Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island real estate in depth monthly analysis by Sea to Sky Properties’ broker, Li Read

July 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are practically perfect…

Salt Spring Island

The Suddenly, here we are at the very beginning of July.

This is now “real summer” and it’s a short season…lots to see & to do & to enjoy on Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands…always good to be a visitor in one’s home area…to remember why one chose a particular island (as a sometime destination and also as a permanent address).

These Gulf Islands are very special areas.

Nothing is ever absolutely perfect, of course, but many describe Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands as practically perfect.

Salt Spring offers a year round lifestyle (a hospital, three elementary schools, a senior school, three different regular ferry routes, regular sked floatplane service, indoor pool, theatre/arts space, and so on…very easy to go places, but one doesn’t “have to”.

So, what’s happening in the real estate market on Salt Spring at this very beginning of July?

There are 48 residential listings, not separating out waterfront, view, townhome…just residential.

  • 26 of the residential listings are between 299,000 and 998,000. (Of these, 5 are not yet built.)
  • There are 13 listings between 1.149,500 and 1,950,000.
  • There are 5 listings between 2,190,000 and 2,780,000.
  • There is one listing at 6,688,800.
  • One listing at 12,000,000
  • Two listings at 14,000,000.

There are 34 land listings. Again, not separating out waterfront, view, lot, acreage…just undeveloped land.

  • 27 of the land listings are between 232,500 and 995,000.
  • There are 5 listings between 1,199,000 and 1,395,000.
  • There is a listing at 2,150,000 and another at 2,495,000.
  • There are 3 commercial listings (2 business only and one land/business…listed between 149,000 and 980,000).

There have been 162 “solds to date”.

    • There have been 116 sales between 199,000 and 979,000.
    • There have been 37 sales between 1,003,000 and 1,985,000.
    • There have been 5 sales between 2,200,000 and 2,950,000.
    • There was a sale at 3,150,000.

There were 3 sales between 5,380,000 and 5,850,000.

Most of these upper tier sales were residential and one was commercial.

Salt Spring Island

Listing Inventory Still Low

The listing inventory remains shockingly low. Most owners do not want to be sellers, which means little new comes onstream to replace the steady sales. It is interesting that all price ranges are finding their buyer. There have been bidding wars, although lately it appears that this has settled down and many properties are selling at list price.

Government pauses to suppress covid’s spread did cause hesitations in the market, at various points. Between March 29 and June 15, all BC. residents were encouraged not to travel out of their health jurisdiction, and only essential travel was allowed. As of July 1st, intra-provincial travel will be allowed. The reopening of the U.S.-Canada border may be soon. Stay tuned.

Summer On Salt Spring Island

July is true summer. Although some events remain cancelled or are online for a second year, many lovely island venues are now open for your pleasure.

July begins an easing of many covid restrictions. Summer promises a more connected way of living. At last.

Salt Spring Summer Activities

What will you do to give yourself the gift of summer? Yes: swimming, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding. Yes: dining on decks and patios, catching live music venues, gardening. Yes: reading a fat summer book. Yes: wine tastings, cider tastings, craft brewery tasting. Yes: starwatching. Yes: simply taking time to do absolutely nothing.

Fulford Kids love the last day of school, with its promise of two months for their summer holidays. Adults need a “time out”, too, and in this always on digital universe, perhaps we need to discover our “off button”…the adult version of “school’s out”?

Remember your Omar Khayyam: “the bird is on the wing”. Welcome July.

June 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

So…here we are at the very beginning of June. That signals the half-way point in the year’s outcomes.

Real Estate Rhythms

I always think that real estate rhythms break into thirds on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands.

The first third has two parts: early Spring (February/March/to mid-April) and “real Spring” (mid April to mid-June). The second third is late June to mid-October. The third pattern encompasses late October to late January.

Buyer’s Market Yet?

Even with the many pauses and hesitations enacted by the provincial government, during this Spring, to stop the progression of covid outbreaks in B.C., this underlying pattern remained subtly in effect.

Where do we find ourselves at this very beginning of June, with the real estate market?

It’s the same tune we have been humming since late June 2020: very low inventory and continuing strong buyer demand.

Is Salt Spring Island a Rural Lifestyle?

Most owners still do not want to be sellers and buyers are still seeking a rural “apart” lifestyle change…though with conveniences such as hospital, good schools, ease of access, and opportunities in January as well as in July (thus, the allure of Salt Spring).

How Are the Sales on Salt Spring Island?

At this very beginning of June, 2021, there are 45 residential listings on Salt Spring (not separating out waterfront, townhomes, farms, view…just simply available houses).

