Tag Archives: salt spring real estate

September 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island, Fall

September is a segue from late summer into early fall, and at this very beginning of the month we are still enjoying sunny days and warm temperatures.

Market Uncertainty Prevails

There remain many uncertainties going forward, due to the impacts of covid-19. Will some businesses that tried to hang on over the traditional July/August summer season now close for good? Will students return to school, with covid protocols in place, or will online classes and home schooling continue? Will covid protocols for accommodations and restaurants allow those visitor-centric businesses to survive over the fall/winter months? Hmmm…the rhythm of Salt Spring may be totally changed as the Island struggles with resilience and recovery.

Migration or Long Term Investments?

The ten week shut-down did result in city people seeking apart places…this was the driver for real estate sales in the Gulf Islands…a Vancouver seller was becoming the buyer in all secondary home regions. In some cases, Vancouver properties were selling to Hong Kong Chinese, many of them with Canadian passports. In other cases, some buyers for the rural areas were simply land-banking, concerned about all the money being printed, and the resulting worry over the validity of currencies. Hmmm….

Low listing inventory and high buyer demand, plus a lack of interest from owners in becoming sellers, have been a feature in all the secondary home markets…including on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

Low inventory and high buyer demand can result in price escalation. This may be underway at this very beginning of September.

Market Snapshot

At this first of the month timeline, a snapshot of the Salt Spring market shows

84 residential listings (not separating out single family, townhomes, waterfront, farms…simply the number of available homes).

Prices range from 479,000 to 14,000,000.

There are currently 76 land listings (again, not separating out lots, acreages, waterfronts, view, farms).

These land opportunities are residentially zoned. Prices range from 129,000 to 2,495,000.

There are 11 commercial options for sale…some are business only and others land/building and business.

Prices range from 175,000 to 15,000,000.

At this very beginning of September, there have been 145 “solds to date”. Some sales occurred in January/February.

Then the 10 week closures due to covid-19 caused a total pause in activity. Around June 20, the increase in buyer action began.

Sales range from 120,000 to 2,600,100.


Rural is Trending

The main driver of sales? The strong desire to get out of the city and to relocate to a rural area. Most sales have been residential, as people plan to live in the chosen rural area…they are not looking for a building project. That said, there is an emergence of a land-banking movement…parking cash in good undeveloped properties. This began to be seen in late August. Very low interest rates are another propeller to buyer action right now.

Listing inventory in all property types/price ranges remains extraordinarily low. Sellers on a Gulf Island are always aware that it is a buyer’s choice to decide “for” a Gulf Island /Salt Spring Island. In the main, sellers do listen to serious offers. The lifestyle offered on Salt Spring/the Gulf Islands is very pleasing…but it is also always a choice. More information about this, and the interesting cap on growth, created by the Islands Trust back in 1974? Call me!

As covid-19 continues to have impact globally, and as geopolitics evolve, the lovely “apart” places (such as Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands) will not be unaffected. We are all part of the world outcomes. Pre-covid, globalization was the pattern. Post-covid, will we see a return to more local investments? Is that even possible in an online world?

Community Matters

Salt Spring also offers a caring community and that aspect is ever more important. Support local, enjoy local, choose local…especially as the online purchase/distribution option continues to grow. It is a choice to preserve the Salt Spring vibe.

Meantime: September offers that amazing harvest time…catch the Tuesday Farmers Market, check out the farm gate stands, be on a farmers “box” list and support local. A pared down / covid responsive Saturday Market is also underway. ArtCraft is open for a few more weeks…check out the amazing artist offerings here. Fall Fair will be a virtual event…be sure to view it online. ArtSpring is opening for some events…with covid protocols in place. Cooler mornings and evenings, with warm afternoons, are a part of September’s easing from summer-into-fall. Lots of decks and patios to enjoy coffee, lunch, dinner…how lucky we are with our super restaurants. Hiking/walking trails, kayak voyages, sailing races…the natural world beckons.

This is a beautiful time of year…enjoy!

