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Market Analysis, May 2016, Salt Spring Island

Market Analysis, May 2016, Salt Spring Island

Market Recovery - Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island

Signs of a Seller’s Market Recovery

Yes, it’s really true…after an 8 year market downturn, we are finally seeing a resurgence of authentic activity in our secondary home/discretionary real estate market.

Many listings had followed the market down. Fine properties and well-marketed…but few buyers around. In a downmarket, buyers are scarce. In past five weeks, many of these long listed properties have now sold. Very few new listings are coming onstream to replace these steady “solds“…this is the sign of a seller’s market.

At the moment, it appears that sales volume has doubled over the same period as last year and that prices have stabilized (meaning that the buyers are having to offer close to or at list price to secure a property). Price rises and back-up offers may be next.

Salt Spring Island Ganges Harbour - Market Recovery

Salt Spring Island Ganges Harbour

Vancouver Origin

This authentic recovery is very new…began from one-day-to-the-next, approximately 5 weeks ago. Most buyers are from Vancouver. They have sold properties in Vancouver’s hot market, and are now seeking alternative places.

In late Fall of 2015, these property seekers were first looking on Sunshine Coast & in Okanagan communities.

Finally, it’s now the turn of Salt Spring, Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island, to be considered as the new lifestyle choices.

The desire for a unique hard asset investment is strong again. The “safe haven” seeking may also be a part of sales in our beautiful coastal region. The natural rhythm of a market recovery…every 10 years there is an uptick?…is also a part of this return to a strong sales pattern. There is never just one reason for a market recovery.

Recoveries are never even-handed, especially when they first begin. There remain very pleasing properties at approachable prices. There are still opportunities for a buyer.

As residential offerings continue to thin out, it may be that an undeveloped land purchase will be in a buyer’s favour. Build a cottage, or barge on a home being saved from a city’s destruction, or consider a package home.

A renovation project on great land should always be considered.

Call me for ideas that work.

Creative financing can be a buyer’s friend in an upmarket trend.

April 2015, Market Analysis

April 2015, Market Analysis – Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Back to The Seller Side

Yes, it’s true…the real estate market is turning back to the seller side of the sales equation in the secondary home marketplaces…good news indeed for Salt Spring Island & Gulf Islands & Vancouver Island owners.

On the Pacific Northwest Coast, which includes all Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island, plus Vancouver Island, plus Sunshine Coast, the secondary home/recreational/discretionary marketplaces are all definitely on the improve.

li-read-group-all

Inventory has “thinned” dramatically in the entry level priced residential segment. Slow sales in this price category, over the past 2 years, have quietly erased inventory backlog. Affordably priced undeveloped land is now beginning to sell as a result…buying land & building a cottage or choosing a manufactured home allows one to keep the budget at that entry level price point.

As inventory “thins”, prices stabilize. In some cases there are already small bidding wars.

Buyers who are able to increase their budget are starting to look at higher priced residential offerings, for more choice & potentially more motivated sellers.

For The Luxury Buyer In Salt Spring

For those able to consider a purchase in the luxury/upper tier priced property segment, there are still deals to happen, for a buyer. It may take until the Fall Market to see stability in pricings in the over one million category. Right now, this property segment is experiencing the uptick in interest & resulting lower offers that the entry level category experienced during the past two years.

I think when we arrive at late September/mid-October timeframe, we will see an even-handed recovery firmly underway.

I believe we are in the very last stages of a transition period, here, in our coastal region, between buyer & seller markets.

My definition of a buyers market: lots of listings & no buyers. And a sellers market? No inventory & lots of buyers. I think we are moving to that sellers market description.

It has been a long 7 years in all the secondary home/discretionary markets, & globally so. Some areas may even have experienced the “pause” 10 years ago. Within our overall coastal grid, places are never evenly busy.

British Columbia, An Undiscovered Coast

On this still relatively undiscovered Coast, we are always the tail of the dog. Now, however, we are seeing dramatic improvement…sales volume to date, for Salt Spring, has improved by close to 30% over previous year. Price stability has just begun…price increases may be on the horizon, but not just yet. This upward sales volume pattern is in evidence on the entire coastal rim.

Our discretionary area sales window runs from March Break through to Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend (mid-October). It remains a weekend business until mid-May, perhaps. Late June to late September remain the busiest sales months.

A seasonal marketplace once more on the move…plus, a lower Canadian Dollar against the U.S. currency…plus a general safe haven seeking in this turbulent global political & economic time of change…& the ability to live anywhere while working in the digital universe…it all adds to the general rhythm of uptick.

