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Market Analysis, May 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

May 2017

May to end of September might be the main grid of tourism and real estate activity on the Gulf Islands.

Real estate sales do take place throughout the year, and in a way the Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island can be described as “seasonless”, but the predominant arrivals time for the mainly non-local buyer profile does fall between these late Spring – into – late Summer months.

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, BC

The Islands are in the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world, and the boating season coincides with this early May to end of September timeline.

After an eight year downturn (end of 2008 to early Spring 2016), the secondary home/discretionary markets on the Pacific Northwest Coast began to see an improving trend, throughout 2016, in both tourism and in real estate sales. This upward trend has continued in the first months of 2017.

I think there is a direct link between a successful visitor experience and a decision to purchase a property, in all discretionary and recreational regions.

A buyer has to choose “for” a place first…and then will choose “for” a property in that place. This is why it can take longer in a secondary home location, regardless of market trend in play, for a sale to take place…the buyer has to be sure about the region choice…that’s step one, always.

It is, however, quickly turning into an authentic seller’s market on Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands…and in Vancouver Island communities, too.

A seller’s market is characterized by few listings and strong buyer demand.

In the beginning, prices stabilize…buyers have to offer closer to or at sellers list prices…then back-up offers, multiple offers, offers over list become next steps, if a property is unique or listed below market. Price rises follow. The law of supply and demand governs all markets.

Hmmm…. Yes, there are fewer listings, and yes, prices have solidified…but there are always opportunities. Seeking a Gulf Island/Salt Spring Island property? Call me, for suggestions on how to make the current market work for you.

Our 2017 Spring has arrived a good 4 to 6 weeks later than usual…it seems more like early April, not early May. This past winter was one of the once-every-twenty-years La Niña events….lasted from Dec 3 to March 12 (even skating on Cusheon Lake!). The last part of March and most of April have remained unseasonably cool and also rainy. Apparently, precipitation records have been broken.

May is welcome!

Sales at close of April:

  • 7 sales between 160,000 and 199,500.
  • 6 sales between 200,000 and 299,000.
  • 11 sales between 305,000 and 396,000.
  • 16 sales between 400,000 and 487,000.
  • 11 sales between 506,250 and 599,000.
  • 7 sales between 625,000 and 690,000.
  • 4 sales between 710,000 and 769,000.
  • 5 sales between 800,000 and 899,000.
  • 2 sales between 900,000 and 945,250.
  • 5 sales between 1,075,000 and 1,750,000.
  • 3 sales between 2,200,000 and 2,500,000.

The trend is clearly towards less inventory in all property types and price points. The main sales are still below 750,000. Upper tier priced residential offerings are now also starting to see interest and subsequent sales. Undeveloped land sales are on the increase.

The buyer profile still is mainly from Vancouver, with smatterings from U.S., Ontario, U.K., Europe, China. Alberta is still not yet seen as a strong buyer profile, although that buyer had been involved in about 20% of sales in previous years.

Sales will start to be less, compared to 2016 statistics, simply because less inventory is available.

The referendum asking Salt Spring whether to incorporate or not will be held on September 9th. The Trust documents will remain in effect in a “yes” vote (these documents govern all of the Gulf Islands and this provincial government body, the Islands Trust, has been in place since 1974). The CRD (Capital Regional District) will still have a presence. Two trustees and one CRD director will still be in place. The difference: a mayor and council will be elected locally, to manage Salt Spring locally. At the moment, decisions are often made by off-island parties. More information? Be informed. It may be time to introduce 1974 to 2017…important to have all information and to be thoughtful about your response to the yes/no question on September 9th.

May welcomes in several events as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. These events began in mid-April and will continue through to early October…150 days of celebration events. July 1st is Canada Day. Time to be on Salt Spring! (P.S. the Flower Power event is encouraging gardeners to plant red and white flowers).

The great Pacific Northwest Coast is a superb locale at this time of year, and Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands are a part of this coastal allure. Enjoy!

