Tag Archives: marketing

Market Analysis, April 2017, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

April 2017

We experienced the yin and yang of a La Niña weather pattern on the Pacific Northwest Coast…from early December to mid-March.

Salt Spring fell into “real winter” on December 3, 2016 and experienced yet another serious snowfall on March 5, 2017. In between: snow, cold, with ice build-up remaining on roads between the frequent snow storms, only main roads to ferries cleared (side roads and driveways on their own). There was skating on the lakes…that was a fun item. The last time the Coast experienced the La Niña effect was in 1996.

The entire Coast was affected, including Vancouver. The weather did affect real estate viewings…potential buyers couldn’t get out of where they were, never mind not being able to easily get around on Salt Spring!

December, January, February, and first half of March (higher elevation properties only saw the “melt” begin around March 12th) caused a slowdown in new action. Many of the reported sales of early 2017 had their beginnings in late Fall of 2016.

Although we often describe Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands main sales window as falling between March Break and the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, the reality is that the busiest months are May, July, August, September.

The Islands are secondary home/discretionary/recreational markets…I call them recipient markets. Sellers have to wait for a buyer to first visit, then decide if a particular island works for them, and then to really start their search for a specific property. Time is always an element of sales in all secondary home/recreational regions.

That said, it’s clear that 2016 was a sales volume increase year…a cleaning out of inventory that had built up during the eight year economic downturn. Prices stabilized, but did not increase.

In a “by choice” area, such as Salt Spring (and the Gulf Islands), there is always a time lag component in sales outcomes.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Often, a tourist with a successful visitor experience becomes a buyer in our region. Usually two, if not three, visits take place before a purchase decision. The non-local buyer wants to “be sure”, before committing to a purchase. When a property sells quickly, it often means that a property is listed exactly when a buyer has returned for that second or third decision-making visit.

With less inventory to choose from, however, we may now start to experience some bidding wars, IF a property is unique.

2017 has had a slow start, solely due to the unusual weather vagaries, but all signs are there for further inventory clean-out (especially in the upper tier priced residential properties and in the undeveloped land segment). After that? No crystal ball, but the signs are definitely in place for price increases in any new (and potentially few) new listings.

The tone of 2017 may be fully in place by late May. It may be that buyers who acted in the first three months of this year will turn out to have been the last buyers able to catch a seller’s interest with a lower than list price offer. In other coastal regions, which often catch the wave of change before it’s seen on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands, the price escalation due to lack of inventory is in evidence.

Between 2000 and 2002, sales volume increased by around 50%. Between 2003 and 2005, prices rose by around 60%. Our dollar was low against the U.S. currency. International buyers were in evidence. Hmmmm…… Similar soundtrack?

Stay tuned.

To date, there have been 55 sales between January 1 and March 31. The first several (below 200,000) were undeveloped lots. The higher end residential did see price reductions at the point of an offer, but residential below 500,000 often sold at (or close to) list pricings.

  • 6 sales between $160,000 and $199,500.
  • 4 sales between $234,000 and $280,000.
  • 8 sales between $305,000 and $396,000.
  • 8 sales between $400,000 and $485,000.
  • 9 sales between $506,200 and $599,000.
  • 5 sales between $625,000 and $690,000.
  • 3 sales between $729,000 and $769,000.
  • 3 sales between $800,000 and $878,000.
  • 2 sales between $900,000 and $945,250.
  • 4 sales between $1,075,000 and $1,750,000.
  • 3 sales between $2,200,000 and $2,500,000.

I do this market analysis at the beginning of each month…updates may appear in my blog entries.

Along with the transition from a buyer’s market (few buyers and many listings) to a seller’s market (few listings and many buyers), there is the Islands Trust (government body in place since 1974, which capped growth on the Gulf Islands via strict zoning/land use bylaws)…the inventory will always be less on a Gulf Island, thus, beyond market trends).

Salt Spring will be asked on September 9th whether or not to retain the status quo (2 elected trustees and one elected CRD director…the actual decisions, however, are currently made from a central Trust office in Victoria…and these government appointees do not reside on Salt Spring), or whether to incorporate as a Gulf Islands municipality (two trustees elected, per usual, plus councillors & a mayor…the Trust documents remain in place, but decisions re governance would be made on Island & not in Victoria). Keep in the loop of the conversation on both sides of this important issue.

