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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.

May 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

The world has changed completely, within eight weeks.

The “Before”, for Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands, describes life before March 12th.

We are not yet in the “After”. Are we even half-way to a recovery?

All of B.C. was told to shut-down on March 12th…to stay home and, if had to be out, then social distancing was required…in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the covid-19 virus.

Salt Spring Island

Businesses closed, schools closed, people suddenly out of work, massive government funding options created, cancellation of events, and a total turn to an online world. Nothing is untouched.

On the Gulf Islands: Accommodations closed, restaurants closed unless could offer take-out, all non-essential businesses closed, and visitors to recreational regions encouraged to stay home/not to visit (campgrounds and parks closed), and even owners of cottages/seasonal homes in such recreational areas requested not to go to them.

B.C. Ferries cancelled some major routes and reduced sailings on others. People were requested to only use ferry travel for essential services. Floatplanes not flying regular routes.

Sea Plane

The governments fears throughout Canada: the health services would not be able to cope with an inundation of virus affected citizens, and so this led to these massive closures/sheltering in place requirements.

There is no knowledge yet as to when these restrictions will be softened or lifted. Some projections say “maybe” by Summer…others worry about a resurgence of the virus in the Fall…some think possibly by Spring 2021…still others say not until there is a successful vaccine (two years?).

The Federal and the B.C. governments stated in mid-April that the current stay at home/social distancing measures would remain in place until at least mid-May. All government spokespeople continue to remind us that it will never be a return to life as it was, pre-March 12th.

Farmer’s Market

Has the pandemic affected the Salt Spring Island Real Estate market?

At this beginning day of May, then, in Salt Spring and Gulf Islands real estate, we are seeing a continuation of a very thin listing inventory. This lack of listings trend began in November, 2019.

Most sales to date in 2020 took place in January, February, March…the “Before”. Some completed sales took place in April, but they were based on business that began, and became “firm” (unconditional), before March 12th.

March showed a divide: the first two weeks were showing strong activity and a sellers market projection. The last weeks of March were seeing the opposite: hesitation and lack of action. April extended this lack of activity.

My Office

The very few new offers that did come in during April seemed to be from people who had already been looking (sometimes for two years or more) at Salt Spring, and who had finally sold their Vancouver house, and so could finally act. These few April completions were what I call “old business” outcomes. Currently, “new business” is on hold.

With people stuck at home, they may be looking at MLS and other realty sites as a sort of entertainment. Earlier, when super busy, such searchers may not have easily found property listings on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands.

What should sellers do during the crisis?

Now, with time to spend, delving about in the secondary home/rural/recreational areas, there is a serendipity/discovery thing going on. A good idea, then, for sellers to remain visible to potential buyers…even when these buyers are not able to turn up physically, in immediate response to what caught their attention online.

Fulford Harbour

Such city dwellers may also have it in mind to seek smaller communities, after things lift, with the ability to garden/to be self-sufficient. A seeking of a gentler “back to the land” experience?

The inquiries level is high, in spite of the fact that physicality to view is not possible right now.

With the Ferry schedule changes in early April, it is no longer possible to do a day trip viewing on a Gulf Island, if arriving from Vancouver/Lower Mainland…where most of our buyers still come from.

There may be a pent-up demand now building for all secondary home coastal communities…if one considers the strengthening inquiries.

BC Ferries

Be visible, is my advice for sellers…and be patient. Although follow-up visits for interested inquirers are not possible right now, they clearly want to come. Another interesting feature: exceptionally low interest rates.

What are the prices for real estate currently on Salt Salt Spring?

Prices on Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are remaining stable for now…and if the listings remain low, then price reductions may not be a factor in any “After” experience. With little activity in April, media statistics won’t look good in May…but such a read-out is artificial. A “pause” is not necessarily a “fall”. That said, the financial collapses due to the shut-down have caused inability of some buyers to complete a purchase. All aspects of a purchase can be affected by a particular buyer’s financial distress.

How are real estate agents in BC dealing with the protective measures & social distancing?

When any viewings do take place, the same protocols will be in place as for any other business serving the public: gloves, masks, social distancing, sanitizers for hands, surfaces, door knobs. It may be necessary for viewers to sign a “sign-in” sheet, attesting that they have not recently travelled out of the country and also that they are not experiencing any symptoms. These protective measures are there to benefit both seller and buyer.

The key to sales outcomes for Salt Spring and other secondary home areas? It’s dependent on the “When” of a recovery. This timing issue will also affect pricings…the longer things remain “stuck”, the more it will affect price points for real estate. Uncertainty is not good for any market economy.