March 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island

Gulf Islands Preserve

In our “always on” era, perhaps the value in a Gulf Islands form of governance (the Islands Trust) is going to turn out to be the preservation of a past lifestyle. Will this allow a “breathing room” for those who visit or live on a Gulf Island?

The Islands Trust is a provincial government body, created in 1974, with a mandate “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents. This goal was successful. The Gulf Islands are park-like areas. Growth was controlled via severe zoning/bylaw restrictions, put in place in 1974.

Two trustees are elected per island, at civic election time. Planners (from Victoria) administer. Along with the Trustees, the governance model also includes, for the southern Gulf Islands, the CRD (Capital Regional District), in Victoria. A CRD director is also elected at civic election time (four year terms).

In being a part of the Capital Regional District, the Southern Gulf Islands are considered urban entities, although very rural areas in character. They are noted as rural on tax assessments. In being characterized as urban, under CRD, many government funding opportunities open to rural regions are not available to the Southern Gulf Islands. Again, the CRD burocracy is mainly focused on Victoria concerns.

After a recent two year governance study, Salt Spring voted on whether to become a Gulf Islands municipality (following the lead of Bowen Island). The Trust would have remained in place, but planners would have been replaced by locally elected council/mayor, and many CRD files would also have been under such elected representatives. All tax monies raised on Salt Spring would have stayed on Salt Spring. In September, 2017, Salt Spring voted (63%) to leave things “as is”. Effectively, the island remains in 1974.

In 2020, the inadequacies of 1974 ideas can be seen. Many different groups are meeting and trying to make inadequacies “work” under the old system. Lack of affordable housing/work rental is only one outstanding item.

In our always connected/never off world, perhaps being able to drop into a 1970s experience will act as a restorative function…along the lines of the Japanese concept of forest bathing.

Salt Spring, with its natural beauty, its small Village atmosphere in the few designated commercially zoned areas (zoning was set in 1974, remember), and the overall non-growth policy for the Gulf Islands, may now have created a place for one to be restored to basic humanity. Now: it may be beyond just preservation of a natural world and have evolved into preservation of the human psyche. Could be…like a pocket place…a withdrawing chamber. Hmmm…..

Technological Advancement

Virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G & beyond speed of connectivity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the expanding Internet of things, 3-D printers…is the shock of dropping into 1974’s ethic the “change that is as good as a rest”? Would it be like the “time out” offered to over-active children? A way to rediscover our true selves?

Hmmmm….maybe add this restorative quality to promotional marketing about the preserved natural beauty of the Gulf Islands?

Meantime: all real estate market indications are still pointing to seller’s market conditions. This simply means few listings and many buyers…which usually (by the end of such a cycle) lead to higher prices.


From the Beginning of March

Residential

At the very beginning of March there are

  • 87 residential listings, not separating out waterfronts, farms, oceanviews, or acreages
  • 48 of them are listed between 269,000 – 999,800
  • 29 of them are listed between 1,035,000 – 1,900,000
  • 8 listings between 2,125,000 – 2,999,900
  • 1 listing is at 3,499,900
  • 1 is listed at 6,688,900

Land & Acreage

At the very beginning of March there are

  • 81 land listings, not separating out waterfronts, farms, ocean view, lots, acreages
  • from 139,000 to 3,135,000

Commercial

  • 16 commercial listings on the market, at the beginning of March, some of them are business only options and others are land/business opportunities
  • range between 175,000 and 15 million

Solds To Date

  • There have been 20 “solds to date”, at the beginning of March.
  • The sales range between 156,000 and 1,840,000.

The listing inventory remains exceptionally low. As soon as one delineates the price and type of property being sought, it immediately becomes clear just how few the choices are for a buyer. Current listings (houses and land together) add up to: 168. In a more “normal” market, one might see a total of houses and land listings around 380.

Low inventory times need creative seeking on the part of a buyer.

Should I Move to Salt Spring

To move to Salt Spring is a choice. Like all secondary home areas, the Gulf Islands are discretionary regions. No one “has to” move to Salt Spring or another Gulf Island. Competition exists from nearby Vancouver Island communities. This means that a seller will look seriously at a buyer’s best offer.

