Market Analysis

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

Salt Spring Island, April 2024, Market Analysis

Springtime on Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands

The very beginning of April brings with it the beauty of authentic early Spring. The end of the month is more like May. This chameleon month is also the first month when one can start to understand the tone of the real estate market for this year.

Fulford Valley 42+ Acres

Although buyers pop in anytime, on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, it is generally accepted that most tourism (and resulting real estate activity) falls between March Break and the Canadian Thanksgiving (October). Low inventory continues, most of the listings below one million are strata properties (townhomes). Single family homes are mostly between one and two million. Land listings are also showing extremely low inventory. Most owners are not wanting to be sellers, unless they have to. In 2022/most of 2023, buyers were in pause mode…inquired, sometimes viewed, then paused. So many global uncertainties may have created this pause period. This year, buyers are acting again. The desire to leave urban for rural remains a factor. A desire for safety is another reason to consider a country home/more self-sufficient outcome. Preservation of capital is a further reason to consider a real estate purchase in a secondary home/recreational marketplace. These are also reasons why owners are not interested in being sellers.

Fulford Valley 42+ Acres

At this very beginning of April, there are:

approximately 86 residential listings, not separating out waterfront, view, farms, lots, acreages, townhomes.

    • 28 are between 234,500 and 999,999.
    • There are 30 residential listings between 1,020,000 and 1,985,000.
    • There are 17 between 2,100,000 and 2,995,000.
    • Seven are between 3,285,000 and 3,875,000.
    • Two are in 4 million range (one at 4,295,000 and another at 4,875,000).
    • One listing at 5,250,000 and one at 11,975,000.

there are 29 land listings, not separating out lots, acreages, view, waterfront.

    • 20 are listed between 135,000 and 845,000.
    • Five are listed between 1,100,000 and 1,995,000.
    • Three are listed between 2,150,000 and 2,350,000.

At this very beginning of April, there have been approximately 32 sales to date.

  • 24 sales were between 128,000 and 850,000.
  • Six sales were between 1,185,000 and 1,750,000.
  • One sale was at 2,560,000 and another sold at 9,990,000.

Fulford Valley 42+ Acres

By late May/early June, enough sales will have taken place to allow definitive thoughts on a 2024 trend. Projections are calling for continuing low inventory and price escalation. The busier sales months are always July, August, September. To own on a Gulf Island, with the Islands Trust governance cap on growth, at same time that the market has low inventory and buyer desire, it may be that new potential buyers might want to explore shared ownership models. Ownership may require serious thinking out of the box.

Fulford Valley 42+ Acres

So, inspiring April is here. ArtSpring is celebrating an important anniversary. The Saturday Market is open. Hastings House has reopened for the season. Boaters are back and marinas are busy. Galleries are showcasing new works and the studio tour welcomes you. Wine tastings, cider tastings, craft brewery. Farmgate stands, orchards in blossom, hiking/walking trails to encourage getting out and about, beachcombing, new restaurants and coffee stops to try. It’s April…wash those windows and let the light in. Lighten up…it’s real Spring!

Salt Spring Island, March 2024, Market Analysis

Welcome to March: A Transition to Spring

March…it unleashes Spring. Meteorological Spring arrives on March 1st and the calendar signals the 20th.

Does it come in like a lion or a lamb? A mixed month weather-wise, but that 8 seconds more of daylight every day is delivering extended light and the upcoming daylight saving time change is a factor.

Real Estate and Seasonality in the Gulf Islands

March…it also signals the beginning of the real estate market’s Gulf Island seasonality…March Break (mid-month) to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) are often described as “the season” for Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.


Current Market Overview

Sales certainly take place throughout the year, but it does seem that the March to October timeline encourages tourism, real estate exploration, decisions to buy…for the whole Pacific Northwest Coast, including in the secondary home/recreational environment of the Gulf Islands.

The very beginning of this March arrives humming the same tune that has characterized the real estate market on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands since Fall, 2023…a lack of inventory. Most owners do not want to sell.

The two year pause in buyer action (2022 & up to November 2023) did not see a spill-out of listings. The rise in interest rates may have caused some of that pause period, and kept some owners from selling at a low action period, but perhaps a bigger reason for fewer listings might be the fact that a potential seller can’t find a property to move to. Low inventory is a coastal issue. No one wants to be “houseless”.

All levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal) are struggling with the lack of available housing, right across Canada. Strong immigration puts further pressure on housing. Owners not wanting to sell are perhaps also wanting to retain the safe haven they already own…perhaps as a hard asset hold to preserve capital. For a Gulf Island, under the governance of the Islands Trust, the Trust capped growth…there will always be a lower growth and a regulated model in place (the Trust has been in charge since 1974)

.Acreage on Salt Spring Island, BC

Low inventory coupled with buyer desire does lead to price escalation. By late April, we may see this market trend fully back in play. There will be a provincial election in October and efforts are being made to create housing…such concepts would not be available for two plus years and might only add seven to ten thousand units. It seems that low inventory will remain a housing crisis issue, whether buying or renting.

Real Estate Listings Overview

  • At the very beginning of March, there are 74 residential listings on Salt Spring, not separating out single family, townhomes, waterfront, lots, view, acreages, farms, and ranging from $254,900 to $11,975,000.
  • At the very beginning of March, there are 30 land listings for sale on Salt Spring, not separating out waterfront, acreages, lots, view options, and ranging from $229,000 to $3,999,000.
  • At the very beginning of March, there have been 18 sales to date…a mix of residential and land…and ranging from $128,000 to $9,900,000.
  • As buyers will tell you: there is little to choose in a purchase. Creativity is required, if a buyer.

March Activities and Events

March: longer days, with a mix of left-over winter and almost spring weather, bulbs and early shrubs flowering forward, gallery openings that showcase new works, live music venues to enjoy, season re-opening of Hastings House, Home & Garden show weekend (thank you Windsor), and an early Easter Weekend (the last weekend of the month). Saturday Market-in-the Park season smiles hello. (Enjoy the newly reconfigured Centennial Park). Seek out the March presentations at ArtSpring…the Arts are alive and well on Salt Spring. Check out special menus at our great restaurants and coffee stops. Spa retreats, beachcombing discoveries, hiking/walking trails to meander…time to wake up with the season.

March sings the song of Spring. Welcome!

Salt Spring Island, February 2024, Market Analysis

February in the Pacific Northwest Coast Real Estate Market

February often starts the early Spring market on the Pacific Northwest Coast. The trend for 2024 might not be evident till March Break, but February introduces the early activity.

Salt Spring Real Estate Market – Early February

What do we see in the Salt Spring real estate market at this very beginning of February? The song of thin inventory continues. This is a theme seen in competing Vancouver Island communities…lack of listings is not just a Gulf Island issue.

Why Owners Hesitate to Sell

There are many reasons for owners not wanting to be sellers. That flight from urban to rural, post-pandemic, continues. It may be about a desire for safety. Geopolitical concerns are part of location decisions. A desire to be apart from city problems is a strong driver to action…a seeking of a “kinder gentler” lifestyle makes sense. There is also that “back to the land” component, where one can be self-sufficient if supply chains falter. These elements may propel buyers, but they also stop owners from becoming sellers…they are already enjoying these elements. IF they thought of selling, they would discover they can’t find a replacement property elsewhere…no inventory…and so it goes.

Gulf Islands Governance and Real Estate

Under the Gulf Islands form of governance (Islands Trust, with a mandate to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents), in place since 1974, a buyer purchase/investment is ensured to remain as purchased. In this era of extreme change, this continuation of what one fell in love with, and purchased, is a strong feature of decisions to invest on a Gulf Island.


Market Dynamics and Future Trends

It’s also a recipe for price escalation. Will we see multiple owners as a buyer profile, going forward, so that one can enjoy ownership of a Gulf Island property? Hmmm….there are always work-arounds and creative ownership models may be one outcome to encourage the opportunity to own, as prices rise and inventory remains static.

A February 2024 Market Analysis On Salt Spring

So: the very beginning of February shows continuing low inventory, with buyer interest showing up in all price ranges and property types, and now with a sense that one needs to act. The pauses in action, seen in 2022 and 2023, appear to be over. Oddly, this increase in activity began in November 2023. The interest rate fluctuations remain a factor in buyer outcomes. Those having to renew mortgages in 2024 and 2025 will also be making decisions as to whether to hold or to sell. Lack of inventory to buy or to rent may decide people to struggle on with current ownership.

Real Estate as Capital Preservation

Many on both sides of the seller/buyer divide are seeing real estate as a way to preserve capital. Concern about erosion of purchasing power of currencies has people thinking about how to retain value in their holdings.

Anticipating Future Outcomes

Lots of outcomes still waiting to be formed…it’s very early in what promises to be a busy year. It’s a good idea to attend seminars and financial webinars…all information is helpful in times of change. And also keep an eye on AI…implants that allow one’s thoughts to effect change? Hmmm…. Mid-Feb welcomes the Year of the Wood Dragon in the Asian Lunar New Year. The western zodiac sees Pluto in Aquarius, a line-up not seen since the French Revolution. Recipes for change? Keep your editing function fired up.