Market Analysis, April 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

April 2017

We experienced the yin and yang of a La Niña weather pattern on the Pacific Northwest Coast…from early December to mid-March.

Salt Spring fell into “real winter” on December 3, 2016 and experienced yet another serious snowfall on March 5, 2017. In between: snow, cold, with ice build-up remaining on roads between the frequent snow storms, only main roads to ferries cleared (side roads and driveways on their own). There was skating on the lakes…that was a fun item. The last time the Coast experienced the La Niña effect was in 1996.

The entire Coast was affected, including Vancouver. The weather did affect real estate viewings…potential buyers couldn’t get out of where they were, never mind not being able to easily get around on Salt Spring!

December, January, February, and first half of March (higher elevation properties only saw the “melt” begin around March 12th) caused a slowdown in new action. Many of the reported sales of early 2017 had their beginnings in late Fall of 2016.

Although we often describe Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands main sales window as falling between March Break and the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, the reality is that the busiest months are May, July, August, September.

The Islands are secondary home/discretionary/recreational markets…I call them recipient markets. Sellers have to wait for a buyer to first visit, then decide if a particular island works for them, and then to really start their search for a specific property. Time is always an element of sales in all secondary home/recreational regions.

That said, it’s clear that 2016 was a sales volume increase year…a cleaning out of inventory that had built up during the eight year economic downturn. Prices stabilized, but did not increase.

In a “by choice” area, such as Salt Spring (and the Gulf Islands), there is always a time lag component in sales outcomes.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Often, a tourist with a successful visitor experience becomes a buyer in our region. Usually two, if not three, visits take place before a purchase decision. The non-local buyer wants to “be sure”, before committing to a purchase. When a property sells quickly, it often means that a property is listed exactly when a buyer has returned for that second or third decision-making visit.

With less inventory to choose from, however, we may now start to experience some bidding wars, IF a property is unique.

2017 has had a slow start, solely due to the unusual weather vagaries, but all signs are there for further inventory clean-out (especially in the upper tier priced residential properties and in the undeveloped land segment). After that? No crystal ball, but the signs are definitely in place for price increases in any new (and potentially few) new listings.

The tone of 2017 may be fully in place by late May. It may be that buyers who acted in the first three months of this year will turn out to have been the last buyers able to catch a seller’s interest with a lower than list price offer. In other coastal regions, which often catch the wave of change before it’s seen on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, the price escalation due to lack of inventory is in evidence.

Between 2000 and 2002, sales volume increased by around 50%. Between 2003 and 2005, prices rose by around 60%. Our dollar was low against the U.S. currency. International buyers were in evidence. Hmmmm…… Similar soundtrack?

Stay tuned.

To date, there have been 55 sales between January 1 and March 31. The first several (below 200,000) were undeveloped lots. The higher end residential did see price reductions at the point of an offer, but residential below 500,000 often sold at (or close to) list pricings.

  • 6 sales between $160,000 and $199,500.
  • 4 sales between $234,000 and $280,000.
  • 8 sales between $305,000 and $396,000.
  • 8 sales between $400,000 and $485,000.
  • 9 sales between $506,200 and $599,000.
  • 5 sales between $625,000 and $690,000.
  • 3 sales between $729,000 and $769,000.
  • 3 sales between $800,000 and $878,000.
  • 2 sales between $900,000 and $945,250.
  • 4 sales between $1,075,000 and $1,750,000.
  • 3 sales between $2,200,000 and $2,500,000.

I do this market analysis at the beginning of each month…updates may appear in my blog entries.

Along with the transition from a buyer’s market (few buyers and many listings) to a seller’s market (few listings and many buyers), there is the Islands Trust (government body in place since 1974, which capped growth on the Gulf Islands via strict zoning/land use bylaws)…the inventory will always be less on a Gulf Island, thus, beyond market trends).

Salt Spring will be asked on September 9th whether or not to retain the status quo (2 elected trustees and one elected CRD director…the actual decisions, however, are currently made from a central Trust office in Victoria…and these government appointees do not reside on Salt Spring), or whether to incorporate as a Gulf Islands municipality (two trustees elected, per usual, plus councillors & a mayor…the Trust documents remain in place, but decisions re governance would be made on Island & not in Victoria). Keep in the loop of the conversation on both sides of this important issue.