Meantime…the beauty of the Island calls to us. Check out the Food Network’s one hour showcase of Salt Spring…the travelling chefs came last summer and I think they caught the essence of this magical island.

Looking for your special property on Salt Spring Island or on a Gulf Island? Call me. There is always opportunity for a buyer, regardless of market trend in play.

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.

Market Analysis, September 2016, Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Beginning of the Fall Market

So…we begin the Fall Market…here it is, the beginning of September. The calendar says summer goes on till the 20th, but most of us see Labour Day Weekend as the “end”.

Sales volume in the Spring/early Summer market has gone up markedly on Salt Spring Island, in residential properties below $750,000. Over that price point, it remains softer.

In that entry-level residential segment, though, it could be described as sellers market conditions.

What does a seller’s market mean? Limited inventory plus strong buyer demand creates a seller’s market. Price escalation occurs with lack of product.

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory

In a Gulf Island region, there is always a limited inventory. The Islands Trust, a provincial government body created in 1974, with the mandate to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, also effectively “capped” growth.

On Salt Spring Island

On Salt Spring Island

Growth in the Gulf Islands is controlled by strict zoning/density bylaws. On Salt Spring, commercial zoning is focused in both upper and seaside Ganges Villages, and they can’t expand beyond their boundaries. The small commercially zoned options at Vesuvius, Fulford, and Fernwood cannot expand. Home occupations are encouraged, but there are rules around these usages, too.

As soon as growth is limited, values do appreciate over time. Between 2002 and 2005, prices escalated by around 60% on Salt Spring. Then a pause developed in 2006 and 2007. Late 2008 delivered the global economic downturn, and secondary home/recreational areas (globally) saw a sharp fall-off in activity. Between early 2009 and early 2015, prices locally had reduced by around 45%.

Buyers who acted between 2013 (the “worst” year?) and late 2015, have benefitted by that dramatic levelling off of prices, in the secondary home markets. It’s difficult for people to act before clear signals of a market shift are in place…those who do act seem to have that “wolf’s sniff the wind” directional arrow.

Important always, though, to be looking down the highway and not in the rear view mirror…opportunity is ahead.

By late 2015, one could see an improving trend coming into play in the secondary home markets. The Sunshine Coast and the Okanagan saw renewed activity in the Fall of 2015. Early Spring brought action to Victoria and to some Vancouver Island communities. Mid-Spring delivered activity to the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring (perhaps because of its year-round lifestyle opportunities) usually shows market improvement first, among the Gulf Islands choices.

The interesting thing is the change in the buyer profile for Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands: almost 100% from Vancouver.

Traditionally, a Gulf Island buyer has come from Alberta (perhaps 20% of coastal buyers?) or from the U.S. (perhaps 30% of coastal purchasers?). This time, it’s buyers from Vancouver, who have sold during the extremely “hot” market there. They are seeking new areas to reside…not just recreational/seasonal buyers, thus.

These previously Vancouver based buyers will live here year round, and that has all sorts of good outcomes for the day to day business life on the Island. Shop Local becomes a viable item when there is a year round resident, and not just a seasonal impact.

Within the past 11 weeks, sales volume dramatically rose (perhaps tripled?) in the entry-level residential segment. On Salt Spring, that would be between 300,000 and 750,000. Low inventory with high buyer demand leads to price escalation. Couple that with an area with a no-growth policy (Islands Trust) and you can see that we may be returning to that 2002 to 2005 model.

Opportunity continues to exist in upper tier priced residential, in undeveloped lots and acreages, in recreational cottages/cabins, and in commercial options. These market segments have not yet seen the quick sales of the entry level priced residential properties. As these property categories start to sell (and they are slowly becoming more and more active), and inventory begins to thin out, price points will also stabilize/rise.

The sales stats to date break out as follows.

January 1 to August 28 “solds to date”:

  • 26 sales between 1 and 200,000.
  • 29 sales between 2 and 300,000.
  • 47 sales between 3 and 400,000.
  • 45 sales between 4 and 500,000.
  • 44 sales between 5 and 600,000.
  • 26 sales between 6 and 700,000.
  • 10 sales between 7 and 800,000.
  • 9 sales between 8 and 900,000
  • 5 sales. between 9 and 1 million.
  • 16 sales between 1 and 2 million.
  • 3 sales between 2 and 3 million.
  • 2 sales between 3 and 4 million.

