November 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

I always think the calendar shift between seasons is a month out on the Pacific Northwest Coast. To me, November is the bringer of Winter.

Daylight Saving Time has returned to Standard Time, and the shorter days are with us. Temperatures cool. Rainy days that live up to the “wet coast” description come and go. Grey is the palette.

The continuing covid-19 restrictions (no large gatherings, social distancing, staying home if not feeling well, frequent hand-washing, sanitizer if not possible, wearing of masks in interior spaces) mean cancellation of loved seasonal events.

Autumn in Salt Spring Island, BC

Online meetings, online shopping, online family and friends visits, online education, online medical, online legal advice….yes, it’s communication, but it’s very different from in-person meet-ups. It’s neither good nor not-good…it’s just different.

Marshall McLuhan, back in the 1970s, alerted us that “the medium is the message”. He was implying that our communication methods shape us. Is the online method making us observers instead of participants?

Meantime, lovely Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands continue to shimmer forward, and to remind us of the beauty of all seasons in this region.

View from Skywater in Salt Spring, British Columbia

Real estate? At the very start of November, we continue to experience thin inventory and buyer desire remains high. Prices appear to have stabilized, although there remain many reductions at the point of a sale.

137 residential listings

  • 36 listings between 299,000 and 998,500
  • 23 listings between 1,025,000 and 1,998,500
  • 7 listings available between 2,000,000 and 2,700,000
  • One listing at 3,100,000
  • One listing at 5,900,000
  • One listing at 12,000,000
  • Two listings at 14,000,000

70 land listings

  • 60 listings between 149,000 and 995,000
  • 7 listings between 1,020,000 and 1,395,000
  • 3 listings between 2,150,000 and 2,495,000

211 sales to date

  • 157 sales between 120,000 and 998,000.
  • 48 sales between 1,017,000 and 1,900,000
  • 6 sales between 2,050,000 and 2,600,100

Price reductions were seen in most transactions at the point of the offer, and price reductions were also still taking place en route to that “last list price”, before the accepted offer.

About Salt Spring In the Winter?

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are secondary home markets. Buyers choose to come to Salt Spring and to the other Gulf Islands. No one “has to”. It still takes time, and two visits if not three, for that interested buyer to choose the “where”.

Buyers want to be sure, before committing to the specific island…it’s always a two-step dance. Choose the island and then decide on the property.

As good residential inventory cleans out, there is more interest in undeveloped land and a building project.

There are now many opportunities to showcase a property online. For several years, I have offered 3-D image rich plans and also video walk-throughs and drone videos. Now, these are just required items. Buyers, in spite of these specialty visual marketing options, are often asking realtors to do a face time walk through. Is the next step buying without an on site visit? Perhaps.

salt spring views

What is the Secondary Home Market Like in BC, Canada?

In past years, approximately 50 % of the buyers in the secondary home venues were from the U.S. and Alberta. The closing of the border back in March means no U.S. tourists and no potential buyers. Previously, U.S. & Albertans were recreational.

Since 2016, most buyers have been from Vancouver, and they plan to live in their new areas. This is another reason why it takes two (and often three) visits before choosing for Salt Spring or a Gulf Island…it’s that “being sure” thing, again.

November is the beginning of Winter here, regardless of what the calendar says. Yes, Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands enjoy that “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate and there are more sunny days/less rain than anywhere on the coast. Warmer, less rain, a temperate climate that allows for orchards, olive groves, vineyards, wineries, cideries, craft brewery…lucky us! Salt Spring offers a year-round lifestyle. Questions? Call me!

So…no large gatherings, cancellation of most seasonal events…a different kind of November, indeed, in the time of covid.

What’s Really Important?

Important to pay attention to what is there, right in front of us, to experience and to enjoy. Whether selling, buying, or resting in place, we are in a beautiful environment, with a soft climate, and no thing remains the same forever. When our new normal finally arrives, will we be ready?

