February 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

February 2019, Salt Spring Island Market

The first stirrings of early Spring bring a renewed interest in real estate sales in secondary home markets…and Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are such discretionary regions.

I often think that real estate activity in the Gulf Islands falls into “thirds”…and that November, December, January, February constitute one of these “thirds”.

It does seem to take until March for the tone of a year to make itself felt, in secondary home markets.

I do these regular market reports at the very beginning of a month, and try to update any changes as the month progresses, via my blogs.

Sales Data

At the close of January, there were seven sales for 2019. Two between 400,000 and 500,000. One between 500 and 600,000. One between 600 and 700,000. Two between 700 and 800,000. One between 800 and 900,000. All of these were residential dwellings, selling between 475,000 and 839,000.

Inventory remains thin. There are a total of 150 residentially zoned listings at this moment. That breaks down to 89 residential dwellings (not separating out townhomes or waterfront options or farm parcels) and 61 lots/acreages (again, not separating out waterfront, view, or farm options).

Of the current residential dwellings listed:

  • One is between 200 and 300,000
  • Three are between 300 and 400,000
  • Another three are between 400 and 500,000
  • There are seven listings between 500 and 600,000
  • There is one listing between 600 and 700,000
  • There are currently 10 listings between 700 and 800,000
  • There are 12 listings between 800 and 900,000
  • There are five listings between 900 and one million
  • There are 31 listings between one and two million
  • There are currently 13 listings between two and three million
  • There are two listings between 3 and 4 million and one property listing between 4 and 5 million

Of the current inventory of lots/acreages listed right now, there are:

  • Six properties on the market between 100,000 and 200,000
  • 17 options listed between 200 and 300,000
  • Six listings between 300 and 400,000
  • Seven listings between 400 and 500,000
  • 15 listings between 500 and 600,000
  • One listing right now between 600 and 700,000
  • One listing between 700 and 900,000
  • Three listings between 900 and one million
  • Four listings between one and two million
  • One listing between two and three million

Thin inventory is usually an indicator of potential price rises…that supply and demand equation. Secondary home/by choice markets do not always follow standard operating procedures. The important first step for a buyer is always that “where will I choose to purchase” question. Sellers need to remember that buyers are looking in Vancouver Island communities as well as on a Gulf Island. A wider field of competition perhaps, than in the past market cycles?

An increase in real estate inquiries is being seen earlier than expected…and, in some cases, a following early physicality to view. Most inquiries and viewings are still from Vancouver/Lower Mainland potential buyers.

Sign of the Times

On February 5th the Asian Lunar New Year says goodbye to the Year of the Dog and begins the Year of the Pig. Will this animal totem represent a time of calmer international events? Hmmm…. No place is exempt from outcomes in other places…that butterfly effect is alive and well…no matter how far apart pocket places such as the Gulf Islands may appear. It’s important to keep in the loop of international events.

There is an annual Family Holiday Weekend in February in B.C. Salt Spring offers many individual unique events (check the Chamber website calendar), and our great restaurants feature special Valentine menus. There is always a reason to enjoy a visit to Salt Spring Island. The Gulf Islands are really places for seasonless adventures.

February is the bridge between Winter and Spring, in our softer climate region. It’s an ideal time to look at property…the bushes and shrubs that obscure property boundary pegs are still bare. In the summer season everything looks beautiful. At this time of year, it’s easier to pay attention to exposure, to weather elements, to privacy and to arable potential. It’s always a good idea to “look”.

Change is the norm in our society right now. What about Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What will be the impact of 5G? If security is necessary on the Internet, how does block chain technology protect individual information…and is this personal information under the control of the person whose data it is? Augmented and Virtual Realities? Hmmm…an exciting time to be in the world, with still to be discovered opportunities.

The Islands Trust

The Islands Trust, created by the provincial government in 1974, to preserve and protect the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, perhaps has ended up by creating a withdrawing space to enjoy that real (natural) world…and to be apart from our “always on” digital universe. This was not the intent back in 1974, pre-Internet, but it may be the outcome in 2019. Salt Spring as a protected withdrawing/preserved renewal space? Yes.

The Trust maintains a limited inventory of properties, via its strict zoning/density controls that prohibit growth. This will ensure, beyond market cycles, that the Gulf Islands may ultimately end as places that one will have to be able to afford. Low inventory coupled with buyer desire may end in price escalation. Hmmm…. Who will service the lifestyles of those who live here? The key issue in many communities (including on Salt Spring) remains the lack of affordable housing/work rental. Will the Trust revisit their bylaws that make it difficult to offer rental accommodations, both annual and vacation? Will the water moratorium put in place by the volunteer board of the North Salt Spring Water District (NSSWD) be resolved by the CRD (Capital Regional District)?

Market Action Indicators

February is often a month that sees investment conferences, real estate presentations, and other business-oriented opportunities that seek answers to the age-old question: what’s the market doing? It’s a good idea to attend and to listen. All ideas are as valid as any others…there is still no clear blueprint, or definitive plan, going forward.

Government interventions to stop market growth in large cities do have an effect on secondary home markets. Do such interference measures last? It will be interesting to see if the faltering 2018 Vancouver market recovers, in spite of government measures to suppress it. Vancouver sellers, since mid 2016, have been the main buyers on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, and also on Vancouver Island.

So…here we are…easing towards the start of our main real estate sales window on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands (mid-March to mid-October are the busier months for both tourism discovery and subsequent real estate viewings).

February, the last hiatus month, carries with it the first whispers of a market trend. Will more listings come onstream? If not…then what?

Stay tuned…be observant.

In change lies opportunity. How may I help you with your real estate outcomes? Call me. Benefit from my knowledge and expertise. I look forward to meeting you.