  • 21 residential properties between 420,000 and 989,900
  • 14 listings between 1,050,000 and 1,950,000.
  • five listings between 2,190,000 and 2,780,000
  • One listing at 4,995,000, one at 6,888,800
  • One at 12,000,000, and two at 14,000,000.

At this very beginning of June, there are approximately 33 land listings (again, not separating out waterfront, farms, lots/acreages, view options). Prices range between 232,500 and 2,495,000.

At this beginning of June, there have been 144 sales to date. Since mid-February, we have seen several bidding wars and many properties (mainly residential options) have sold substantially over list price.

Any infrequent new residential listings are coming onstream at higher prices…and they often sell with still higher prices (driven up by more buyers than listings).

Over time, low inventory and high buyer demand do result in price escalation. Add market lack of inventory, a result of the overall Islands Trust cap on growth, and locally we might be facing a strong uptick trend moment. Recent reports of lower sales statistics simply reflect the lower inventory available to sell.

An Invitation to Summer


June is really the invitation to summer…the calendar calls it that by the 20th, but the ambience of the season is really there from late May. Meteorological summer starts on June 1st. So important to jump right into the brief weeks of summer and to enjoy their many pleasures.

Dining al fresco on decks and patios, swimming in lakes and at favourite ocean beaches, kayaking and paddle boarding along the shoreline, reading a fat summer book while lounging on a hammock, hiking a trail, switching up the menu to include those delicious farmers market salad materials, savouring sunsets until late evening, star watching and recognizing constellations…yes, it’s summer…and it still smiles its welcome.

Thinking of buying a property on special Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands? Call me. Benefit from my knowledge (of inventory and trends), expertise, and solid experience in connecting buyers with sellers. Your best interests truly are my motivation. No matter the market trend at any particular time, there are always work-arounds for successful outcomes.

May 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Bidding Wars & the Rush to Rural

At the beginning of each month, I give my market thoughts. During the ensuing days of that month, I give market updates via my regular blog.

For the past several months, I have referred to the very low inventory of listed properties. This thin inventory is coupled with huge buyer demand. Bidding wars have become standard procedure. The inventory keeps shrinking and few new listings come onstream to replace the steady sales. Owners, unless they have to, do not want to be sellers.

This clear-out of inventory for Salt Spring began around June 23, 2020, when the ten week closures, throughout B.C., ended. When B.C. Ferries reinstated routes and sailing schedules, the rush to rural in our area began.

Salt Spring Island, Land & Luxury Residential Homes

This kind of intensity always begins with entry level residential and then evolves to the luxury residential segment and to undeveloped land opportunities. By late February, 2021, bidding wars were underway in the residential segment. By late March, undeveloped land options began to sell. Most buyers continue to be from Vancouver.

The allure of a rural lifestyle is now in synch with the ability to work from home. The pandemic has created a viable digital lifestyle, and this, along with continuing low interest rates, has resulted in historic sales patterns in all secondary home regions. This includes on Salt Spring Island.

The buyers are looking for a year round lifestyle, with health care options (Salt Spring has a hospital), education options (3 elementary schools and a junior/senior school), and all services/amenities available without having to leave the island.

The form of governance for all Gulf Islands is the Islands Trust (a provincial government body), and for Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands the CRD (Capital Regional District, out of Victoria) is also part of the governance model. Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are not municipalities.

Truly is a lifestyle rewrite

Buyers at the moment plan to live full-time on Salt Spring…this truly is a lifestyle rewrite. Recreational living has been a mainstay on all Gulf Islands for many years. Choosing to live full-time is different. This may bring about a more sustainable year-round business outcome…with less emphasis on seasonal tourism as the economic driver on the Island.

Post-Pandemic Salt Spring Island

Change is definitely the mantra as we struggle to be fully post-pandemic. Digital ways are predominant. Ever more important to seek new outcomes for marketing and presentation of both real estate and visitor experiences. In change lies opportunity.

Meantime, the splendour of May is erupting all around us…so important to really “see” and to savour the natural world. Nature both restores and nurtures us. Maybe time to re-read those Romantic poets that we endured in school? Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands surround us with beauty…enjoy!

Current Inventory & Sales on Salt Spring Island

And real estate? At this very beginning of May, there are approximately 29 residential listings…without separating out townhomes, waterfront, acreages…just “residential”. These options range from 499,000 to 14,000,000.

At this very beginning of May, there are around 37 land listings. Again, not separating out waterfront, acreages, lots…simply undeveloped land. Prices range from 239,000 to 2,495,000.