That winter pasture, looking sere and lifeless on its surface, is busy at the root level…when Spring arrives that eruption of new growth is suddenly there. Right now is perhaps our “tending the roots” moment.

So: read a fat book, collate family recipes to gift on to younger generations, cook from scratch, light candles for dinner, be cosy by the fireplace, write your memoirs, be totally at ease in the online world (lots of tutorials to look to)…if that’s our surround sound, then let’s be fully immersed in it. Plant bulbs…be wonderfully surprised when they flower forward in February. Decorate for Christmas and give pleasure to others.

October 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Is it Fall of 2020?


October. Here we are…at the 4th quarter in a year’s activity.

It’s also the continuation of the Harvest season…with the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend in mid-month.

Covid…whether it’s considered a second wave or just the continuation and possible mutation of the first…remains the background to our days.

Most of us find ourselves saying “these are different days” and they are.


As the days shorten, and it cools in the evenings, the restaurants that relied on creative outdoor seating arrangements are grappling with how to social distance when back inside.

Ferries, grocery stores, retail are now making wearing of masks mandatory. Be prepared.

It is flu and cold season, along with covid virus, and the social distancing when out in public, the staying home when not feeling well, and the government encouragement to keep our contact groups small, are all features of this seasonal shift to Fall.

Veggies & Harvest on Salt Spring Island
Veggies & Harvest on Salt Spring Island

Covid has cancelled or re-imagined to a virtual platform many Island events (Fall Fair, Sip and Savour, Apple Fest, Salty Awards, craft fairs, Christmas on Salt Spring among others). Canadians are being encouraged by the federal and provincial governments to forego large family gatherings at Thanksgiving. All meetings and AGMs of various groups are also continuing to be held virtually.

Is The Past Prologue?

Marshall McLuhan reminded us in the 1970s that “the medium is the message”. Our communication methods create us as a species. Online is a talking head process. Will this make us into a species of observers and not participants? What then of Aristotle’s dictum that we are social animals? Hmmm….deep stuff here. Needs some thought. Change is the only constant. Virtual, though, is not the same as “in person”.


So, here we are, at the very beginning of October. In real estate, in all rural/secondary home regions, inventory has thinned right out. That province-wide 10 week shut-down, that began on March 12th, created a huge desire on the part of city dwellers to get to rural/secondary home regions. The Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, the Interior communities…all of them experienced a strong real estate sales uptick as soon as the government allowed phase one recovery.

Market Stats:

At this very beginning of October, then, we see

  • 84 residential listings on Salt Spring. This does not separate out waterfronts or farms or acreages…it is just all residential options that are still available.
  • They range in price from $420,000 to $14,000,000. (There are approximately 48 listings between $420,000 and $998,500. There are approximately 24 listings between $1,025,000 and $1,998,500. There are 6 listings between $2,000,000 and $2,700,000. There are 2 listings at $3,128,000 and $3,200,000. There is one listing at $6,688,800, another at $12,000,000, and two at $14,000,000).
  • At this beginning day of October, we see 69 land listings. Again, not separating out waterfront or farms or acreages…just undeveloped land options.
  • The available land opportunities range between $129,000 and $2,495,000. (There are approximately 60 listings between $129,000 and $995,000. There are 6 listings between $1,020,000 and $1,395,000. There are 3 listings between $2,150,000 and $2,495,000).
  • There have been 171 “sales to date”. In this unexpectedly busy year, we are seeing an increase in sales over 2 million (not a feature of our market between 2017 and late 2019).
  • (There have been 121 sales between $120,000 and $998,000. There have been 43 sales between $1,017,000 and $1,900,000. There have been 6 sales between $2,050,000 and $2,600,100).

Rural Shift Continues

The buyers in 2020 continue to be mainly from Vancouver and the desire to redo lifestyles and move to rural areas are the drivers of activity. It is a rewriting of one’s life script.


