Market Analysis

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

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.

Salt Spring Island, October 2023, Market Analysis

Authentic Fall

October delivers authentic Fall and the fullness of the Harvest season. Oct 1st is the annual Apple Fest. Don’t miss this. The Saturday Market continues till month’s end. The once every two years SSNAP (Salt Spring National Art Prize) is underway…another “don’t miss” event. The Parallel Art Show also underway, and special presentations at the Ganges galleries. Fall menus at our great restaurants. Perfect weather for hiking/walking trails. Spa retreats to help us ease into the softer season. The Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, a truly Harvest celebration. Lucky Salt Springers!

Market Trends This Fall?

The Fall Market real estate trend? Continuing low inventory (the seller side) and continuing desire to leave urban for rural (the buyer side) are still the themes driving the Gulf Islands marketplace. For several years, the main buyer profile on the islands has been from Vancouver/Lower Mainland.

Price Stability

Low inventory is always a factor on the Gulf Islands due to the Islands Trust form of governance (in place since 1974). The preservation and protection mandate of the Trust created a cap on growth. The housing crisis of today is also an outcome of lack of supply right across the province and the country. The Gulf Islands are not immune. Until product meets demand, lack of choice for a buyer will keep prices stable and may also lead to further price escalation. The Gulf Islands are not first time buyer locations. That said, interest rate rises do affect city markets and what occurs in Vancouver does have a ripple down effect in the Gulf Islands.

At this very beginning of October, there are 97 residential properties for sale on Salt Spring (not separating out townhomes, single family, farms, waterfronts…simply residential offerings). Prices range between 172,000 (for a single-wide older mobile) to 11,975,000 (for an ocean view estate acreage). There are 40 properties currently listed below one million. (In a balanced market, there might be close to 200 residential listings on Salt Spring).

At this very beginning of October, there are 39 Land listings (not separating out lots, acreages, farm parcels, waterfronts…simply undeveloped land offerings). There are 17 commercial listings at this very beginning of October (some are business only options and others are land/buildings plus business).

At this very beginning of October, there have been 147 sales to date, with a mix of land, single family, townhomes, waterfronts, commercial, strata-resort options. Prices have ranged from 55,000 (for an older mobile in a mobile home park) to 4,288,000 (for a renovated waterfront home on a small acreage)…the bulk of sales have been below 1.4 million. More information? Seeking to sell or to buy? Look forward to your call.

So…October. A time to enjoy the season of harvest largesse and to cosy up before winter says hello. The shorter days allow for serious crisp evening star watching…is this the year to really learn the constellations? Never hurts to look beyond our everyday locations. Meantime, catch the mid-Fall pleasures. Lots to see and do and to enjoy. October smiles its welcome.

Salt Spring Island, September 2023, Market Analysis

Earlier Sunsets on Salt Spring

A lovely month in the Gulf Islands and on Salt Spring Island…September retains Summer moments and slowly segues into true Fall. Shorter days, earlier sunsets, star-watching pleasures, and the delectable harvest time.

On Salt Spring? Catch the amazing Fall Fair (September 9/10)…the old island meets the current one and each day is totally different. Don’t miss this annual event. The Ganges Galleries are showcasing the output of their signature artists, ArtSpring events are offered, and ArtCraft will gently close for the season. Wine and cider tastings, Saturday and Tuesday Farmers Markets continue, and farmgate stands are showcasing their produce. Lucky SaltSpringers! Labour Day Holiday Weekend starts the month.

Fall Market Salt Spring Real Estate

And what about that Fall Market in real estate? Several years ago, Summer and Fall became a busy time in the Gulf Islands. It can be busier than the Spring market, and some call this time of year “the second Spring”.

Although the 2023 year began late (mid-April?), it was consistent. Inventory remained low. Entry-level price points and residential listings found most of the action in the Spring/early Summer timeline. Towards mid-August, some upper tier priced properties also found their buyers. It is usual to see higher end opportunities finding their buyers in September/October/November, year after year.

Low inventory is likely to continue. Unless they have to, most owners are not interested in being sellers. IF they were interested in selling, they can’t find listings in the areas they might consider moving to. No one wants to be houseless.

Lack of Construction + Invitation for Immigration

The Canadian government’s invitation for immigration (500,000 + a year) bumps into the past forty years of lack of construction. Strong desire to buy, coupled with lack of housing options, result in price escalation. A lack of affordable housing (whether to purchase or rent) remains a Canada-wide issue.