At this very beginning of May, there have been 130 “solds to date”. Sale prices have ranged from 199,000 to 5,645,000. Half of the sales have been below one million and half above. The number of sales to date is about the same as sales for all of 2020.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

This attrition of listings is the same in all secondary home markets, including on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands. Owners are wanting to stay where they are, unless they have to sell. Buyers wanting to move full-time to a rural area are on the move. The ability of the internet to now support working from home…wherever home happens to be…allows this choice. The acceptance by consumers of this work from home concept is a part of the shift. A perfect storm, resulting in profound societal change. (And, we didn’t even get to look at peer to peer connections in the block chain era!).

Well, Thales, one of those savvy Ancient Greeks, did alert us that we never step in the same river water twice

May is one of the most beautiful months on the entire Pacific Northwest Coast. Give yourself the gift of experiencing it all…choose a different place to visit, on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, every day. Lucky us to be here!

April 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Here we are at April 1st. The beginning of real Spring. Early April mirrors March…late April is a forerunner of amazing May. April is a shift month.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

 

Salt Spring Island, A Unique & Creative Space to Call Home

Whatever the season or weather pattern, beautiful Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands welcome one…these islands nestled in the Salish Sea are unique and creative spaces to call home.

Is It Easy to Move to Salt Spring Island?

Real estate in the Gulf Islands is always slightly apart from larger market trends. The form of governance in these islands is a provincial government body known as the Islands Trust.

Created in 1974 by the government, to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents, the Trust has curtailed growth (via strict zoning/bylaws). This effective cap on growth ensured that the Gulf Islands would remain these lovely park-like entities.

A cap on growth means that, over time, these islands will become enclave areas that one will have to be able to afford…already, they are not entry level pricing areas. First time buyers are not usual, without family help.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker

What was B.C.’s response to covid?

B.C.’s first response to covid was to shut down/require people to stay at home. A ten week covid closure was in place by March 12/20. Around June 23/20, restrictions were softly lifted and Immediately a strong real estate sales pattern clicked into place. The allure of a rural lifestyle was the theme.

Starting with entry level residential and then including affordable lots/acreages, the inventory thinned out and price points on Salt Spring began to rise…“bidding wars” occurred by mid-February 2021. Around late February/early March 2021, the higher end/luxury properties segment caught sales interest.

The Vancouverite Migration

Almost all buyers were from Vancouver and they were wanting to live permanently on Salt Spring. Sale prices to date range from 199,000 to 5,645,000. The volume of sales to the end of March now match an entire year’s sales in previous recent times.

So, at this very beginning of April, we have 39 residential properties listed. Townhomes, waterfront, view, farms are not separated out…it’s just residential/dwellings.

  • 15 listings are between 349,000 and 995,000.
  • There are 13 listings between 1,069,000 and 1,985,000.
  • There are currently 5 listings between 2 million and 2,699,900. One listing is at 4,995,000.
  • There is a listing at 5,995,000.
  • A farm parcel is listed at 6,688,800.
  • An acreage is asking 12,000,000
  • a waterfront acreage is on at 14,000,000.
  • A waterfront farm is asking 14,000,000.

We have 45 land listings at this very beginning of April, again not separating out type…just undeveloped land options. Prices range from 239,000 to 2,495,000

  • There have been 77 solds to date
  • There were 58 sales below one million
  • 14 sales between one and two million
  • 4 sales between two and three million
  • and one sale over five million

This extraordinarily thin inventory of listings is partly due to strong buyer action. It also reflects owner reluctance to be a seller. Unless they “have to” sell, most owners are choosing to “hold”.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

A Hyperbolic Market

One recent scenario: one entry level priced listing and twelve buyers for it, resulting in a listing agent stating a time for all offers to be presented, no ability for a buyers agent to present their offer, the offers all seen by the seller at same time and a choice then made. This kind of outcome is why many buyers put in unconditional offers and also why the offers are “over ask”. It’s a hyperbolic market everywhere. Salt Spring is no exception. Will it last? Ah…the key question.

A Lifestyle Rewrite

The lifestyle rewrite in this post-pandemic moment is the main propeller to rural real estate activity, throughout B.C. Vancouver sellers remain the main buyers in all the secondary home venues. Recreating a life script is a strong motivator to action and this does not seem to have run its course…perhaps it’s just beginning?

Salt Spring Island & Land Banking

Also to be considered: the desire for safe hard asset investment, as a way to preserve capital in an era of printing press currencies and fears of inflation. Land banking is one such outcome. Current low interest rates invite buyer ability to buy. The societal shift to all things digital and the “work from home” ethic have become mainstream, which allows a rural move. Everything seems to have coalesced…the perfect storm, if you will.