Vancouver buyers plan to live in the location they choose as their destination area…they take time as they first interview the areas they are considering, and so they do check out other rural regions before deciding “for” Salt Spring.

There are few new listings coming onstream to replace the “solds”. Unless they “have to”, most owners of rural properties are holding…they do not want to become sellers.

Thin inventory and high buyer demand can often lead to price escalation. At moment, it seems to be about price stability.

Conditions for Volatility Remain

Next year? There are many variables, including outcomes of elections this Fall, and the continuation of covid responses…the move to hard asset investments may also continue. If so, and inventory remains low, we may see serious price escalation begin. The Island Trust’s cap on growth and the continuing historically low interest rates will both be a part of this.

More information on market trends? Call me! Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, and experience. Your best interests truly are my motivation.

Meanwhile, beautiful October has arrived. Described by the English poet, John Keats, as the “season of mellow fruitfulness”, it is a segue from late summer into winter…enjoy its many Harvest pleasures.

Is Salt Spring Island A Tourist Destination?

The trails for walking/hiking beckon, sailing races have switched from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon, the restaurants and coffee stops continue their covid protocols and are offering seasonal delights. The Saturday and Tuesday markets are still underway. Farm gate stands await your pleasure. The Ganges galleries continue to showcase their artists. Watch the ArtSpring newsletter for upcoming events and look for the winter version of ArtCraft (social distancing in place for both, of course).

Salt Spring may have moved into a slower lane, but it remains a treasured place to visit in this softer season.

Li Read - Real Estate Office
Li Read – Real Estate Office

Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are always lovely, but there is a special beauty on the great Pacific Northwest Coast that belongs to the Fall season and to October in particular.

September 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Salt Spring Island, Fall

September is a segue from late summer into early fall, and at this very beginning of the month we are still enjoying sunny days and warm temperatures.

Market Uncertainty Prevails

There remain many uncertainties going forward, due to the impacts of covid-19. Will some businesses that tried to hang on over the traditional July/August summer season now close for good? Will students return to school, with covid protocols in place, or will online classes and home schooling continue? Will covid protocols for accommodations and restaurants allow those visitor-centric businesses to survive over the fall/winter months? Hmmm…the rhythm of Salt Spring may be totally changed as the Island struggles with resilience and recovery.

Migration or Long Term Investments?

The ten week shut-down did result in city people seeking apart places…this was the driver for real estate sales in the Gulf Islands…a Vancouver seller was becoming the buyer in all secondary home regions. In some cases, Vancouver properties were selling to Hong Kong Chinese, many of them with Canadian passports. In other cases, some buyers for the rural areas were simply land-banking, concerned about all the money being printed, and the resulting worry over the validity of currencies. Hmmm….

Low listing inventory and high buyer demand, plus a lack of interest from owners in becoming sellers, have been a feature in all the secondary home markets…including on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

Low inventory and high buyer demand can result in price escalation. This may be underway at this very beginning of September.

Market Snapshot

At this first of the month timeline, a snapshot of the Salt Spring market shows

84 residential listings (not separating out single family, townhomes, waterfront, farms…simply the number of available homes).

Prices range from 479,000 to 14,000,000.

There are currently 76 land listings (again, not separating out lots, acreages, waterfronts, view, farms).

These land opportunities are residentially zoned. Prices range from 129,000 to 2,495,000.

There are 11 commercial options for sale…some are business only and others land/building and business.

Prices range from 175,000 to 15,000,000.

At this very beginning of September, there have been 145 “solds to date”. Some sales occurred in January/February.

Then the 10 week closures due to covid-19 caused a total pause in activity. Around June 20, the increase in buyer action began.

Sales range from 120,000 to 2,600,100.

Rural is Trending

The main driver of sales? The strong desire to get out of the city and to relocate to a rural area. Most sales have been residential, as people plan to live in the chosen rural area…they are not looking for a building project. That said, there is an emergence of a land-banking movement…parking cash in good undeveloped properties. This began to be seen in late August. Very low interest rates are another propeller to buyer action right now.