Meantime…whether a visitor or a resident…enjoy the opportunities of March. Home and Garden show is offering a Wellness component…discover Salt Spring’s trades and suppliers and also the vibrant alternative health options. ArtSpring showcases theatre, dance, music offerings, and gallery openings. The Ganges galleries are highlighting Spring with receptions celebrating their artists. Studios are getting ready for the season. Hiking trails beckon. The new Salt Spring Marina is ready to welcome boaters. Live music venues and special seasonal menus at our great restaurants…all part of the season’s wake up call.

Nature is erupting into its Spring moments…orchard blossoms are just one signal. Whether it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or vice versa, March is a perfect time to consider a purchase on very special Salt Spring Island. Buying now ensures enjoyment by April/May.

Market Analysis, September 2018, Salt Spring Island

September 2018, Salt Spring

The beginning of September…still technically summer, yet somehow accepted as early Fall. All those back to school memories, perhaps, signalling a season change?

The Fall Market in Gulf Islands real estate can be busy…September/October/November do see a lot of sales going through. Perhaps buyers looked earlier, but they often wait till early and late Fall to “act”.

Some Statistics …

As we start into September, on Salt Spring there are approximately:

126 residential offerings CURRENTLY LISTED:

  • 60 below 1 million (309,900 to 995,000)
  • 66 over 1 million (1,020,000 to 4.8 million)

There are approximately 90 lots/acreages CURRENTLY LISTED:

  • 79 of them between 159,000 and 995,000
  • 11 of them between 1,020,000 and 2,495,000

There have been approximately 145 SALES TO DATE

  • 124 of these sales ranged between 155,000 and 999,000 (with most of such sales coming in below 800,000)
  • There were approximately 21 sales between 1,005,000 and 2.85 (with most between 1,005,000 and 1.95.
  • Only two sales over two million (2.15 and 2.85)

Most sales above one million were waterfront properties. (The “solds to date” include residential and undeveloped land options).

Over half of Salt Spring’s residential zoned listings are priced over one million, while (to date) most sales are below 900,000.

Time to sell or buy? Are we in a balanced market?

The current coalition provincial government’s February 20th budget brought in several tax measures that were meant to cool “hot” real estate markets. Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna were specifically targeted by these measures.

For many Vancouver Island communities and Gulf Islands, including on Salt Spring, the main buyer profile for past 18 or so months has been a seller who had previously sold in Vancouver and was then seeking a new home location. The measures to halt Vancouver’s market have worked…and abruptly so. That primary residence market has softened markedly and Salt Spring’s recipient market has also softened in response.

Government intrusion, then, mainly targeting Vancouver, has also affected our local Salt Spring and Gulf Islands market.

Real estate boards like to call this kind of a slow down in action a “balanced market”.

A buyer’s market is characterized by many listings and few buyers. A seller’s market is about few listings and many buyers. This often leads to price stability, and then can lead to price escalation.

Is a balanced market somewhere in between, or is this just “realtor speak” to put a positive spin on a changing market? Too soon to say.

The late summer/fall market can be a busy sales window on the Gulf Islands. It has been this way for several years. If new listings don’t pop onto the market, and buyers consistently want to be here, then we will see many more sales as we go through to year end…low inventory, coupled with buyer desire, maintain a seller’s market.

I do this market report at the beginning of each month, and do updates via my regular blogs.

At this exact moment in time, the very beginning of September, it seems that there is a hesitancy afoot. It may be a momentary reaction to the B.C. government’s move to soften real estate markets…by late October, we will see if there have been further repercussions.

Sellers and buyers are disturbed, in Vancouver, about the measures to halt that market’s rhythm. Non-local buyers are reluctant to encounter the speculation (vacancy) tax, the offshore purchase tax (now 20%), and the extra schools tax for properties assessed over 3 million. The vacancy tax and schools tax apply to local owners, too. (Luckily, Salt Spring and all Gulf Islands were exempted from the speculation (vacancy) tax, on March 26th).