There is always opportunity in any market trend. Creativity wins the day in a discretionary region. A buyer’s market means lots of inventory and few buyers. A seller’s market means little inventory and lots of buyers seeking.

September 2014, Market Analysis

How’s the Salt Spring Island Real Estate Market?

Things are definitely “better”, real estate wise, in secondary home regions. They are still not “good”. Good, to me, means consistent buoyancy in sales, across the board, no matter the property type or price.

To me, a buyers market means lots of inventory and few buyers. A sellers market is the reverse: lots of buyers and very little inventory. A transition market is a cloudy one.

At this very beginning of September 2014…

At the moment, at this very beginning of September, most sales have continued in that entry-level residential category. Sales volume in same is definitely up, possibly doubled over 2013 stats, and the ceiling in price is risingtwo years ago, most sales were below 400,000…this year, under 600,000. Consistent sales, then, in that entry level residential segment, with increasingly higher prices (possibly as a result of thinning inventory), are good signs. Authentic recoveries do begin in this property/price category.

I look at undeveloped land sales as the key marker of sales activity strength, in a secondary home/discretionary marketplace. It is still quiet in raw land sales.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island


In a downturn, investor-buyers seek rentable entry level residential opportunities. Such buyers are not necessarily end-users of the properties they buy.

As prices soften dramatically, during a real estate downturn, occasional upper tier priced properties sell…a buyer recognizes the moment of a “good deal”. These are random encounters, though, and not a market pattern.

What’s been missing over the past 5 to 6 years?

What has been missing throughout the past five to six years of flat conditions, in secondary home markets, is what I call the middle person.

Perhaps this is why that middle priced buyer segment (on Salt Spring, this would fall between 700,000 and 1.3 million…which is a pretty wide spread, but which does encompass properties that someone would move into and so might be choosing to live here), a middle range in type and price, and that buyer profile is still missing.

Another flat segment is the purely recreational…a summer/weekender property, a cottage-style dwelling. Perhaps that’s another indicator of the missing middle person buyer. To live elsewhere and to choose a recreational second home purchase does require a level of confidence in the economy.

Undeveloped land sales remain very flat. The buyer in a recreational area right now is not seeking a holding property and is not planning a building project. There are some very well priced and beautifully presented excellent land parcels available…and in all price ranges. In a positive real estate sales environment, we would be seeing strong purchases in this property segment.

Cottage Resort

Cottage Resort

The uptick in the entry level residential category is driving real estate sales in all secondary home/retirement/recreational areas…the bulk of sales on Salt Spring Island have continued to be in this segment.

It seems that our main Gulf Islands sales window has now become a summer/fall market. People inquire throughout the year, but physicality to view has shortened to summer/early fall. Interesting. An outcome of our post-Internet world?

The main difference delivered by that global search engine eye: it gives a buyer enormous choice about the “where” of a purchase decision.

Marketing matters

Areas, including on Salt Spring, are in competition with many other global regions…not just with our immediate neighbours on other Gulf Islands or on Vancouver Island. Hmmm…. Marketing, marketing…how to catch that buyer eye?

On Salt Spring, we are undergoing a “print war”…and in a digital age. The monthly real estate supplement, printed by our weekly newspaper, had gone to seven issues a year. Realtors had complained about expense and fact that listings did not change much in the downturn years. When same realtors asked to go to four (maybe five) issues a year, the local newspaper refused. Thus, a new supplement (four issues a year), in competition with the newspaper’s version (seven issues) was created. They have different distribution venues. Thus, if in business, it’s important (locally) to be in both. The reason behind the newer publication, though, is key: less print issues because realtors perceive business as still slow. In a brisk market, a quarterly supplement would be useless.

So…as we enter into very early September, with a good three months of our sales window still before us, we look for more activity in that “middle territory”, in undeveloped land opportunities, and in upper tier priced residential choices…those are the property segments that show a market resurgence.