Listing inventory in all property types/price ranges remains extraordinarily low. Sellers on a Gulf Island are always aware that it is a buyer’s choice to decide “for” a Gulf Island /Salt Spring Island. In the main, sellers do listen to serious offers. The lifestyle offered on Salt Spring/the Gulf Islands is very pleasing…but it is also always a choice. More information about this, and the interesting cap on growth, created by the Islands Trust back in 1974? Call me!

As covid-19 continues to have impact globally, and as geopolitics evolve, the lovely “apart” places (such as Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands) will not be unaffected. We are all part of the world outcomes. Pre-covid, globalization was the pattern. Post-covid, will we see a return to more local investments? Is that even possible in an online world?

Community Matters

Salt Spring also offers a caring community and that aspect is ever more important. Support local, enjoy local, choose local…especially as the online purchase/distribution option continues to grow. It is a choice to preserve the Salt Spring vibe.

Meantime: September offers that amazing harvest time…catch the Tuesday Farmers Market, check out the farm gate stands, be on a farmers “box” list and support local. A pared down / covid responsive Saturday Market is also underway. ArtCraft is open for a few more weeks…check out the amazing artist offerings here. Fall Fair will be a virtual event…be sure to view it online. ArtSpring is opening for some events…with covid protocols in place. Cooler mornings and evenings, with warm afternoons, are a part of September’s easing from summer-into-fall. Lots of decks and patios to enjoy coffee, lunch, dinner…how lucky we are with our super restaurants. Hiking/walking trails, kayak voyages, sailing races…the natural world beckons.

This is a beautiful time of year…enjoy!

August 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

August? Already?

Salt Spring lsland, BC

I know that the calendar says Summer turns into Fall on September 20, but we all know that Labour Day spells the end of summer-summer.

If you are only making plans for summer fun and ease just right now, then you need to get with the program…we’re at the half-way mark.

The ten week interruption (mid-March to mid-June) of the covid-19 virus closures, plus the Juneuary and early Julyuary cool and wet weather pattern, may be reasons for a late start in one’s mind-set.

When does the summer come to Pacific Northwest Coast?

Mid-July finally brought real summer to the entire Pacific Northwest Coast, and that includes on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands. Beauty everywhere!

Should I move to the Gulf Islands?

Real estate sales in all secondary home/rural regions have been brisk, including on Salt Spring, since June 12th. That 10 week shut-down resulted in city residents desiring to make a rural move…a rewriting of a life script appears to be underway.

Most buyers are still from Vancouver…they sell there and then check out all the smaller “apart” regions: Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Okanagan/Interior communities. They are looking for a house…undeveloped land and cabin/cottage options are still slower to catch this buyer.

Is buying land a hedge against inflation?

That said, there is starting to be what I term a “land banking” feature. These buyers are seeking solid hard asset investments, and land is one such opportunity. The fear may be that we will see serious inflation, perhaps even a rewrite of currencies, as a result of the massive amounts of government pay-outs during the covid-19 closures. Real estate in regions that are alluring and where it’s difficult to create more inventory capture this kind of attention. (Ask me about the Islands Trust and its cap on growth, since 1974).

Saturday Market, Salt Spring Island
Saturday Market

Many things are already new since mid-March…the recovery (we are still in “the middle” of the pandemic outcomes) will not look like the pre-virus days. Education, retail, real estate, investing, medical, legal…these are all just some of the areas that are already using the online communication options. (Don’t you wish you had stock in plexiglass, medical masks, and “zoom”?).

Real Estate sales in B.C. during COVID-19

At this very beginning of August, then, there are approximately 79 residential listings.

  • 34 of these are between 497,000 and 998,000.
  • 30 are listed between 1,020,000 and 1,795,000
  • Two listings are between 3,179,000 and 3,200,000
  • 0ne listing is at 6,688,800 and one at 12 million.