Exploring the Local Area in February

So: February. Check the garden…early bulbs and shrubs are flowering forward. Give yourself the gift of new…zip off to Victoria or Sidney and look at a different set of walls. Remember the Cowichan Valley…on our doorstep and lots to see and do there. Beaches to explore at Parksville/Qualicum or all the way to Tofino. Check out our close neighbours, the other Southern Gulf Islands…each with their own signature. A day trip makes us glad to get back to Salt Spring’s many charms. Family Day holiday weekend in mid-February invites us to sample other nearby spaces. Lucky us…adventure on!

Salt Spring Island, January 2024, Market Analysis

January ponderings…

The Roman god Janus gave his name to this beginning month of the New Year.
With two faces, one looking behind and one facing forward, Janus reminds us that every beginning carries with it some of what went before…and also introduces the new.

If you are interested in the Asian horoscopes, then it’s good to know that February 10th ushers in the Year of the Wood Dragon.

Change is The Wallpaper of Our Time

It’s taken 23 years for the real 21st century to finally arrive.
Early forays into websites and emails morphed into social media communications. It really is now possible to pretty much do one’s life and business off a smart phone. 5G speeds it all up.

Zoom during the pandemic closures got us all used to image only meetings. What will happen to all those empty office buildings? If there is a housing shortage (and there is), then why are they not being turned into interesting housing developments?

And what about AI? Clunky ChatGPT is only the rudimentary beginning. So: reality. Virtual, augmented, real…and so forth and so on. It’s called artificial intelligence…the second word implies thought.

If someone gave us a ticket to 1996, would we take it? It seems like a time that is already in the far far past.

Meantime, since change is simply the wallpaper of our time, and we must flow forward on this river of shift, it’s essential to recapture our editing function. Data is not information. What is visible on the internet may not be authentic. Only our editing ability will help us sort it out.

Is Real Estate Strengthening?

Yes. The almost two year “pause” (soft sales, low inventory, nervous buyers) of 2022/2023 is over. Prices are higher. Most owners do not want to be sellers. Buyers want to act. The difficulty about low inventory: not enough choice for a buyer. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they won’t act. Yes, there are fewer sales, but that’s because there’s less to sell. What will happen when many mortgages will be up for renewal in 2024? Often, secondary home/recreational marketplaces can be somewhat insulated from this renewal scenario.

At this very beginning of January:

There are approximately 77 residential listings on Salt Spring, not separating out single family, townhomes, farms, waterfronts.

There are 31 land listings, not separating out waterfronts, acreages, lots.

That’s a total of 108 listings…a balanced market might see 280 listings.

At the end of 2023, there had been approximately 179 sales, ranging between $55,000 for a mobile in a park and $4,288,000 for a waterfront on five acres. Projections continue to call for consistent positive real estate outcomes, based on strong immigration and lack of housing options.

The various government measures to increase rental stock and buyer options (vacancy tax, prohibition on out of country buyers, increased purchase tax for non-residents) have not proved to create more housing opportunities. Artificial government edicts do not take the place of encouraging private enterprise to build/to develop. The lack of housing will continue for some time.

Geopolitical concerns continue. Worries about inflation, and currencies also continue. Remember Voltaire and his warning that paper money always reverts to its true value: zero. Is another reason for buyers seeking out special properties in unique areas simply a desire to preserve capital? Is this also why owners are not wanting to be sellers?

Many changes in the real estate industry itself. Stay tuned as the ways to buy and to sell real estate undergo significant changes…just as all segments of society must grapple with serious change. Nothing is exempt.

January of 2024

Lots to think about as we emerge into early January of this New Year. It is a New Year and we can choose whether to look backwards or to opt for Janus’ forward staring face.

Meantime, January…a month to savour that every day is eight seconds longer. We are on the slow march to Spring. Now there’s a thought!

Salt Spring Island, December 2023, Market Analysis

December, 2023.

December. It brings celebrations and also a recap of an entire year’s outcomes.
It also introduces the calendar shift from Fall into Winter on December 20/21… (although meteorological Winter is December 1st).

Short days, mix of rain and sunbursts, occasional snow, and a turn towards the cosy appeal of “home”. December also offers cultural traditions and celebratory holiday events…whether with family or friends or on one’s own, it’s important to pay attention to and to enjoy these annual celebrations.

Real Estate Salt Spring – December 2023

Looking at real estate outcomes, the entire Fall has been a continuation of low inventory, with steady buyer inquiries, but slower sales decisions. Buyers have continued to be interested, but also remain in a “pause mode” about action. December begins with the same trend.