Why Invest on Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands governance model is under the provincial government body known as the Islands Trust (created in 1974). The purpose was to preserve and protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents. In a sense, these islands are like park reserves. Growth is capped via strong zoning/bylaws restrictions. The Islands Trust restrictions also keep inventory low, regardless of market trends.

Concern over currency uncertainties may be another factor in low inventory…choosing hard assets is one way to preserve capital in uncertain times. Owning property on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands can be viewed as an important decision in one’s investment portfolio.

Seeking a successful real estate outcome on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands? It’s very important to me that things work to optimum for you, whether selling or buying. Questions? Call me. Your best outcomes truly are my motivation. Information is key.

Fall is the season of mellow fruitfulness…

Meantime…it’s early September and the season offers beauty everywhere. September 1st is meteorological Fall…in spite of the calendar saying it’s summer till the 20th. As the poet John Keats described, Fall is the season of mellow fruitfulness.

Time to hike the trails at Ruckle Park, the Mt Erskine trail system, the Channel Ridge trails. Time to dine out at our amazing restaurants and taste the delights of the harvest season. Time to meander the galleries and discover the meaning of talent. Time to star watch and ponder a bigger picture. Time to choose fresh veggies and fruits at farm markets and test drive your culinary skills. Time to welcome the cosy season.

Fall’s softer season is there to enjoy. Accept the invitation.

Salt Spring Island, August 2023, Market Analysis

August, 2023.

Salt Spring Island Attractions

Wow…Summer is at the half-way point. August has arrived.

Time to enjoy the fruits of the season…shop the Saturday and Tuesday Farmers Markets for home grown delights. Dine out al fresco on the patios and decks at our exceptional restaurants. Kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing through these beautiful Gulf Islands…whales, sea lions, seals sleekly move among us. Hiking trails, forest bathing choices, spa retreats, beaches for sunset viewings and swimming in lakes and ocean. How lucky we are to experience the real reality of this special part of the great Pacific Northwest Coast. Lucky Salt Springers!

Salt Spring Real Estate Market

And that always interesting real estate market in this secondary home/recreational region? The theme remains: low inventory and stable pricing.

This year is also seeing a return of buyers, in spite of the continuing worries about interest rate rises, supply chain issues, lack of good choices, inflationary pressures, currency concerns, wars and rumours of wars…the surround sound of our current moment seems to be worry-worry. In 2022, it paused activity. In 2023, although there was a late start to the year’s cycle, action is again with us.


The rhythm is not the over ask frenzy of 2021. There are subject offers now, there is time for a buyer to do due diligence, and sellers listen to buyer thoughts on offer prices.

The thing for a seller to remember: a buyer chooses to come to Salt Spring. No one “has to” buy on a Gulf Island. It’s always a two-step dance: a buyer chooses the Gulf Island to live on and then chooses the property on that island. Very different from a primary residence/city marketplace.

There is always a time element to a purchase…often takes three visits before an offer is made. There can be months between visits. Patience is a part of all property purchases on all Gulf Islands.

Push for Immigration

The federal government push for immigration (500,000 a year from 2023 to 2025) is occurring at same time as a lack of housing…right across Canada…and on the Gulf Islands/Salt Spring Island, too. Lack of rentals, work rentals, and affordable housing persist. This lack of inventory is projected to bring serious price escalation.

So, a desire for hard asset investment to preserve capital in inflationary times…and increased immigration with low housing inventory…these seem to promise a strong real estate market.

I always think it takes till mid-September to see the real tone of a real estate market on any Gulf Island. We are almost there… Several years ago our recreational/secondary home region became a late summer/fall sales market…stay tuned.

Something to pay attention to during these last lazy days of summer, as August unrolls…the impact of AI (those in the know say it is going to create profound change, more than was experienced with the arrival of the internet). Maybe leave the fat entertainment book in the hammock and look into this game-changer?

Meantime, it’s still summer-summer in our real reality location and August brings earlier sunsets, star watching opportunities, lush gardens, a sense of needing to quickly capture this amazing time of year…September and Fall are on the horizon…don’t delay. The bird is on the wing.

A little sail out the Harbour? Meet you at the dock. It’s Summer. Catch it.

Salt Spring Island, July 2023, Market Analysis

July, 2023.

Canada-wide Celebration

Canada Day introduces delectable July…a Canada-wide celebration on the 1st. Happy Birthday!