Salt Spring – The Allure of A “Caring Community”

The allure of a caring community is another attraction of the secondary home regions. An aging in place demographic, a strong community service volunteer group, a caring underpinning to the Island…this certainly describes exceptional Salt Spring Island.

Yes, it’s different than the flat conditions of the past 7 + years. However, there is always opportunity. The key? Recognizing it when it appears before you, and then acting on it.

An outcome of the global search is that it throws up a lot of surface information…& a lot of choice usually means slowness in action. The “have I seen it all yet?” syndrome. So important to listen for the “ping”. If a property lights up for you, then that’s the one to act on. It’s about listening to our inner voice.

I sometimes think searching property sites has become an entertainment feature…kind of like a 90s sitcom…look but not act. For an investment uptick, though (always better to buy on a rising market), now is the time for buyer involvement.

Continuing low interest rates are in favour of the buyer, for the time being.

Although inventory is thinning out in the affordable price segment, there are still creative ways to remain on budget.

Salt Spring Island Real Estate – An Appreciating Asset

An investment on a Gulf Island, including on Salt Spring Island, the largest & best serviced of this “southern” grouping, remains a good investment. Over time, a property purchase on Salt Spring Island & the Gulf Islands will build in value.

The Islands Trust put a cap on growth back in 1974…through strict zoning/density bylaws controls. Supply & demand is a factor in a Gulf Islands market, due to the Trust’s non-growth policies.

Enjoyment of a property is also a valid marker of value for a discretionary region. That enjoyment may include the ability to be self-sustaining. The benign micro-climate in our coastal environment makes this possible.

Yes, all markets are like a wave…up, down, up, down…never static. In real estate, it seems that the down never falls as low as the previous down. Thus, over time, a steady increase is consistently shown. On the rise, the fix & flippers start to reappear. Savvy ones are acting now.

Between 2000 & 2001, sales volume rose 50%. Between 2002 & 2005, prices rose 60%. A slowing trend took place between 2006 & 2007. Then the economic collapses of late 2008…now, at the beginning of April, 2015, we seem to be emerging back into 2002 times. Possibly we will look back & decide that 2010/2011 were the true flat bottom years in our discretionary area.

In change lies opportunity.

April 2013, Market Analysis

Spring! Blossom Festival begins the dance of Salt Spring’s season.

We who live here are lucky to celebrate a lifestyle in the midst of beauty. Our wonderful weather “season” is from now until the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend in early October…this is a treasured location.

Is the government mandated Islands Trust control of growth the reason for the preservation of the environmental beauties of the Gulf Islands? I think so.

The Trust’s mandate was to preserve and protect, for the benefit of all B.C. residents, the park-like allure of these islands, and it was put in place in 1974.

I think most residents & visitors would agree that this was a worthy goal, and that zoning restrictions were there to safe-guard the beauty.

When, though, does a loose body of regulations solidify into intransigence?

Isn’t the point of elected representatives to interpret a regulatory framework, for the good of the overall community? In that interpretive role, isn’t it essential to allow for individual responses without being afraid of the dreaded word precedent? Did the Trust forget the people?

A community’s self-sufficiency is based on the ability of its population to maintain itself, to foster and encourage sustainable growth, to respond to changing times for the benefit of the entire community. Entropy is the result of an unchanging response. Entropy leads to the death of an organism.

Salt Spring has been blessed in past years to be what I call a stand-alone community. One did not have to leave the island for services/amenities unless one wished to…the island was not a bedroom community of towns on nearby Vancouver Island. Can we say this is still the case?

In recent years, did the elected trustees overstep their mandate and stray into lifestyle decisions of the residents? Businesses that gave work to local residents have closed and moved off-island. More may be considering this.

The big box stores in Duncan are only a 20 minute ferry trip away: Home Depot, Walmart, Rona, Staples, London Drugs, plus the satellites that go along with plaza life (Starbucks, Tim Hortons, KFC, et al).

The Chamber of Commerce also has a mandate: to support local/community businesses and to create an atmosphere of opportunity for them. It is a volunteer body.

Salt Spring, as part of the Islands Trust governance model, is not a municipality. There are two elected trustees per Gulf Island. There is also a CRD director…CRD stands for Capital Regional District. This is also an elected position. As an unincorporated area, Salt Spring is under Victoria’s CRD re building permits, septic installations, etc.

One can see, though, as population slowly grew, since 1974, that there was a void there. The Trust is about land use bylaws. The CRD is about granting septic and building permits, so that construction is to current code requirements. There is no local elected mayor/council to aid the community’s progress.