That pausing in the Vancouver primary residence marketplace has outcomes on Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring is not immune to market forces in other areas.

Alberta and the U.S. buyers (once 50% of Salt Spring’s buyer profile, before the economic meltdown of 2008) have not reappeared. Vancouver remains the principal engine of activity in all coastal communities.

Harvest Time

This September/October will tell the tale of the 2018 market. We begin this new month, at this lovely harvest time of year, with thin inventory in all property categories/price points. Buyers are still around, but mainly seeking residential properties below 900,000. Will we see continuing clear out of inventory, perhaps at a slower pace, or will activity plateau due to the government intervention to suppress “hot” markets?

Hmmm…stay tuned.

Meantime, here we are, folding into the poet John Keat’s evocative description of Fall…“season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Many things are there to delight us on Salt Spring Island: Fall Fair, Farmers Markets, studio tours and gallery openings, Sip & Savour, harvest dinners in our great restaurants, craft fairs, Apple Fest, Canadian Thanksgiving…and there is much to be thankful for on this special Island. More info? Call me!

Market Analysis, December 2017, Salt Spring Island

December 2017, Salt Spring

So…here we are at the end of a very haphazard / fits and starts year. Many pauses along the way…..and not all of them market related.

Offshore purchase tax in Metro-Vancouver in early August 2016 did stop Salt Spring’s spring/early summer (mid-March to end of July 2016) long awaited market recovery…Vancouver sellers had become our buyers. It took time for the effects of that tax to be digested (possibly until May, 2017). The tax did affect outcomes well into 2017.

The once-every-twenty-years La Niña weather pattern, that delivers a taste of “real winter” to the Pacific Northwest Coast, created cold/snow/cool/rain between December 3, 2016 and May 15, 2017…effectively erasing any 2017 Spring Market. Both tourism and real estate activity were affected.

Salt Spring Island Real Estate

Salt Spring Island Real Estate

The Summer Market did not begin in late June, as usual…it took until July 15 to kick in. A six weeks later scenario for both real estate and for the farming community was in evidence this 2017 year.

During late July and early August, there were further pauses in visitor arrivals and in real estate viewings…due to the significant smoke from Interior and Washington State forest fires that affected many coastal regions.

On Salt Spring, there may have been a further hesitation in August, as people awaited the outcome of the September 9 referendum on incorporation.

Underneath this fits and starts rhythm, sales slowly continued, especially in that entry level residential category, and inventory thinned out dramatically. Undeveloped land, water access only island properties, upper tier priced residential estate style holdings, and commercial options remained quiet.

Very low inventory, coupled with renewed buyer interest in the secondary home/discretionary regions, usually precedes a serious uptick in prices. There have been sales at list price, and also many back-up offer situations, and even small bidding wars, mostly in that entry level priced residential segment, particularly in the latter half of 2017.

Projections

Projections for 2018 are for continuing low inventory and subsequent strengthening of prices.

It’s still the case, though, that one has to first discover the beauties of Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands…to then choose “for” a particular island…and then to seriously look at available properties. It often takes two (if not three) visits before a sale takes place. When a property sells quickly, it often means that a buyer has already visited the island and has made that key decision to buy there.

Seasonality seems to have been erased, and perhaps that’s another feature of the Internet. Property seekers now turn up year-round. If one is interested in selling, it’s important to be displayed and then to await the buyer arrival. In the main, our buyers are not local. Apparently, property seekers are on the Internet doing their searches for about two years before they will act. Patience is definitely a part of all sales transactions, for a seller, in any discretionary marketplace.

The Real Estate Services Act in B.C. will be significantly changed by March 15, 2018. Ask me about this. The cancellation of Limited Dual Agency (in place since 1995) is only one such change. These many changes are coming into place as a result of one realty company’s “shadow flipping” transgression, in 2015, in Vancouver. A new Superintendent of Real Estate, and a newly structured Real Estate Council, will be implementing the changes. Be informed.

There is always opportunity in real estate, no matter the market trend in play at any given time. Creative responses to lower inventory can be helpful to a buyer seeking that special property. Find out what will work for you.

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.