Lots happening on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands: artist studios are open, the famous Saturday Market and Tuesday Farmers Market on Salt Spring, Ganges galleries showcasing their amazing artists, ArtSpring events, ArtCraft at Mahon Hall, patios and decks at restaurants and coffee places (al fresco is the gift), wine and cider tastings, hiking trails, swimming in lakes and ocean, kayaking, sailing, live music venues…it’s all here…just waiting for your enjoyment and summer ease.

How’s The Salt Spring Market

The real estate market? It’s the same continuing tune: lack of inventory and stable pricing.

There is a sense that prices will rise. It may take until late August to have clarity on this definite possibility. Lack of supply (combined with strong buyer desire) is the reason. Most owners do not want to be sellers. Further, Canada’s immigration policy is set to welcome 500,000 immigrants a year and the lack of available housing will keep prices higher.

The Islands Trust effectively capped growth on the Gulf Islands when the provincial government created it in 1974. This is apart from real estate trends over time. Basically, it’s a “this much, and no more” item. Another reason for price stability and price increases, though. Questions? Call me. (liread33@gmail.com).

Short & Sweet Days of Summer

Summer is both a sweet and a short season. Already we see shorter days (by seven seconds a day). Time to “take five” as the great Dave Brubeck played. In our on/off, on/off binary world, it’s important to breathe life into our editing function. Yes, we do have a pause button. Yes, we do have the ability to close the screen and simply “be”. Summer is the perfect time to simply rediscover “ease”.

Try sitting beside the sea, calm, high tide, late afternoon light shimmering, reflections softening our thoughts. See? Real summer approaches. Be still and enjoy the peacefulness. Real reality is here. The gift of summer is with you.

Salt Spring Island, June 2023, Market Analysis

June, 2023.

The Low Tides of Summer

It’s June…the month when the calendar says “Summer”, when schools are out for summer vacation, when the days are longest and beaches beckon (yes, those are low tides).

Summer has the word “ease” at the heart of it. Kayak to Chocolate Island, sail through these amazing Gulf Islands (some of the best protected boating waters in the world), enjoy beachcombing, swim in the lakes, hike the trails, picnic wherever your fancy takes you, enjoy al fresco dining with a view at the super restaurants around the island.

A highlight of June? The annual Tour des Iles weekend (voyage between the five Southern Gulf Islands…live music and new discoveries. A WOW). Check the Visitors Centre for dates and details.

The Salt Spring Real Estate Market

So, what about the real estate market at this very beginning of June? The story of low inventory coupled with consistent buyer desire for rural/recreational areas (yes, still the flight from urban to rural) continue to be in place.

The immigration push (federally, the government is encouraging 500,000 immigrants a year, for 2023, 2024, 2025), at the same time as lack of housing (to buy or to rent) remains an issue everywhere, seem to predict rising prices. Lack of supply is always the reason for price increases. It remains, quite simply, a sellers market.

This is not yet the crazy market seen in 2021. So far, we are not noting many multiple offers all at once, with “over ask” outcomes.

Sellers do get close to list, in many cases. In others, price reductions happen first and then often a further reduction at the point of a sale. These differences merely point to the pace of recovery after “the great pause” of 2022. It may take until late August/September to really see the tone of 2023, for real estate patterns.

There are many lingering concerns: interest rate further rises, inflationary pressures, lack of good choices for a buyer, supply chain issues, rising cost of materials (one reason why some buyers ignore undeveloped land listings), geopolitical worries, currency concerns. Worries do create slower outcomes…the persistent refrain: “are we safe yet?”.

Since 2016, most buyers have been from Vancouver in the Gulf Islands, and in other rural venues. These buyers plan to live where they purchase, and so take time in considering “where” to relocate. It always takes time to sell property on any Gulf Island, no matter the market trend.

Close to Everything and Yet Wonderfully Apart…

So, we segue into June with fewer listings and renewed desire to own property on a Gulf Island…close to everything and yet wonderfully apart. Remember, too, our form of governance (the Islands Trust) and its preservation mandate. The Trust also keeps growth low. Between the Trust and the lack of interest from most owners in becoming sellers, and the pressure for housing, one might agree that price points will rise in real estate.

Look forward to helping you with your real estate needs (whether selling or buying) on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands. Your best interests are my motivation.

E-Mail: LiRead33@Gmail.com

Meantime, June is here…and whether a resident or a visitor, Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands smile a Summer hello. Enjoy!