’s favour. Build a cottage, or barge on a home being saved from a city’s destruction, or consider a package home.

A renovation project on great land should always be considered.

Call me for ideas that work.

Creative financing can be a buyer’s friend in an upmarket trend.

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.

April 2015, Market Analysis

April 2015, Market Analysis – Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Back to The Seller Side

Yes, it’s true…the real estate market is turning back to the seller side of the sales equation in the secondary home marketplaces…good news indeed for Salt Spring Island & Gulf Islands & Vancouver Island owners.

On the Pacific Northwest Coast, which includes all Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island, plus Vancouver Island, plus Sunshine Coast, the secondary home/recreational/discretionary marketplaces are all definitely on the improve.

li-read-group-all

Inventory has “thinned” dramatically in the entry level priced residential segment. Slow sales in this price category, over the past 2 years, have quietly erased inventory backlog. Affordably priced undeveloped land is now beginning to sell as a result…buying land & building a cottage or choosing a manufactured home allows one to keep the budget at that entry level price point.

As inventory “thins”, prices stabilize. In some cases there are already small bidding wars.

Buyers who are able to increase their budget are starting to look at higher priced residential offerings, for more choice & potentially more motivated sellers.

For The Luxury Buyer In Salt Spring

For those able to consider a purchase in the luxury/upper tier priced property segment, there are still deals to happen, for a buyer. It may take until the Fall Market to see stability in pricings in the over one million category. Right now, this property segment is experiencing the uptick in interest & resulting lower offers that the entry level category experienced during the past two years.

I think when we arrive at late September/mid-October timeframe, we will see an even-handed recovery firmly underway.

I believe we are in the very last stages of a transition period, here, in our coastal region, between buyer & seller markets.

My definition of a buyers market: lots of listings & no buyers. And a sellers market? No inventory & lots of buyers. I think we are moving to that sellers market description.

It has been a long 7 years in all the secondary home/discretionary markets, & globally so. Some areas may even have experienced the “pause” 10 years ago. Within our overall coastal grid, places are never evenly busy.

British Columbia, An Undiscovered Coast

On this still relatively undiscovered Coast, we are always the tail of the dog. Now, however, we are seeing dramatic improvement…sales volume to date, for Salt Spring, has improved by close to 30% over previous year. Price stability has just begun…price increases may be on the horizon, but not just yet. This upward sales volume pattern is in evidence on the entire coastal rim.

Our discretionary area sales window runs from March Break through to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October). It remains a weekend business until mid-May, perhaps. Late June to late September remain the busiest sales months.

A seasonal marketplace once more on the move…plus, a lower Canadian Dollar against the U.S. currency…plus a general safe haven seeking in this turbulent global political & economic time of change…& the ability to live anywhere while working in the digital universe…it all adds to the general rhythm of uptick.

Salt Spring – The Allure of A “Caring Community”

The allure of a caring community is another attraction of the secondary home regions. An aging in place demographic, a strong community service volunteer group, a caring underpinning to the Island…this certainly describes exceptional Salt Spring Island.

Yes, it’s different than the flat conditions of the past 7 + years. However, there is always opportunity. The key? Recognizing it when it appears before you, and then acting on it.

An outcome of the global search is that it throws up a lot of surface information…& a lot of choice usually means slowness in action. The “have I seen it all yet?” syndrome. So important to listen for the “ping”. If a property lights up for you, then that’s the one to act on. It’s about listening to our inner voice.

I sometimes think searching property sites has become an entertainment feature…kind of like a 90s sitcom…look but not act. For an investment uptick, though (always better to buy on a rising market), now is the time for buyer involvement.

Continuing low interest rates are in favour of the buyer, for the time being.

Although inventory is thinning out in the affordable price segment, there are still creative ways to remain on budget.

Salt Spring Island Real Estate – An Appreciating Asset

An investment on a Gulf Island, including on Salt Spring Island, the largest & best serviced of this “southern” grouping, remains a good investment. Over time, a property purchase on Salt Spring Island & the Gulf Islands will build in value.

The Islands Trust put a cap on growth back in 1974…through strict zoning/density bylaws controls. Supply & demand is a factor in a Gulf Islands market, due to the Trust’s non-growth policies.

Enjoyment of a property is also a valid marker of value for a discretionary region. That enjoyment may include the ability to be self-sustaining. The benign micro-climate in our coastal environment makes this possible.

Yes, all markets are like a wave…up, down, up, down…never static. In real estate, it seems that the down never falls as low as the previous down. Thus, over time, a steady increase is consistently shown. On the rise, the fix & flippers start to reappear. Savvy ones are acting now.

Between 2000 & 2001, sales volume rose 50%. Between 2002 & 2005, prices rose 60%. A slowing trend took place between 2006 & 2007. Then the economic collapses of late 2008…now, at the beginning of April, 2015, we seem to be emerging back into 2002 times. Possibly we will look back & decide that 2010/2011 were the true flat bottom years in our discretionary area.

In change lies opportunity.