What about an overall plan to ensure that residents lifestyles are also encouraged and preserved?

There is no funding from the provincial government to the local Chamber, as the Island is not a municipality. Thus, Chamber activities to benefit local businesses are all volunteer driven…with monetary support for tourism related events raised from the same local businesses.

The economic meltdowns between late 2008 and late 2012 caused tourism to halt in all secondary home/discretionary areas. On Salt Spring, tourism in 2010 & 2011 was apparently down by 40%. This affected accomodations, restaurants, studios, galleries, real estate…which in turn affected lawyers, contractors, architects, etc. It’s a wheel that rolls or else falters and collapses.

There is, at the moment, a sense that no one has been looking after the preservation of the Island’s lifestyle…no one helping the residents.

When I arrived in 1989, it seemed that “everyone” was here: affluent, old hippies, artists, farmers, retirees, young families, teachers, nurses, ferry employees, retail owners, summer people, spec builders, etc. Just the normal mix in any small rural community.

So…what happened?

Is it just the law of unintended consequences at work? Is it that those initial regulations to address uncontrolled growth have spawned into more regulations, narrowing interpretations of original bylaws, simply to fill a void?

The community did seem, in the 80s and early 90s, to work together…it still comes together to help when someone is afflicted with an accident or loss by outside circumstances. There now, though, also seems to be a very divisive attitude in evidence…fixed positions…no conversation of negotiation.

I sense that Salt Spring is well on its way to being a safe haven for an affluent buyer. It may be that those who service such an area will be coming from off island. The Trust’s point in 1974 was to preserve the park. This was accomplished.

A decision to control growth in a beautiful area does have the effect of making it a place one has to be able to afford. The Trust created, on all the Gulf Islands, an eventual outcome of being expensive places to live. The old adage of supply and demand in play.

It is what it is.

The Trust could have created thoughtful affordable housing zonings, industrial land groupings, & thus have preserved small family businesses, that hire locals, that support other local businesses. They did not.

Currently, there is a governance study underway on Salt Spring. There will be an eventual referendum to decide whether or not to have a Gulf Islands Municipality. This is the second such study/referendum process.

If a yes vote? The Trust would remain, with two elected trustees, and the bylaws in place. The CRD role would be taken over by an elected council, on Salt Spring, and so there would be local people in place to look after lifestyle options for the residents. The encroachment of the Trust into this realm, to fill a void, would end. The Trust, its elected local trustees, and its land use controls would remain.

Very recently, the CRD has struck a committee known as the EDC (Economic Development Committee). This committee has pulled people from local groups such as: accomodations, tourism, chamber volunteer groups…is it a think tank? Is it working to fill that local presence void, in case the governance study outcome is a nay vote? Are your concerns being met? Ask questions!

Is incorporation a good idea for Salt Spring? Attend the meetings, listen with an open mind. It’s an important issue with a serious outcome, on either side of the question.

My hope is that Salt Spring Island will remain that vibrant stand-alone community structure, with opportunity for all population segments. How best to ensure this?

Be a part of the decision making…it’s your island, after all. Be informed.

Tourism engenders real estate outcomes and thus ensuing good business outcomes for all other enterprises. Another reason to support the Chamber of Commerce.

The real estate market on Salt Spring Island, the Gulf Islands, and on Vancouver Island is still slow in sales. There is an increase in interest…inquiries are stronger…there is no marked trend, yet. In 2012, most sales were in entry level residential. In the final months of the year, some upper tier priced residential options found their buyer…at reduced price points from list pricings. Undeveloped land and commercial options remained “flat” throughout 2010, 2011, and 2012.

It may be that 2013 will be a year of authentic recovery in real estate in our secondary home/discretionary area. It may take until July to see this build in. The main sales now take place, in our seasonal marketplace, between mid-July and November. With the impact of the Internet, it’s important to be listed and “present”…otherwise, how will the searcher discover a specific property? Perhaps by early May, the trend-line for 2013 will be sufficiently in place to see a pattern.

The driver to action this year may be the seeking of a safe haven. Preservation of capital and the ability to be self-sustaining are powerful motivators to action. The cash on the sidelines may be flowing back into secondary home markets, and globally so. The issues in Cyprus, towards the end of March, may have hastened this shift out of cash, held in savings, in financial institutions.

Many insecurities abound, globally, and the Gulf Islands are not exempt.