There are approximately 71 land listings at this beginning of August:

  • 62 of these are between 198,500 and 995,000.
  • Five are listed between 1,020,000 and 1,150,000.
  • One is listed at 1,295,000.
  • Another is listed at 2,150,000 and another at 2,495,000.

There are currently 12 commercial properties listed…some business only and others land & business. Call me on these!

There have been 113 “solds to date”.

  • Two of these are between 156,000 & 190,000
  • Six are between 219,000 and 265,000
  • Six are between 300,000 and 390,000
  • Twelve are between 401,000 and 499,900
  • Fourteen sold between 500,000 and 599,000
  • Twenty-one sold between 600,000 and 694,500
  • Fifteen sold between 715,000 and 789,000.
  • Six sold between 809,000 and 882,000
  • Six sold between 933,000 and 998,800

Twenty-two sold between 1,035,000 and 1,900,000 (the majority of these were below 1,449,000). Three properties sold between 2,195,000 and 2,600,100. There are viewings and some sales in the residential luxury segment, but most residential transactions are still below mid-800,000 range. Nothing comes on to take the place of these “solds” and so inventory continues to be extremely low. In properties between 500,000 and 600,000, residential offerings don’t last long on market…even when serious renovations might be required.

Land sales traditionally strengthen when residential becomes exceptionally low. Hmmmm…..

As entry level pricings slowly inch up, based on low inventory and high buyer demand, then we truly are in sellers market conditions. Buyers must make their highest and best offers right away. In this kind of low inventory/high demand moment, it’s not possible for a buyer to try to negotiate their way to a final price. In properties listed below 850,000, supply is low and demand is high. Sellers are in control of the process in such a market trend.

August…a time of fruition

Traditionally, many of the higher end priced residential properties catch most sales interest between end of July and into early November. Several years ago, we became a late summer/early fall market. In spite of covid interruptions, the traditional outcomes seem to be underway. The big difference created by covid-19 is that city dwellers are desiring country opportunities. The secondary home markets turn? I think so!

August…a time of fruition, a time to enjoy the Tuesday Farmers Market fresh veggies and berries and orchard offerings. Time to meander the artists works at Artcraft, at ArtSpring, at a covid-style Saturday Market. Time to enjoy decks and patios around the town, for dining out and coffee stops along the way. Enjoy the live music presentations! Sailing, kayaking, swimming in lakes and from ocean beaches, sunset viewing and star watching…summer pleasures are not complicated…they are about ease and the gift of time…taking time…remembering the power of daydreaming and observing the fullness of the natural world.

Summer-summer…. Welcome August!

July 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

July begins the final half of the year.

Best Rural Areas in B.C.?

It’s a Summer Season that is missing many of the loved events that are usually part of the Salt Spring visitor experience. July 1st will not see the Classic Car Show, the kids events, the live music, the fireworks. The Saturday Market is not “on”. ArtCraft and ArtSpring are missing. And so on…. Covid-19 has affected all regions, globally.

Mount Baker

The ten week “stay home/social distance” pause in B.C. (mid-March to late June) seemed to unleash a desire for city dwellers to move to rural areas. The online world and its work at home ethic allows this move.

A Buyer’s Market in Coastal Region

Real estate sales have picked up dramatically in all the B.C. coastal secondary home markets. Most buyers locally on the Gulf Islands continue to come out of Vancouver. Lifestyle change is underway. These buyers are able to work from home, may be in the tech world, and do still have jobs. The low interest rates are in a buyers favour, IF they qualify.

These buyers are seeking a house…they are not looking for a building project…it still takes time to sell undeveloped land or a parcel with a small cabin or a house needing significant renovation. These buyers do not have time to build a house…they have sold and need to match their sale dates with their purchase dates.

