October 2014, Market Analysis


October really is the segue from mellow Fall to stark Winter.

Early October pretends it’s still September…late October says, no-no…leaves flying, November’s almost here…it’s the Pacific Northwest Coast season of grey. (I think that means our form of Winter).

This thin strip of coastal beauty does offer a northern California “off season” weather pattern…& even more so on the amazing Southern Gulf Islands.

Salt Spring enjoys a “cool Mediterranean” climate, one that encourages orchards, berry production, vineyards, olive groves…& yet…Winter is Winter in any latitude that offers four seasons.

What about real estate sales in this soft “off season”?

What about real estate sales in this soft “off season”? The odd thing is that it can be busier in late-Summer-into-Fall than in the Spring/Summer season.

This change in physical arrivals on island, to view & to make decisions about buying, shifted into a last half of the year sales moment some substantial time ago.

It’s important to be consistently listed year round, if selling, so that a buyer can discover the property & then make plans to visit, & to view. The Internet search eye never sleeps & it’s important to be displayed to it, no matter the time it takes for a buyer response. The buyer profile for Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands is not “local”. Time is a component of the discovery-&-then-action cycle.

Very probable, though, that the arrival time to view will be in late Summer/Fall. Odd, when Spring can be such a beautiful time on this great Pacific Northwest Coast, but it is what it is.

So. The sales pattern to date: a repeat of late 2013. The bulk of sales remain in entry level residential, 3 bed/2 bath family homes, close to Ganges…good rental opportunities. This seems to point to a continuing investor-buyer purchaser, & not necessarily an end-user.

At the same time, undeveloped land sales, commercial/business interests, & upper tier priced residential opportunities remain flat segments. Random one-off sales infrequently take place, in these less active categories, but no clear pattern is yet in evidence. Also, in these random sales, a large reduction still takes place at the point of any offer, even when there have been previous reductions to that point.

Where are the best deals?

It may be, from a buyer perspective, that the best deals will now occur in the higher priced residential options or in the undeveloped land choices, in a secondary home marketplace.

Very slowly, there are whispers of interest in commercial opportunities, & from offshore investors. It may be that the strict zoning controls of the Islands Trust (in place since 1974) have an attraction…unique zonings, that can’t be repeated, have a value.

As inventory clears out, in that entry level residential category, it implies price strengthening. This may be the authentic transition moment between the end of a downturn & the beginning of an uptick. Rumours of mortgage rate increases, from recent historic lows, may also be a signal of an uptick momentum in a market.

The rhythm of the uptick is not a racing forward pattern…yet. It’s still a slow chug-chug momentum, but it’s steadily going forth. This consistency, even though most sales still remain in that entry-level category, is a very positive sign.

Not everything is market related… Other considerations…

It’s important to remember to appreciate the illuminating and naturally beautiful Islands we inhabit. Slightly “apart”, and yet close to major centres…with all services/amenities close at hand…with an interesting & caring community…with the thoughtfulness that an artists community encourages…with a self-sustaining lifestyle to preserve and protect…certainly, Salt Spring Island & the Gulf Islands are alluring locations to enjoy as a visitor or to call “home”, no matter the market trend in play.

Markets are a wave pattern. The downturn may have started in secondary home markets as early as 2006, though not have been totally evident till late 2008. The uptrend may be underway, now. Waves are not static, & markets are always in a flow of shift.

There are beginnings/middles/ends to all market cycles. Recovery also has a beginning, but it’s rarely even-handed. The Pacific Northwest Coast always seems to be the “tail of the dog”…last to see change. The secondary home/discretionary/recreational regions have been slow to recover, all over the Coast. Patience on the part of sellers is still an essential.

Buoyancy in that entry level residential segment, in these “by choice” regions, is a very good sign, & is the traditional start of an authentic market recovery. We may see more sales in the upper tier residential segment between now and early January.