Tag Archives: Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend

Market Analysis, March 2017, Salt Spring Island

March 2017

So…the season begins….traditionally, March Break to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-March to mid-October) offers the traditional grid of real estate sales action in the coastal secondary home (recreational) markets…which includes Salt Spring.

Salt Spring is basically a seasonless market, though, and people visit year round…real estate sales can occur at any time.

If one is seriously for sale, then one needs to “be exposed to the market”. The digital world, which is now where most buyers first encounter a listing, does not recognize weather or time of year. If wanting to sell, it’s important to be found on a buyer search, at any time.

For a buyer, statistics show that they look for property almost 2 years before buying, via Internet sites. Yes, they are “interested”, but not yet “ready”.

About 6 weeks before they are in that “ready” state, they connect with a realtor and make appointments to view what has caught their attention. Once they physically arrive and view, they will see other options, too. Thus, the buyer may or may not purchase the property that first caught their attention.

Hmmm…in secondary home markets, where most buyers are from elsewhere, it often takes two (and sometimes three) visits before a purchase. Since these buyers are often from afar, there can be substantial timelines between visits…sometimes 3 to 4 months, or longer.

Time lags are a part of real estate sales in secondary home/discretionary markets. Days on market are not significant in recreational/by choice regions. Sellers know how long they’ve been listed, but to a buyer who has just started a search, everything is “new”. If a newly listed property sells quickly, it often means that a buyer has turned up for that second or third visit, right at the time the listing came onstream.

So many changes to the real estate industry, all of them driven by technological shifts, but some things remain the same…especially in the recreational/discretionary regions.

Customer service, knowledge of the area (both inventory and market trends), negotiating skills, an authentic interest in a consumer’s concerns, knowledge of zoning/bylaw issues (very important on a Gulf Island, which is governed by the Islands Trust), a good short-list of qualified professionals to aid the consumer (property inspectors, legal advisors, septic installers, water test labs, architects, contractors, mortgage advisors, etc)…a local realtor understands the area and can interpret the many local issues.

An Internet search is helpful, but some items in a recreational region are best discussed with a knowledgable & experienced local realtor. That interpreter function is an essential addition to any internet based information.

Market trends: like any market, real estate also experiences that wave-like model…up and down and somewhere in between. Markets are never static.

The global downturn of late 2008 lasted for almost 8 years in our local region…some areas saw recovery much earlier. For Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, the recovery began in mid-March, 2016. There were earlier whispers of action in late 2015, but a marked upsurge in residential sales volume began in early Spring, 2016. By year’s end, inventory had thinned out and prices had stabilized.

A seller’s market is characterized as low inventory coupled with high buyer demand. This scenario can lead to price escalation.

This early in the season, it’s too soon to speculate on price points. All that can be said is that there might only be two or three property options currently on the market that will suit a buyer. Thus, the seller may benefit by achieving list price or close to it. If this lack of inventory trend continues, then price escalation may be a factor by the Fall Market.

There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trend in play. Creative ways to buy that special property, in a recreational area, can always be found…even in a seller’s market.

September 2012, Market Analysis

Copyright, Li Read, 2012

September, 2012.

I often think that the Salt Spring Island & Gulf Islands real estate markets fall into thirds.

The longest time segment might be the early Spring: late January to end of April. This takes in March Break & Easter, two holiday periods that can bring property seekers, wanting to be in place for Summer enjoyment.

The next segment runs from May to mid-September. This includes Victoria Day Weekend (Canadian holiday) & Memorial Day Weekend (U.S. holiday)…both of these are seen as the beginning of the “summer season” in each country…plus July 1 & 4, and B.C. Day holiday weekend (first Monday in August), & Labour Day Weekend (early September). Tourist visiting is often the beginning of property seeking.

The timeframe from mid-October to mid-January would be the “off season”/winter period…although people come to Salt Spring over Christmas/New Year, & it can be busy with seasonal events & tourism.

There are up and down rhythms within these time segments…June, for example, is always quiet, no matter the market trend in play. If we get a lengthy continuation of summer weather into October, then it may remain busyish well past our Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (early October).

These “thirds” are flexible, can be weather dependent, but in general our busier season would span early May to early October.

In a way, it’s seasonless…property seekers can really turn up anytime in our soft climate region.

The newly revitalized Chamber of Commerce is encouraging events in the shoulder season…for the benefit of the community’s lifestyle. Certainly, the strong artistic base to Salt Spring, the organic food growers movement, and the inspired wellness category offer lots of opportunities for visitors, and on a year-round basis. Visitors often become residents, & the renewed Chamber is promoting a year round business climate for the Island experience. Tourism is the main economic driver for all the Gulf Islands.

The economic meltdowns at the end of 2008 caused a total pause in activity in all secondary home/discretionary regions, and globally so. Prices dropped dramatically and few sales occurred. There was a flattening of activity in such regions in 2006/2007, although it took till 2008’s debacle to understand why.

It may be that we will look back in a few year’s time and decide that the bottom-bottom in the market was October 2010 to October 2011. People who acted then may yet be seen to have been very prescient.

On Salt Spring Island, and on the other Gulf Islands, on Vancouver Island, and on the Sunshine Coast, sales volume rose in entry level residential offerings, in 2012. Prices were still unstable, price reductions continued as a market feature, & buyers delivered a final reduction at the point of any offer. As inventory cleared out, though, sellers were firmer in what they would accept. Does this mean the buyers market is over?

Not quite. There has been a lack of buyer interest in undeveloped land options…even waterfronts. A continuing flat time in sales in upper tier priced residential offerings, and a reluctance to consider commercial/business/investment choices all mean that we may be in the latter stages of the buyers market pattern, but not out of it yet. The truly recreational market (cottage/cabin) has not been busy yet, either.

Sales volume in entry level residential is up in the islands, and the Fall market is just beginning. September & October may yet deliver significant sales.

To date, on Salt Spring, the bulk of sales have been below $700,000, with many of those below $500,000. The 3 bed/2 bath family home, in an affordable price range, and with rental potential, has been the item that experienced the activity uptick. This is where the recovery has to start, if it’s authentic & sustainable.

So, this Fall into Winter market moment may see the last gasp of buyer control over the market? Perhaps.

If this is year 7 of a 7 to 10 year cycle, then we should see increasing signs of price stability & even increases where inventory has thinned. Raw land & expensive properties may be where the best buys will occur as we work through Fall/Winter & into early Spring. Perhaps by this time next year we will see the rebuilding of a seller’s market?

One thing for sure: a market is not static.

Stay tuned!