Right this moment, we are still firmly in a transition period, where everything is there all at the same time. Up, down, yes, no…a market in transition is not a clearly observable market.

There are many things floating about us, globally. Small wars in many places, continuing economic issues in Euro countries, worry about sluggish recoveries in key countries (read U.S.)…no one is immune from such global concerns and insecurity creates hesitation in a real estate recovery, in a secondary home marketplace. That means on Salt Spring, too. One chooses to buy on Salt Spring Island, on another Gulf Island, on Vancouver Island. No one “has to” purchase in a secondary home/discretionary area.

So…the transition market is still with us. Most sales are still in that entry level residential category.

Renewed interest in safe haven investing might bring sales in all categories, in our slightly “apart” region.

A later sales window means we still need to see the statistics for all of September/October/early November before making a definitive call on 2014’s sales pattern.

So…it is “better”…it’s not yet “good”.

Markets, whether up or down, have beginnings/middles/ends. I do think we are at the end of a six year downturn. That means transition market patterns, in the short-term.

Difficult to clearly read the tea leaves of change. It may be that those projecting buoyant conditions by early Spring 2015 will be correct. Perhaps 2014 will be looked back at as the muddled recovery year. Hmmm…. Where is that crystal ball? Let’s hold that “better” scenario for now.


May 2013, Market Analysis


Recently watched a cable t.v. knowledge network style bio on a local game designer…he was one of a few game programmers/designers to be given new virtual tour equipment, to see what kind of game he could come up with, in using it. Wow! There’s the 21st century for you. A small town techie on a par with silicon valley style locations.

Beyond the “anyone anywhere can invent the future” scenario, though, lives (perhaps) the next great thing.

If within 2 to 5 years virtual reality will be seamless & everywhere, a guesstimate by this game designer, then why will we need real malls, real storefronts, real showrooms, real offices…already the retail world is moving online, the most recent recipient of that Internet eraser.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

What will our world look like in 5 years, when this gamer thinks virtual reality will be mainstream?

Will we need real schools? Will we have offices seemingly “there”, but just virtual versions? Retail will be virtual? What will home designs look like?

Hmmm…ok imagineers, it’s change that brings opportunity. Time to be creatively thinking.

And specifically, as it’s my current world, what effect will virtual reality have on real estate marketing?

And your thoughts are? Always welcome!

Locally, our real estate sales window has now become May, June, July, August, September…with the reminder that the first three weeks of June are always quiet.

A short and intense timeline, thus. People search all the time & year round, so it’s important to “be there”, on all the internet opportunities. Otherwise, areas won’t be discovered…people won’t come. So, marketing is a year round business and physicality is a 6 month affair with 3 months being the busiest. Hmmm….

In 2012, we saw a substantial increase in sales volume in entry level residential options. In the main, sales were below 400,000…best described as investments, with rental potential. Prices were not stable and reductions continued, in that search for the bottom. A handful of sales in higher end properties, towards year’s end, in waterfronts, was perhaps a sign of a move back into authentic real estate investment in unique areas. Many of these offerings had been on market for 4 to 7 years, & in spite of reductions in price, en route, there were further reductions at point of the offer.

The first quarter of 2013 has been oddly flat in sales. It may be that a digesting moment is underway: concerns over currency instability, the perceived over-creation of paper monies, banks not easily lending, the Cyprus issue, the threat of terrorism in North America, the intermingling of inflation & deflation scenarios, the search for a safe haven, the desire for sustainability…it’s a mix of all things, and the bottom line could be a flight to hard asset investment as a way to preserve capital.

Safe Haven Investing is my name for it, and Salt Spring Island & the Gulf Islands are beautifully positioned to deliver on this requirement: proximity plus being “apart”.

In many U.S. States, real estate has become very buoyant, with approximately 40% of sales to international buyers. And they are mainly cash sales.

I always feel that our area follows such statistics within 4 to 6 months. Thus, we may see this rush back to property by late July/early August…and there is not a large inventory of listings, as soon as one prioritizes type & price. Hmmm….

Treading water in May/June is perhaps a good idea. The trend for this year is just developing now.

If needing a sale, perhaps try to hang on till mid-July. Things are just starting to clarify.

