December 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

The winter season on Salt Spring Island changes from year to year…sometimes there are brief snowfalls (snow is rare and islanders love to take photos, capturing the beauty of this unexpected short reminder of the rest of Canada’s winter life).

Southern Gulf Islands Climate

Usually, though, winter on the Southern Gulf Islands is more like a long late Fall…or a prolonged early Spring…depending on one’s point of view. The micro-climate found on the Gulf Islands, known as “cool Mediterranean”, does offer a gentler winter season experience.

Real estate showings continue in this softer season, as potential buyers want to “see things at their worst”…on the theory that everything looks great in the summer…so best to check out winter.

Salt Spring offers a year-round lifestyle. There is always something happening and it’s always a good time to visit. More info? Call me!

Sales often take place in the last two months of a calendar year and into the first weeks of the new year. Possibly buyers came earlier, viewed, then went off to view options on nearby Vancouver Island…buyers like to “be sure” about their destination choice, and so it seems that an interviewing of places is now a part of that introductory search.

For some substantial time, the main buyer profile for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, and the Interior communities has been from Vancouver.

In past years, the Gulf Islands had seen many buyers from Alberta and the U.S. These former buyers have been replaced by Vancouver/Lower Mainland potentials.

The provincial government tax suppression measures (late 2017 to late 2019), to cool real estate activity in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, were successful. Salt Spring action is now tied to Vancouver outcomes.

Racing to the Bottom?

The sluggish sales during these past several months may explain the several and specific price reductions from one local Salt Spring company…an effort to push action. It did not result in a big increase in sales, but did create further reductions from other local companies, in an effort to remain competitive. It may also have affected serious buyers in their offer amount decisions. It is possible, in a small area, to create a mini-market via pricing.

Unintended Consequences of Measures?

Have the government tax measures to suppress action in the city markets, ostensibly to create affordable housing, really just erased an owners equity? Will that affect an owners retirement income? Hmmm…there’s that “unintended consequences” issue again. Supply and demand create the affordability outcomes…has the government encouraged new construction of rental accommodations?

In August, for whatever reason (and perhaps global issues / geopolitics were involved), the Vancouver market began to experience an uptick in action, in spite of the provincial government tax interventions. Both September and October saw substantial increases in sales volume, in Vancouver. Sellers there began to reappear in the rural coastal regions, including on Salt Spring. Most sales remain (for the moment) in the entry level residential segment, in both the primary and secondary home marketplaces.

Contact Directly for Best Information

The Southern Gulf Islands are overlapped by three different real estate boards: Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island boards are represented. A board is the portal for a realtor to input a listing onto the geographic MLS. In a “grey area” (which describes the overlapping on the Southern Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring), a realtor’s private client service will only show listings on that realtor’s board…the information is a drip feed from that board. Only partial information is available on a realtor’s private client service.

To see all available listings, a consumer needs to view (the geographic MLS site).

My driveby lists & “solds to date” information will also show all listings, regardless of realtor, company, or board affiliation. It’s important to me that the consumer sees everything, in order to be able to make that all-important informed decision. More info? Call me.

Inventory remains very thin…as soon as one specifies a type of property and a price range, one can see how low the current inventory of listings really is. Will this lead to price increases in 2020? An unknown. Perhaps it’s best to remain in the “now”, re purchase or sale decisions.

The Islands Trust, Salt Spring

The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, is the form of governance on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands. Growth is controlled by severe zoning/bylaws restrictions. Does this control of growth lead to higher property prices over time? Perhaps. The Canadian Gulf Islands are the jewels of the Pacific Coast. Over time, they may end by being places one will have to be able to afford. Low inventory (both market driven and Islands Trust no-growth policies) combined with strong buyer desire are usually a guarantee of price escalation, over time.

In June, 2018, changes to the Real Estate Services Act of B.C. came into being. Change is continuing in the industry. Questions? Just ask. The important bottom line: protection of the consumer.

Along with changes to the Act, the emergence of other purveyors of real estate information and the escalation of technology to disseminate information are both impacting the way real estate has previously been done. Stay tuned!

Seasonless Adventure Here on Salt Spring

December brings a season full of light and joy, and Salt Spring offers craft fairs, gallery openings, theatre, seasonal choral events, studios open, special menus in our great restaurants, plus local shopping delights. It is a time of traditions being celebrated and an inclusive spirit that welcomes others to enjoy with us. The leaves are off the trees, which visually opens up the hiking/walking trails…get out and about and rediscover the minimalist pleasures of this winter face. Salt Spring really is a seasonless adventure.