Ganges Harbour

IF restrictions soften by Summer, and there are limited business openings allowed in the recreational regions, and IF Ferries offer more sailings, there may be a very short sales “season” for the Gulf Islands/Vancouver Island…If no changes, and restrictions continue unabated, then many local tourism businesses may never reopen. This is a societal shift and an online communications world may not favour all small businesses, especially in seasonal and rural areas.

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are currently experiencing Spring’s largesse. The Southern Gulf Islands are some of the most beautiful areas in Canada. All seasons offer something special, but late Spring and early Summer are truly breathtaking for the Islands. The Pacific Northwest Coast smiles at this time of year.

If you are lucky enough to live here, it is important to “look around”…to enjoy Nature’s display. Those Romantic era poets and musicians were right…imbibing Nature does restore one.

For those not here, and unable to visit due to the restrictive measures, it’s a time to remember previous visits, to look at tourism site photos as reminders, to think about future trips when one can again re-experience the delectable Gulf Islands and special Salt Spring Island.

Drummond Park

What’s Salt Spring Like Anyway?

The Salt Spring Chamber’s tag line: “Discover Yourself Here!” Is a promise for the future. These generous and welcoming Islands await your future return. “Beauty is a joy forever” (as John Keats, one of those Romantic poets, reminded us).

Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are a land and a sea experience. Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, are all opportunities in the Gulf Islands. They are renowned as being in some of the best protected boating waters in the world. There are lakes that offer fresh water fishing. Hiking/walking trails abound. Parks beckon. Beachcombing pleasures await.

Floatplanes, when back to regular schedules, also offer 30 minute “discover the islands” flights. There are vineyards with wine tastings, olive groves, berry farms, cheesemaker gem with bistro, plus cideries and craft brewery tastings. The artist presentations at ArtCraft, at the Saturday Market, on the studio tour inspire us all. Alternative wellness/spa experiences energize us. Farmers markets and farm gate stands offer organic produce. Our superb restaurants and coffee stops bring us great food, delivered with an Island welcoming service.

Twang & Pearl

These pleasures are waiting for us when the economic engine on the Gulf Islands restarts. It is a seasonal/visitor economy. All Gulf Islanders/Salt Spring Islanders look forward to welcoming everyone back…just later.

April 2020, Salt Spring Island Market Analysis

When Seamanship Counts

Salish Sea, Mount Baker in the Distance

We appear to live in a ricochet world now…daily change is upon us.

In a significant storm at sea, a sailboat puts out drag items that slow, even an anchor, to keep the ship as steady as possible and as much on course as one can steer. This is when seamanship counts.

Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce

Every storm is a new experience, but the knowledge to ride it out is based on past information about what worked in previous bad storms.

A good image to hold, as we face the real 21st century…a time of huge societal change…and health pandemics are a part of this. Chaotic fear is not the antidote.

March saw governments around the world trying to interrupt (“flatten the curve”) the spread of the covid-19 virus. Shutting down businesses and insisting on social distancing/staying at home were the preferred routes of such interruption.

Stay at Home in the Gulf Islands?

In B.C., various federal and provincial government edicts came down…the result being insistence on self-isolation/staying at home, cancellation of events in order to prohibit crowds, a “social distancing” requirement, promises of monetary help, curtailing of non-essential travel, border closings, online banking and credit card payment only (no cash), closures of restaurants and pubs that were unable to offer take-out…cumulatively, these are just a few of what will be long-term societal shifts.

It may be that the virus will be with us until late summer…more daily lifestyle changes may occur. Certainly, many small businesses in tourism based seasonal economies may not recover.

Social Distancing on Salt Spring

Social distancing and a complete turn to online options could be speeding up the creation of the real 21st century. The virus will be contained, in the end, but the changes wrought meantime, by reliance on staying at home/turning to online options for business/shopping/interaction/news, will hasten this communication method. It will become the norm and face to face interaction may no longer be the chosen style.

A Rebirth of Society?

There are always pivotal and global shifts throughout history. In the 14th century, the Black Death (bubonic plague) killed a third of the population, was misunderstood until later as to transmission, and may have speeded up the end of the medieval (feudal) society…it may have encouraged humanism and the Renaissance (the birth of individualism).

World War One was a global catastrophe and, at the end of it, its chaos unleashed the global Spanish ‘Flu epidemic…which killed more people than the war. The real beginning of the 20th Century began: the end of colonialism, the creation of new countries, mini-regional wars, and the rise of competing political movements. Some feel that those changes are still being worked out today.