If a buyer, an alert that the buyers conditions of the past 4 to 5 years may almost be over. These weeks may be the last time to discover a good residential offering at a price that recognizes the buyer point of view.

In either case, change is underway & is happening right now.

Hmmm. In change lies opportunity.

November 2012, Market Analysis

Here we are, easing from Fall Market into Winter.

This has been a continuing slow year in real estate sales, but it has been busier when compared to past three years.

There has been a definite rise in sales volume in the entry level priced residential segment, but only marginal action in the upper tier priced residential category.

Very substantial price reductions continue to come in, from all companies, in all property types. These reductions do not necessarily bring increased showings or offers. They do encourage other sellers to follow suit, in order to remain competitive in pricings. At the point of an offer, the buyer often delivers a further serious price reduction, in spite of consistent price drops en route.

So, sluggish conditions & further price instability, in entry level residential options. Lack of interest in undeveloped land choices. Little interest in commercial/business opportunities. Sporadic interest in upper tier priced residential offerings, & very significant reductions at the offer point, in most cases. It remains a very uncertain market, then, with periods of inaction across the board.

It is marginally improving in that lower end priced segment, but there is no certainty that this means consistent stronger conditions on the horizon. Media reports, which share information from the recent past, are still highlighting gloom re economic statistics. In Canada, they talk about potential real estate bubbles.

So, Year 8 of an 8 to 10 year cycle now coming up?

Implying a resurgence in sales, though not in pricings? Perhaps…. Early Spring will tell the tale. It appears that the last two months of a year ease into first two months of the following year. Takes until March, then, to see any shifts.

A seller needs to be patient…in our kind of discretionary marketplace, the buyer is always in control of the where & the when of any purchase.

In this kind of uncertain economic time, price reductions don’t necessarily create a desire to act, on the part of a buyer.

No one has to buy a second home or retire in any particular timeframe or purchase a recreational or a holding property. It’s always by choice, in a secondary home market.

Confidence in the overall economy will generate buyer action in a discretionary region.


If price does propel action, it will be driven by such a steep price drop, so much lower than assessed or intrinsic value, that it cannot be ignored by a potentially interested buyer.

Even then, the buyer will have to be targeted towards this island, with some knowledge of the deep cuts over the past 3 to 4 years. It can take significant time from a discovery on the Internet to physicality on island, to view.

General inquiries are where a process may begin, but it can take a good two to three years for an outcome, regardless of market trend in play. Buyers do not have to hurry to a decision…there is no immediacy to action in a secondary home region.

What to do then, as a seller?

It’s important to remain visible on the digital options…targeted print, with an auxiliary Internet presence, perhaps…

…the Internet, though, is truly the driver to eventual outcomes, in our 21st Century business model. The Internet never sleeps. It has erased time & geography. If you’re for sale, you need to be visible there.

It’s all seasonless now, & when a buyer sees you, it’s all new to them. Time lags, from a seller’s perspective, are not part of the buyer’s perception. So, more patience on the part of any seller, in any discretionary area.

For several years on Salt Spring, a printed monthly real estate supplement, put out by our weekly newspaper, was the sole vehicle for advertising property listings. This all changed with the Internet search engine. This supplement has now gone from 12 issues to 7…it is always woefully out of date, as info is given to them, to print, a good two weeks before it appears. This old style print supplement is not seen until the buyer comes to the island…it does not “bring them”.


choice of a particular island

Marketing to the potential buyer now requires the ability to focus on & to encourage a choice of a particular island. The Internet certainly erased time & geography. It opened an area to a much wider audience. In doing so, it also opened up a broader choice…suddenly, “some place” was in competition with “every place”. Ah…more reasons for time lags. Can’t choose yet, because we haven’t seen it all yet! Too much choice creates reluctance to act? Perpetual looking is an outcome? Hmmmm….

Time…& yet not time…busy and yet not busy…rumours of improving trends in real estate at the same time as media reports from banks and government sources that further downturns are ahead…in a transition moment, all things are on the table, all at the same time. This kind of confusion often forecasts a significant shift. The question: up or down?

Not biz as usual is about all that one can say, firmly.

No matter the market trend, Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands offer spectacular lifestyle opportunities. It’s always a good time to be a buyer, if the time is right for you. It’s always a personal choice in a discretionary area.