Lack of inventory may continue for some time. An outcome will be serious price escalation.

There is always opportunity, no matter the background noise of daily events.

Are you thinking of selling? Call me…I look forward to sharing my knowledge of this current sellers market trend. You may decide to “hold”…you may decide to sell. “Of the moment” market knowledge is essential to make that important decision. I look forward to connecting with you. As a top selling agent, I bring to your benefit my expertise, plus creative and productive marketing solutions (local and global), and a solid understanding of the sale process.

March 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

First Whispers of “The Season”

It’s here…the month that sees the segue from winter-into-spring. Gulf Islanders/Salt Springers recognize March as the month that brings the first whispers of “the season”.

Mid-March to mid-October is often seen as the best weather time in the great Pacific Northwest Coast, and Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands benefit from a “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate. Less rainfall/more hours of sunshine…a welcome temperate pattern.

Even with the ongoing closures and pauses and delays of covid, this time of year brings with it a special enjoyment…that awakening of the earth that Spring delivers. Gardens and orchards and roadside bushes flower forward. Longer days. Sun warmth at patio coffee stops. Beauty everywhere.

The real estate market on Salt Spring is now mirroring the same explosion of sales first experienced in Vancouver and then fanning out to Sunshine Coast, to the Interior, to Victoria, and to Vancouver Island. Now it is occurring on Salt Spring and on the Gulf Islands.

The inventory of listings is shockingly low.

Most buyers are still from Vancouver. There are now multiple offers and “bidding wars” in some price ranges. Buyers do have to put their best foot forward.

Hastings House

Hastings House

The Vancouver sellers do become the buyers in all the rural/secondary home markets. The Vancouver market, which did suppress between 2017 and 2019, because of provincial government taxation measures to do so, is perhaps being driven by sales to Hong Kong based residents, with Canadian passports. These buyers ignore the provincial 20% offshore purchase tax.

It appears to be a lifestyle rewrite that is underway.

Many things are occurring: the initial covid shut-downs in 2020 pushed everyone into the digital world. The ability to work from home is now accepted as mainstream. Extraordinarily low interest rates. A desire to leave the city. A concern over all the monies being printed by governments…the seeking of preservation of capital by turning to hard asset investments. Hmmm…a perfect storm? Maybe.


Sales Data March 2021

So, at this very beginning of March, there are 31 residential listings on Salt Spring Island, not separating out waterfront, view, townhome.

  • 11 of these residential listings are between 445,000 and 998,000
  • 9 listings between 1,069,000 and 1,985,000
  • One listing at 3,100,000
  • One listing at 4,995,000
  • One listing at 5,995,000
  • One listing at 6,688,800
  • One listing at 12,000,000
  • Two listings at 14,000,000

Only 11 fall into the category of “entry level” pricings. Hmmm….. usually there might be over 200 residential listings available. This is a sellers market.

At this very beginning of March, there are 49 land listings, ranging from 239,900 to 2,495,000. (Not separating out lots, acreages, view, waterfront). Land listings up to 500,000 remain the most active, at this moment.


At this very beginning of March, there have been 51 “solds to date”. That is a huge increase in sales in the first two months of the year.

  • Seven sales have been between 199,000 and 298,000
  • Four sales have been between 430,000 and 455,000
  • Six sales have been between 505,000 and 552,000
  • Ten sales have been between 605,000 and 685,000
  • Four sales were between 730,000 and 799,000
  • Three sales were between 800,000 and 878,500
  • Five sales took place between 900,000 and 979,000
  • Eleven sales took place between 1,015,000 and 1,850,000
  • One sale took place at 5,645,000

For the first time in several years, consistent high end sales are underway. It appears that the Vancouver buyers plan to live on Salt Spring…these are not recreational only buyers.

Not Since 9/11

The entry level residential options and the lower priced land options have all sold. The last time we saw a lifestyle rewrite was after 9-11. Between 2003 and 2006, there were few listings and prices rose by 60%. However, at that time, owners, who may have wanted to cash out, did start to slowly list.

Salt Spring Island Coast

Salt Spring Island Coast

Right now, though, with the faceless potential killer of covid still with us, most owners want to sit tight. Where would they go? Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands offer the allure of safety, in their cohesive apartness. The arrival of consistent vaccinations may be the solution to this treading water time.

Still on Hold, Virtually

Meantime, March sings its way through our lives and the Gulf Islands are offering virtual reminders of their pleasures. Loved events will be on hold until next year, as the provincial government prohibition on gatherings continues. It’s interesting, that virtual connection. Neither good nor not good…just different.