What can we appreciate? A micro-climate that enjoys a year round opportunity, farms and the 10K diet are alive & well. The best protected boating waters in the world, at our doorstep. Ecological beauties to enjoy. Creative & thoughtful people to bring forward solutions to 21st Century issues. Lucky us, we who now call this region “home”.

May I help you to discover your special property on Salt Spring Island, on the Gulf Islands, and on Vancouver Island? Your best interests are my motivation. Please call…look forward to meeting you, and to helping you become an Islander, too!

March 2012, Salt Spring Island Market Analyses

It seems, in our secondary home/discretionary area, that January & February are often a continuation of the rhythm of November & December, of the previous year.

March, then, usually begins the pattern of the current year, and the number of March Break arrivals to view property, and possibly to make offers, forecasts the summer season…busy at March-Break-into-Easter usually means brisk sales time from mid-May to mid-September (our traditional “season”).

We may be in year seven of a seven to ten year cycle, which means a slow upticking in sales volume may already have begun. To date, there have been fourteen firm sales, since beginning of January. Ten have been under 620,000…most below 500,000.

This steady sales pattern mainly in the entry level residential category has been a feature of the Salt Spring sales picture for about two years…this busier first two months is perhaps a sign of consistency to the marketplace…a good feature, indeed.

Sales in undeveloped land options have not yet improved. In a downmarket, buyers are not seeking a holding property nor do they want a building project. The slow roll-back of the HST tax may help in the new home category
, particularly in city or large town environments, with developments & spec housing…in discretionary/secondary home areas, where building projects are custom & personal options, the HST repeal may or may not create activity.

The upper tier priced luxury residential segment also remains quiet. In some few cases on Salt Spring & the Gulf Islands, extraordinarily motivated sellers have accepted very low prices, well below intrinsic or replacement values & also below tax assessments. Personal need is not noted by appraisers; they look at the sale price, only. These lower prices will affect stats.

In many cases, in the luxury segment, local realtors have encouraged very broad price reductions, in an effort to jump start action from a buyer. These reductions do not appear to create buyer interest. In a secondary home marketplace, a purchase is about choice…and that choosing can be deferred until the buyer sees a definite sign of a hard asset recovery. Buying is an action propelled by confidence.

Price reductions do affect all sellers, however, as it is essential to be seen to be competitive in pricing, when a buyer might be looking at equivalent properties, also for sale.

Thinning inventories may lead to price stability and then to slowly increasing prices.

Nothing ever stays down (or up)…that equilibrium moment, when the teeter-totter of a market cycle appears to be evenly balanced, is of very short duration.

Low mortgage rates are not the motivator to action that one might think. It is buyer confidence that creates a market response. Sellers and realtors do not create a market…buyers do.

In a city market, there are usually more entry level options available, overall, and correspondingly fewer luxury choices. In a secondary home/discretionary and resort-based area, the opposite is true. Such areas attract buyers lucky enough to own more than one property, or purchasers who, because of the Internet, can choose to live anywhere in the world and thus could work from a Gulf Island, or perhaps the buyer is someone who has done well elsewhere & can now choose a Gulf Island to retreat/”retire” to…it’s a specialized buyer profile who is in a position to create their personal dream.

A purchase in an area like Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands is about choice…and choice in timing is also a part of this. The buyer sets the pace in a discretionary marketplace.

The Gulf Islands are not municipalities…they are governed by the government body known as the Islands Trust. The Trust has been in place since 1974, & development on all the Islands is firmly controlled by strict zoning/density bylaws.

Bowen Island voted to become a Gulf Islands Municipality some years ago…the Trust & its bylaws remain in place, however. Salt Spring might consider this outcome, too.

There is an impression that the international market is moving out of cash right now and back into hard assets/commodities, including real estate. The continuing unraveling of the global economic picture has an impact on every region. We are in the post-Internet world, vitally interconnected, and the Global Village is with us. In difficult times, hard asset investment is understood as a way to protect capital.

An interesting sidebar to the post-Internet world is that it has not only erased time & geography, but has also made “someplace” in competition with “everyplace”. It’s a big world, after all! Choice, again….

Salt Spring Island and the Gulf Islands enjoy scenic beauty and environmental protection. They enjoy all of the amenities necessary to partake of life in the “real” 21st Century, and yet experience the allure of “yesteryear”. They have easy access to major centres, yet offer a village lifestyle. A temperate climate creates opportunity to be self-sustaining…the 10K diet is alive & well, here. A strong arts community, a dynamic cultural life, an oceanfront pleasure…these islands are in the heart of the best protected boating waters in the world. One is gifted to be able to live in this still very undiscovered area.