May 2019, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island Farmer's Market

The season is with us! The great Pacific Northwest Coast is at its very best between May and October, and Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are a part of this.

Salt Spring, the largest and best serviced of the Southern Gulf Islands, is in the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world.

Lots of bays and coves and also Marina anchorages to explore.

Gulf Islands Economic Activity? Tourism, Tourism, Tourism

The main economic driver on the Gulf Islands is tourism.

I often think that a happy visitor experience on a Gulf Island may result in a real estate purchase…and then all other businesses get busy (architects, designers, builders, septic installers, driveway creators, soft furnishing providers, painters, etc etc etc).

Let’s not forget B&Bs, all accommodation providers, grocery stores, banks, lawyers, notaries, restaurants, ferries, car rentals, wine & craft brewery & cider tastings, arts showcases (such as studio tour)…they all benefit from a successful visitor experience.

What is Shoulder Season in Canada?

There is often a local business effort to create “shoulder season” events, to extend that “season” at either end…some years, it seems to work…weather variability becomes a part of this equation. The Salt Spring Chamber presents Sip and Savour, showcasing the agricultural community, in October…the Chamber also presents a Home and Garden show in March, emphasizing local trades and suppliers. These two events do bring visitors and locals alike, in an extended season.

What about that real estate market as we enter our true seasonal marketplace?

Listing inventory continues to shrink…especially in that entry level residential price segment. Undeveloped land is also finding a buyer…it is a way for a purchaser to keep to his/her budget.

A high number of the listings right now remain priced over one million.

Some of the few new listings appear to be coming onstream at higher price points than last year. There are also serious price reductions occurring…a sign of a market in transition, perhaps? Everything on the table, all at once….

Although May to October are seen as the main months for both tourism and real estate activity, it does remain a mainly weekend business until late June. The weekend action pattern returns in early September. Yes…very short and very intense.

It’s also true that there are really no real estate comparables on Salt Spring or on another Gulf Island. Owners create their personal dream.

When properties come on the market, even though priced similarly, these offerings will often have nothing in common with each other.

In the end, buyers set markets (not sellers or realtors), and it’s a buyer who offers what he/she judges the property to be worth. A serious seller always listens to a buyer.

To purchase on Salt Spring or on another Gulf Island is always a choice. No one “has to” buy on Salt Spring. Often it takes two to three visits/viewings for a buyer to make that choice.

As we enter May, there are approximately:

  • 108 residential listings on Salt Spring (not separating out townhomes, waterfront, view, or farm parcels), with around 56 of these listings below 1,000,000. There are 11 properties listed over 2 million and 5 listed over 3 million.

At the start of May, there are approximately:

  • 68 land listings (again, not separating out waterfront, farm, view, lots or acreages), with 6 of these between 1,020,000 and 2,495,000.

At the beginning of May:

  • There are 16 commercial listings (business only or land/business).

This is a dramatically low inventory for a buyer to consider. In a more balanced market, there are usually approximately 380 + listings…low inventory may result in a seller’s market.

At the start of May there have been:

  • 45 “solds to date” between 135,000 and 1,700,000.
    Of these sales, 8 have been between 1,000,000 and 1,700,000

Salt Spring remains a very alluring and energizing place to call home. It does attract an international buyer. In the main, during the past 2+ years, the principal buyer profile on the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island has been someone from Vancouver/Lower Mainland. These buyers plan to reside full time in their new chosen area.

Unique Governing Body: The Islands Trust?

The form of governance on the Gulf Islands is the provincial government body known as the Islands Trust. Created in 1974, with a mandate “to preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, the Trust controls growth via strict zoning/density bylaws. Ask me about this important aspect of ownership in these Islands. The Trust documents will, over time, ensure limited inventory on any Gulf Island.

With a strong artistic base (painters, writers, actors, musicians call this Island home), with organic farming underway (farmers markets, tastings at wineries, craft brewery, cideries), with a myriad of hiking/walking trails throughout the Island, and with an amazing cadre of volunteers who create and maintain much of what Saltspringers enjoy…all of this variety creates a very vibrant and caring community.

The month of May offers the Saturday Market in the Park, the Tuesday Farmers Market, the Round Salt Spring Sailing Race, the Victoria Day holiday weekend (a cross-Canada signal for the start of the vacation season), studio tour locations are open, and all of Salt Spring says “welcome”.