Meantime, on Salt Spring, hike the Mt Erskine Trail, picnic at Ruckle Park, watch the floatplanes chortle in and out in Ganges Harbour, enjoy a coffee break on a patio or deck (many to choose from…try them all), sunset watch from Vesuvius Beach, kayak out to Chocolate Island beach, and always always follow the protocols and support local.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands swim enticingly in the Salish Sea. Their welcome is always there.

February 2021, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Light at the end of the tunnel

Wow…February…and the days are appreciably longer…with snowdrops, crocus, early rhodos, camellias, forsythia inviting us to pay attention to gardens.

A short month, with both late Winter and early Spring in its days, February promises positive change.

Hesitations still continue on the covid front, but the vaccine roll-out (which is not without its distribution hiccups) has encouraged people to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

On February 12, the Asian horoscope changes from the Year of the Rat (known for turbulence and societal shifts) to the Year of the Ox (perhaps a year to digest and solidify all the rapid changes that struck 2020?).

Alice-astro, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In change lies opportunity. We all relate differently to change…the key perhaps is in how we approach it. The universe reminds us that we only face one way in time: forward.

So what about real estate activity at this exact moment? I do this report at the beginning of every month…updates as the month progresses are found on my twice weekly blog. Thank you for checking in!

The early closures in 2020, due to the government’s efforts to control the pandemic outcomes, resulted in a buyer desire to sell in the city and to seek a rural haven. It was a short season in 2020 (on Salt Spring, from around June 23rd to year end), but an intense one.

As listings steadily sold, nothing new came onstream to take their place. At the same time, most owners did not want to be sellers. Plus, the societal shift to the online world allowed people on the right side of the digital divide to continue to work from home…thus allowing the rural opportunities to encourage that lifestyle rewrite. A further plus: historically low interest rates. A perfect storm? Possibly.

Prices Stabilizing due to higher Demand

We are right now at a moment of extremely low inventory coupled with continuing high buyer demand…usually a recipe for serious price escalation. To date, prices have stabilized. In some entry level price ranges, there are small bidding wars. In the higher tier priced options the spread between list and sale prices remains in place, although that spread is slowly narrowing. Buyers now need to make their highest and best offer when presenting.

That said, even with desire to buy, it still takes time to achieve a sale in any secondary home market. First step is to choose “for” the area…it can take three visits before an offer. For higher priced options, it can take longer. It’s that need “to be sure”, in that all important “decision for” a specific area.

At this very beginning of February, then, there are 50 residential listings on Salt Spring Island.

  • 25 of these residential offerings are listed between 299,000 and 998,500.
  • Fifteen of these residential listings are between 1,025,000 and 1,985,000.
  • Five of the residential options are asking between 2,000,000 and 2,625,000.
  • One property is listed at 3,100,000. One property is asking 6,688,800.
  • There is one listing at 12,000,000.
  • There are two listings asking 14,000,000.

By the time you get here …

Meantime, the beauty found on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands is both inspiring and restorative. To be able to own and to enjoy a property of any description here is a gift we give ourselves. Nothing/nowhere is perfect…maybe ownership and enjoyment of the rural lifestyle in this particular place, though, is “practically perfect”?

On Salt Spring? Whether sit down or take-out, remember to support our amazing local restaurants. All covid protocols are in place and they are consistently following safety measures for your protection.

And yes, it’s so easy to shop online…but before clicking to order from that non-local big box option, check out our local retailers. They may be able to match item and price, if not already in stock, and your support of “local” keeps the community alive and well. Our “season” really only fully clicks into place in April…our local businesses need our care and support now. “Buy local…or bye bye local”…a sign in another community, but it says it all.

Time on your hands? Check in with the many volunteer non-profit organizations that exist here…find out what you can do to be helpful. In our form of non-municipal governance (Islands Trust and CRD), it is these very non-profits that help to create our community’s well-being.

In business (my definition: if you are providing an item or a service for sale, then you are in business), you need to join the local Chamber of Commerce. This gives you a larger voice in creating good outcomes for the entire community. The Chamber has a non-government “voice” and can therefore think out of the box. Those words “resilience and recovery” can be an integral part of that Chamber voice.

So…February. Let’s step into it with enthusiasm and creativity. Yes…different days…but days of possibility. In real estate, there may be less inventory choice and we may be at the beginning of serious sellers market outcomes, but there is always opportunity.

Seeking to sell? Benefit from my targeted and productive marketing solutions. (2020 Medallion sales award). I look forward to presenting your property to optimum in today’s digital universe.

Seeking to buy? Look forward to hearing from you. There will always be ways to connect your hopes with best outcomes.