The IoT Revolution

The internet electronic revolution in communication had a slow start. Now we are experiencing the “internet of things” (yes your smart fridge can talk to your car, and yes, Alexa listens to you even when you think she’s off)…combine all this with the speed of connectivity (now 5G), and no wonder the integration of machine and human is well underway. This corona virus pandemic is encouraging the shutting down of human personalized interaction and bringing in distanced online interconnectivity (smart phone to smart phone).

Will this encourage or discourage further globalism? Hmmm…..

Salt Spring Island COVID-19 Mandates

Meanwhile, back on Salt Spring: many events were cancelled in March, following the government guidelines to stay home whenever possible and to limit numbers at any gathering. The government required closures of businesses, unless essential services.

As a recreational and tourism based economy, the cancellation of events and closure of small businesses, at the beginning of our traditional season, directly affects the entire community. Salt Spring’s many small enterprises may not all recover.

It is essential that all local groups, government and private, work together to help to sustain and then renew our visitor economy. Check with the Chamber of Commerce to see suggestions for best steps forward. Your help and ideas are needed. We are, indeed, all in this together.

Why Live on Salt Spring Anyway?

Real estate in secondary home markets can sometimes be oddly busier in a time of crisis. Seeking a recreational retreat, far from crowds, and yet easy to get to, can be alluring. It is possible to spend a day on Salt Spring, coming out of Vancouver (our main buyer profile on the Southern Gulf Islands), and to view property opportunities…one can stay in one’s car on a ferry, and follow a realtor to the various viewings. At the moment, it is a mixed scenario as to viewings and any potential following transactions. There have been some listing cancellations, as sellers do not want strangers in their homes. For those seeking undeveloped land, it is easier to view on one’s own, with full information to guide one. It’s a tremulous moment right now. The government, however, has now said that lawyers, realtors, and land registry are non-medical essential services. On Salt Spring Island, the Trust and CRD have sent strong messages not to visit the Gulf Islands at this time.

Interest rates remain extraordinarily low. If one is able to act, it is a good time to be a buyer. Inventory also remains low (since late Fall…a beginning move to a seller’s market), yet there are still worthy options to consider. More information? Your best interests are my motivation. Benefit from my experience, expertise, and knowledge of inventory and trends.

Some Stats

At the very beginning of April, then, there are approximately 73 residential properties for sale…not separating out waterfront, views, or farms, or lots/acreages. Of these listings, 39 of them are below one million and 36 of them above.

There are approximately 79 land listings….not separating out lots, acreages, waterfronts, views.

There have been 31 “solds to date”, selling between 156,000 and 1,840,000. Of these, eight sold below 500,000, nine below 700,000, six below 800,000. One sold at 865,000 and one sold at 980,000. There were six sales between 1,090,000 and 1,840,000. Many of the January/February sales were completions of transactions begun between November 2019 and January 2020.

A total of 152 listings, houses and land combined, as we enter April, is not a big inventory. In more regular times, there could be around 380 such listings on Salt Spring.

What’s the Impact of Corona Virus on Salt Spring Island?

The impact of the corona virus, and its subsequent closure of businesses, staying at home government requirements, have also affected real estate outcomes in all secondary home regions. Those now sheltering in place, until the pandemic measures ease, are viewing MLS and other sites…possibly as entertainment. When things once more invite travel and property discoveries, these current “inquiries only” may lead to pent-up demand. The key? How long will the suppression measures last?

An investment on a Gulf Island is worth considering. The Islands Trust, the form of governance for the Gulf Islands, created by the provincial government, and in place since 1974, basically capped growth on all the islands…”this much, and no more”. Is this the description of a protected investment? Over time, this lack of growth creates higher values than in some other areas, where growth is encouraged. More information? Call me!

April is a lovely month on the Gulf Islands. It segues from early Spring at its beginning to full Spring at its end.

Yes, there have been postponements or cancellations of events and all non-essential businesses have closed in response to the provincial government’s “social distancing” requirement…and potential visitors to the Gulf Islands are being discouraged by the Trust…the small populations may have a larger category of “over 60” residents, and so the risk of infection from visitors to the islands increases…and yet the wondrous eruption of Spring remains all around us.

For those who live here, even when forced to stay at home/close their business, with all those serious attendant worries, there is still much to be thankful for on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Remember the words of a Canadian poet (W.H. Davies):

“A poor life this, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

When lucky enough to be present, be sure to look around you…be inspired by Salt Spring’s amazing and restorative Spring face…enjoy small pleasures.