Ganges Harbour

Rural Pacific Northwest Lifestyle

They are also looking to buy down, price-wise, in most cases…they want to sell as high as possible in the city and then to pay less for a rural property/put some funds in the bank. A debt-free lifestyle appears to be a part of such a rural property search.

There is also, however, a concern about the amount spent on government bail-outs during the pandemic closures…a concern about the resulting validity of currencies. This financial concern may be why there are now some higher-end residential sales and even why some special (waterfront or very large view acreages) undeveloped land parcels are finding buyers…a type of land-banking? Wanting strong hard assets in one’s portfolio? Hmmm…. a different kind of buyer.

Residential listing inventory (in any type or price range) remains exceptionally low. Unless they have to, most owners do not want to be sellers. They recognize, too, that a property on a Gulf Island may prove to be an outstanding investment in these uncertain times. When something sells, often there is no replacement listing coming onstream. It may be that we will see price increases as the summer progresses. Low inventory and increased buyer demand usually result in price escalation.

Uncertainty is the only Reliable Constant

Will this current flurry of real estate action maintain, or is it just pent-up demand after ten weeks of inaction, and may not sustain? Are global events driving the Vancouver market resurgence? If so, is the real estate activity in the coastal secondary home markets just beginning? No crystal ball available. The one constant right now: uncertainty.

As reopenings continue, there remains a concern about a possible second wave of the covid-19 virus in the Fall. Social distancing remains firmly in place. Sanitizing measures and control over numbers in a retail store are strictly adhered to. Showing protocols are in place for real estate viewings.

Stage 3 of the recovery is now underway. Soft reopenings of stage 1 and stage 2 took place between early May and late June. Many of the small Ganges businesses are hoping for a summer season of recovery…and worrying that they may have to close, if not. The lengthy closures created difficulties for all local businesses, in all secondary home/rural regions…and Salt Spring is no exception.

It is important to think local, to support local, to buy local…whenever possible. In being pushed into the online world, it means the way forward (the “After”) will not look at all like the “Before” (pre-March 12th). The online world puts all businesses everywhere in competition with each other. It’s not a level playing field, but it is a very wide one.

What’s It Like on Salt Spring Island during Covid-19?

Meantime: the Islands Trust effectively capped growth on the Gulf Islands in 1974, via strict zoning/density bylaws. This creates a general limiting effect on inventory, regardless of market trend in play at any given moment. Combine the Gulf Islands governance model that limits growth with a desire from buyers to own what’s available, and one can see that price rises will occur, over time.

At this very beginning of July, then, there are 84 residential listings.

  • 45 of these are below one million.
  • 29 of them are between 1 and 2 million.
  • 8 of them are between 2 & 3 million.
  • One is over 3 million and one is over 6 million.

At the very beginning of July, there are 72 land listings.

  • 64 of these are below one million
  • 6 are between 1 and 2 million.
  • Two are listed above two million.

At the very beginning of July, there have been 79 “solds to date”.

  • 59 of these sales have been below 1 million.
  • 17 sales have been between 1 and 2 million.
  • Three sales have been over two million.

The various listings and sales show huge variety, as usual on Salt Spring. People create their dream, and there are never exact comparables in property types.

This is a very low listing inventory. Ask me about this.

Salt Spring Island Microclimate

Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are beautiful places, with a micro-climate known as “cool Mediterranean”, where vineyards/wineries, cideries, olive groves, orchards, berries, all arable pursuits prosper, and where the sea enfolds them…these islands are in the heart of some of the best protected boating waters in the world. The rural seeker is attracted to the Gulf Islands.

Salt Spring’s year-round lifestyle, its amenities (including a hospital), its three routes regular scheduled ferries, its regular sked floatplane services…these make it an interesting place to live, in January as well as in July. Ease of access counts.

How to Find a Realtor on Salt Spring Island

Thinking of selling? For the past three plus years, I have offered serious online marketing options (including mattaport 3-D plans, drone videos, etc.)…since the recent closures and push to the online world, many realtors are suddenly now using these tools. I am always seeking best steps going forward, in marketing to this online world. Call me! I look forward to sharing my successful and proven marketing opportunities with you.