Meantime…the beauty of the Island calls to us. Check out the Food Network’s one hour showcase of Salt Spring…the travelling chefs came last summer and I think they caught the essence of this magical island.

Looking for your special property on Salt Spring Island or on a Gulf Island? Call me. There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trend in play.

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, September 2016, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Beginning of the Fall Market

So…we begin the Fall Market…here it is, the beginning of September. The calendar says summer goes on till the 20th, but most of us see Labour Day Weekend as the “end”.

Sales volume in the Spring/early Summer market has gone up markedly on Salt Spring Island, in residential properties below $750,000. Over that price point, it remains softer.

In that entry-level residential segment, though, it could be described as sellers market conditions.

What does a seller’s market mean? Limited inventory plus strong buyer demand creates a seller’s market. Price escalation occurs with lack of product.

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory. The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, with the mandate to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, also effectively “capped” growth.

On Salt Spring Island

On Salt Spring Island

Growth in the Gulf Islands is controlled by strict zoning/density bylaws. On Salt Spring, commercial zoning is focused in both upper and seaside Ganges Villages, and they can’t expand beyond their boundaries. The small commercially zoned options at Vesuvius, Fulford, and Fernwood cannot expand. Home occupations are encouraged, but there are rules around these usages, too.

As soon as growth is limited, values do appreciate over time. Between 2002 and 2005, prices escalated by around 60% on Salt Spring. Then a pause developed in 2006 and 2007. Late 2008 delivered the global economic downturn, and secondary home/recreational areas (globally) saw a sharp fall-off in activity. Between early 2009 and early 2015, prices locally had reduced by around 45%.

Buyers who acted between 2013 (the “worst” year?) and late 2015, have benefitted by that dramatic levelling off of prices, in the secondary home markets. It’s difficult for people to act before clear signals of a market shift are in place…those who do act seem to have that “wolf’s sniff the wind” directional arrow.

Important always, though, to be looking down the highway and not in the rear view mirror…opportunity is ahead.

By late 2015, one could see an improving trend coming into play in the secondary home markets. The Sunshine Coast and the Okanagan saw renewed activity in the Fall of 2015. Early Spring brought action to Victoria and to some Vancouver Island communities. Mid-Spring delivered activity to the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring (perhaps because of its year-round lifestyle opportunities) usually shows market improvement first, among the Gulf Islands choices.

The interesting thing is the change in the buyer profile for Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands: almost 100% from Vancouver.

Traditionally, a Gulf Island buyer has come from Alberta (perhaps 20% of coastal buyers?) or from the U.S. (perhaps 30% of coastal purchasers?). This time, it’s buyers from Vancouver, who have sold during the extremely “hot” market there. They are seeking new areas to reside…not just recreational/seasonal buyers, thus.

These previously Vancouver based buyers will live here year round, and that has all sorts of good outcomes for the day to day business life on the Island. Shop Local becomes a viable item when there is a year round resident, and not just a seasonal impact.

Within the past 11 weeks, sales volume dramatically rose (perhaps tripled?) in the entry-level residential segment. On Salt Spring, that would be between 300,000 and 750,000. Low inventory with high buyer demand leads to price escalation. Couple that with an area with a no-growth policy (Islands Trust) and you can see that we may be returning to that 2002 to 2005 model.

Opportunity continues to exist in upper tier priced residential, in undeveloped lots and acreages, in recreational cottages/cabins, and in commercial options. These market segments have not yet seen the quick sales of the entry level priced residential properties. As these property categories start to sell (and they are slowly becoming more and more active), and inventory begins to thin out, price points will also stabilize/rise.

The sales stats to date break out as follows.