Part of the “pause” is about worry: interest rate uncertainty, impacts of inflation, currency worries, lack of choice for buyers (low inventory does not encourage action), wars and rumours of wars, geopolitical fears. At the same time, a desire to escape urban for rural continues as a strong motivator for action. It’s true that sales are down, but that is partly because there are fewer listings to sell.

What is the Best Time to List

There is no specific “good” time when one might decide to list…there are always buyers around. Sellers and realtors do not create market trends…buyers do that. They act and so create a pattern. The federal government push for strong immigration continues, and the lack of housing also remains as a cross-Canada factor. Lack of supply keeps prices stable and promises escalation.

Salt Spring Island – Recreational Area

In B.C., the provincial government continues to add regions to the speculation/vacancy tax. This is in an effort to add to the rental housing stock. If the government added back in the “fixed tenancy” option on a lease, one might find a lot more owners willing to be landlords. The current provincial government cancelled this option. The Gulf Islands (under the Islands Trust form of governance) are considered recreational areas (along with Whistler) and so are not part of the speculation/vacancy tax regions.

Currently, a year lease in a rental goes automatically to a month to month when the lease expires, and an owner can only evict a tenant if they plan to move back into the home or if they sell it and the new owner is moving in. A fixed tenancy means a tenant leaves on that date…or a new fixed tenancy lease can be structured. On the Gulf Islands, this is the only latitude for an owner to remain in control of a tenancy. When the government cancelled this option, rentals became scarce.

Recent Sales Data – Salt Spring Island

At this very beginning of December, there are approximately 88 residential listings available on Salt Spring…not separating out single family, townhomes, waterfront, view, farms. There are approximately 34 land listings for sale…not separating out lots, acreages, waterfront, view, farms. There have been approximately 173 sales to date, ranging from $55,000 for a single-wide trailer in a mobile home park to $4.288 for a 5 acre waterfront home. That may sound like a lot of listing options (122+/- in total, residential and land), but a more balanced market would be in the neighbourhood of 250+ total listings. Lack of supply is the key to price stability and possible price escalation. The market trend effects of this continuing high immigration and low housing inventory may be clearer by late February/early March.

Will AI Change Real Estate?

The impact of AI on real estate is in its infancy…it will be interesting to see outcomes as we go into the new year. New ways to deal with commission structures will also be discussed. December is a month that straddles the past year and looks forward to the “almost here” new year. Change remains the surround sound of our times.

Meantime, this time of year inspires and offers the allure of lights and decorations and special events…of sounds and songs of traditions…of family and friends gathering…of the beauty of a quieter and softer season. It’s a time to enjoy this season of gratitude and joy.
December smiles hello…..

Salt Spring Island, November 2023, Market Analysis

November, 2023.

Feathered with Golden Leaves

November signals mid-Fall…forested hills feathered with golden leaves from Maples and Alders…more rainy days, and bursts of sun between storm tracks. Daylight Saving Time ends, and this adds to darker late afternoons. Some call it the cosy season and that image of a slower pace welcomes this softer season to Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

The 2023 pattern of the real estate market remains in place: very low inventory, in all property types and price ranges, and general stability in sale prices. Lack of choice for buyers remains an issue.

The Gulf Islands & The Islands Trust

Governments at all levels (federal, provincial, municipal) are struggling with the lack of housing inventory. The Gulf Islands, unincorporated areas (except for Bowen), are under the Islands Trust form of governance (a provincial government body put in place in 1974, with a mandate of “to preserve and protect” the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents). Strict zoning/bylaws prohibit growth. Two elected trustees per Island do not have the power to change the Trust mandate…the provincial government would have to do that.

Inventory & Immigration

Lack of housing of all types is an issue in all communities and the Gulf Islands are not immune. Lack of supply keeps pricing higher. Most owners do not want to be sellers, as world events continue to cause major insecurities…a search for personal safety and for capital protection are two threads behind current buyer searches…that flight from urban to rural continues. Social unrest is evident. Strong immigration to Canada, coupled with lack of housing product, continues.

A Fall Market?

So…November. A holding pattern in local real estate, with low inventory and continuing buyer interest. For several years, the main buyer profile has been from Vancouver/Lower Mainland. Outcomes in Vancouver do trickle down to the Gulf Islands. A Fall Market has also been a characteristic of Gulf Islands sales, for many years.

November offers: ArtSpring theatre events, craft fair at WinterCraft, farmgate
stands, receptions at galleries, folk club headliners, live music venues, easy access to hiking/walking trails, still lots to do and to enjoy.

The softer season…yes. Enjoy.