In this exact moment in time, with everything underway at once, it’s essential to remember we do have an “off button”. Periphery vision is more important than ever. Anyone anywhere can create the future. What do you see as beginning the “After”? Your ideas are important.

Meantime, Summer is a beautiful season on the Gulf Islands, but it is a short one. Enjoy the natural beauty, the ease of the season…breathe…decompress…enjoy. The sea calls….

June 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

Is it time to cast off now? To get going?

Between March 12th and May 19th, Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands were shut down, along with all B.C. communities, as the province responded to the government’s “stay home/social distance” edicts. Everywhere, only essential services were allowed to be open and social distancing/sanitizing were always required.

Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island, BC

The flattening of the curve of the Covid-19 virus has completely changed the terrain of our secondary home regions.

On Salt Spring, events/gatherings involving large groups were cancelled (Home & Garden Show, Round Salt Spring Sailing Race, ArtCraft, ArtSpring, indoor pool, Saturday Market, Canada Day, Fall Fair, Sip & Savour, and so on). Schools were closed. Accommodations closed. Parks were closed.

B.C. Ferries cancelled some routes and cut sailings on others on April 4th. Flights were on hold for floatplanes, until May 4th. Potential visitors to recreational communities, including Salt Spring, were asked to stay away, and, if owned a second home, not to go to their cottages.

Slowly, some soft re-openings occurred in early May…the government had targeted May 19th as the beginning of mainstream business re-openings. Continued social distancing and sanitizing protocols were required by all businesses. Numbers of customers in a space at any one time were also being strictly controlled.

All aspects of communication were forced to be online, during the eight week closures. By mid-May, federal, provincial, and local governance groups were discussing what the “new normal” might be like and recovery/resiliency measures were being planned…all via Zoom.

The Before: pre-March 12. The Middle: still going on. The After? Not yet clear.

Does seasonal tourism affect real estate on the Gulf Islands?

In seasonal tourism based economies (such as on Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands), to lose the traditional business opportunity of March Break to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October) is devastating. Some businesses have been able to pivot to online sales models, but not all are set up to do this. Some may not reopen. The Canadian government projects that 30% of businesses will disappear. How will this affect Ganges Village?

What was the outcome for real estate sales? Most buyers for Salt Spring properties still continue to come from Vancouver/Lower Mainland. Sellers there become buyers in the secondary home/rural areas.

The Vancouver market began to improve around September/October 2019, after two years of slump due to interruptive provincial government taxation measures to suppress busy city markets. Salt Spring experienced a follow-on increase in sales by November, 2019.

Between November and early March, 2020, the island was experiencing low inventory, buyer desire, stable prices, and seemed poised to have sellers market conditions in place. The March Break season opener beckoned. Then: Covid-19 virus arrived and complete shut-downs throughout B.C., by March 12th.

There has been no sudden inventory increase, since the pandemic closures. Prices have remained stable. Inquiries (online) during the shut-down were serious and substantial. May 19th was seen as the slow beginning of potential physical viewings, as government relaxed its “stay at home” measures.

Hastings House Hotel, Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island, BC

Some predictions / projections

The latter part of May did see people arriving to view, often on a day trip, and some offers were being made. With few listings, buyers were quick to act on anything that caught their eye…most options receiving offers were still listed below a million, but a few higher priced properties, even some that had been listed for several years, were suddenly seeing action.

The real estate board updates about less sales in April/May simply reflected the enforced pauses in activity. These board reports also noted few listings for a buyer to consider, and so stability in pricings remained.

Some are forecasting serious house price reductions across Canada, as a result of the pandemic closures…it is true that people who have lost jobs and cannot meet their expenses will put their hopes for housing on hold. Current events are so without precedent, though, that one can argue many scenario outcomes.