January 1 to August 28 “solds to date”:

  • 26 sales between 1 and 200,000.
  • 29 sales between 2 and 300,000.
  • 47 sales between 3 and 400,000.
  • 45 sales between 4 and 500,000.
  • 44 sales between 5 and 600,000.
  • 26 sales between 6 and 700,000.
  • 10 sales between 7 and 800,000.
  • 9 sales between 8 and 900,000
  • 5 sales. between 9 and 1 million.
  • 16 sales between 1 and 2 million.
  • 3 sales between 2 and 3 million.
  • 2 sales between 3 and 4 million.

There is always opportunity in any market trend. Creativity wins the day in a discretionary region. A buyer’s market means lots of inventory and few buyers. A seller’s market means little inventory and lots of buyers seeking.

Market Analysis, August 2016, Salt Spring Island

Summer on the great Pacific Northwest Coast is a superb season…and the micro-climate enjoyed by Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands is delectable.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

It’s a short season…and here we are at a mid-point. Time to get out there and enjoy all of the amazing opportunities offered in our special Islands region.

A time for Inspiration

Lakefront swimming, ocean kayaking, sailing between alluring anchorages, savouring produce from farm gate stands, being inspired by artists and crafts artisans in galleries and on studio tours, enjoying live music venues, theatre productions, and a hiking/walking experience that re-introduces one to the natural world preserved on the Gulf Islands.

The real estate market has recovered on the Gulf Islands in what I call the residential entry-level property segment. On Salt Spring, that would be 350,000 to 750,000 price range.

It does appear that the Spring market in the Gulf Islands is about sales in that entry level residential category.

Between mid-July and end of November, upper tier priced residential properties begin to find their buyers.

Some years back (and who knows why), the Gulf Islands became a late summer/fall real estate marketplace.

This market analysis is always written at the beginning of a month. For market updates, reflecting the rest of the month’s outcomes, check out my blog. Also check back to my June and July “reports”…this is a very new recovery (just 10 weeks old? After an 8 year downturn.).

So, the first half of the year saw the following breakdown of sales (January first to July 18th):

  • 19 sales up to 200,000.
  • 26 sales between 200 and 300,000
  • 40 sales between 300 and 400,000
  • 43 sales between 400 and 500,000
  • 37 sales between 500 and 600,000
  • 24 sales between 600 and 700,000
  • 9 sales between 700 and 800,000
  • 5 sales between 800 and 900,000
  • 5 sales between 900 and one million
  • 12 sales between 1 and 2 million. (most below 1.7)
  • 1 sale between 2 and 3 million
  • 1 sale between 3 and 4 million

You can see, then, that the Spring market is about the beginning stirrings of the authentic recovery. From mid-July to end of November it’s the upper tier time.

An outcome of thinning inventory is price increase…for the moment, a buyer may have to meet the benchmark set by the seller, as listings diminish. Sales volume may have tripled, and prices may have stabilized…but price increases have not yet been strongly evident. As we ease into the Fall market, we may start to see prices escalate.

Why Should you Purchase on Salt Spring>

Why consider a purchase on Salt Spring Island or a Gulf Island? One thought: the Islands Trust (created in 1974) effectively capped growth on the Gulf Islands. A limited inventory, combined with a strong buyer demand, creates a higher price point for all purchases. It’s the economic axiom that low supply plus high demand equals price escalation. A property purchase on a Gulf Island is perhaps a protected investment.

Perhaps a more important reason for a Salt Spring Island or Gulf Islands purchase: to enjoy a softer, gentler lifestyle, with an emphasis on the natural world and the impact of an artists voice.

Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are an easy commute to Vancouver, to Victoria, and to Seattle. Whether by ferry (3 different regular scheduled ferries service Salt Spring) or by floatplane (regular sked flights to downtown Vancouver, to Vancouver Airport, from Salt Spring), it’s very easy to come and to go…and yet these Island gems swim enticingly apart in the Salish Sea.

Proximity to major centres, yet serenely apart. All opportunities in the 21st Century available, yet an alluring yesteryear ambiance. A thoughtful and caring community, yet strong opinions. Definitely an interesting place to reside!

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.