Another scenario is that people able to work from home may be seeking suburban and rural opportunities. Time will decide the outcomes. It may be that buyers from out of country, disturbed by global unrest, will ignore the current 20% offshore purchase tax in Vancouver and buy now. Vancouver sellers become the buyers in secondary home areas.

Projections right now are calling for all secondary home markets to see an increase in viewings (required distancing protocols in place) with potential resulting sales between mid-June and end of September. City dwellers may truly be seeking a move to authentic rural areas, with opportunities to garden/to be self-sufficient, to be less crowded. Hmmm…..the country mouse lifestyle might now be attractive to the city mouse.

Salt Spring Market Conditions during COVID-19?

At this very beginning of June, then, there are 74 residential properties for sale on Salt Spring.

Townhomes, waterfronts, acreages are not separated out.

  • 38 of these are listed between 339,000 and 999,800.
  • There are 24 properties listed between 1,079,000 and 1,795,000.
  • There are 10 listings between 2,000,000 and 2,999,900.
  • There is one residential listing at 3,179,000 and an 84 acre farm at 6,688,900.

At the very beginning of June, there are 70 undeveloped land properties for sale, not separating out lots, acreages, waterfronts.

At the beginning of June, there have been 59 “solds to date”.

  • Of these, 45 sold between 156,000 and 980,000
  • 13 sales took place between 1,057,325 and 1,900,000.
  • One sale took place at 2,395,000.

In almost every case, a reduction took place at the point of the offer/sale

Most sales took place before mid-March, but a handful did occur in April/May. In most cases, those buyers had been looking at Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands earlier, and so were not “new business”…they had just decided to act.

Interest Rates Low

Interest rates have remained exceptionally low. Although there are not a lot of listings (as soon as you put in price and type, you see this), there are good ones and a buyer is a valued part of a transaction…no matter the trend in place, a decision to purchase on Salt Spring is always a choice, and sellers do listen to serious offers. If an owner wants to be a seller, this is also a good time…low inventory means less competition.

Where to market Salt Spring Listings?

Marketing opportunities will quickly change/amplify, as the totally online world supplants previous options. Although important, the MLS is now only one vehicle of online property presentation. Print real estate supplements may not survive.

It’s interesting about the internet influence…it can make a property look very different from its reality…it can leave potential negatives out of the frame…it can generate a viewing and then lose the consumer’s interest by not delivering on the online promise. It’s important to encourage a viewing, yet it’s also necessary to reflect reality in an online marketing presence. Consumers will want to see physically what they observed online. This may be especially true in rural areas.

As we get to the After, everything will be different. Is that a threat or a promise?

June is the half-way point in a year.. The months of January/February/first of March 2020 clearly belong to a different time. The pause period (mid-March to the end of May) erased earlier expectations. Now, June to late September, if the flattening of the Covid-19 virus continues successfully in B.C., may turn out to be the main sales window for Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands.

Buyer’s or Seller’s Market?

It will depend on the consumer’s desire to act. Will they travel? Will they want to look at properties? Will the seller allow viewings on a first visit, or will they insist on exterior viewings only the first time? There is no one way to forecast the pattern of a reopening in a pandemic time.

There is both desire and hesitation on the part of a buyer. How will that play out? And what about all those government pay-outs to maintain a population? Will the government re-work the currency to offset the debt? Might this current flurry of interest in real estate in some areas reflect people’s concern about the ongoing value of cash?

Beauty on the Gulf Islands

Meanwhile, June: blossoms are evolving into apples, pears, plums, nuts, berries, grapes, olives…produce from gardens and orchards and farms are on display at farm gate stands and at farmers markets. The longest day of the year is at hand. The sea invites exploration by sail, power, kayak, paddle board. Parks are open again. Beauty is everywhere on the Pacific Northwest Coast and the Southern Gulf Islands/Salt Spring Island invite one to enjoy this explosion of Nature’s best.