December 2021, Salt Spring Island Real Estate Market
Rain and snow and then crisp days of brilliant sun, with mesmerizing ocean/islands/mountain viewscapes.
A time of seasonal lights, family traditions, special menus, craft fairs, markets, choral presentations…and a time of gifting to those who need it most.
Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands are offering the softer season delights to both locals and visitors. Take part! Support local.
December is also a time to look back at what has been and to look forward to what is emerging.
Strong Sales in 2021
There have been strong sales throughout 2021. In residential options, if listed below one million, there were several sales “over ask”. Only one property and several interested buyers…a recipe for bidding wars.
By Spring, higher end listings began to sell and also undeveloped land opportunities…as we edge to the end of the year, we have extremely low inventory in all property types and price points.
While the majority of sales are below 1.2 million, there are still many more sales above that mark, and that has not been seen since pre-2008 economic meltdowns. It seems that we have returned to a pattern not seen since 2004/05.
A societal rewrite
The flight from urban to rural is underway, and the authentic ability to work from home supports this. A societal rewrite appears to be happening. The outcomes of the changes that began with the first covid closures almost two years ago are not fully in place yet.
At this very beginning of December, there are approximately 55 residential listings, not separating out waterfront, view, townhome, farm, lot, acreage. The prices range from 159,900 to 14,000,000.
At this very beginning of December, there are approximately 28 land listings…not separating out waterfront, view, lot, acreage. Prices range from 259,000 to 4,900,000.
Together, that means approximately 83 listings are available for a buyer to consider. Usually we would see a total of 300+ listings.
At this very beginning of December, there have been approximately 265 sales to date, ranging between 199,000 and 5,850,000.
Salt Spring Island
A desire to leave city congestion and seek a rural lifestyle continue to be the main propellers to action. The Gulf Islands offer a preserved environment, due to the Islands Trust form of governance (in place since 1974). Ask me about this important aspect.
The evolution of the internet so that it now fully supports the ability to work remotely is also a part of allowing the shift to smaller communities.
Owners in these areas do not want to be sellers, and that is also part of the reason for such low inventory. This is a true sellers market.
A Competitive Market
Buyers have to make their best efforts…they are in competition. They might need to consider renovation or building projects after purchase…buyers are not in the driver’s seat right now. Until there is more supply, this thin market will continue. It may take two years to see a further supply of housing come to market.
Concerns over inflation might also be a factor in land sales…real estate values keep pace with inflation. It is a strong hard asset. Land banking may be the reason for some land sales. Welcome your thoughts here.
There are always issues, of course. December, though, brings with it a season of light and joy.
Some loved Island events (such as Santa’s Carol Ship) were cancelled due to covid shut-downs, but many remain. Check the various holiday calendars for the Gulf Islands and enjoy the special events that are offered. Whether large or small celebrations, remember to enjoy the festive time. It is “the season”!
At the beginning of each month, I give my market thoughts. During the ensuing days of that month, I give market updates via my regular blog.
For the past several months, I have referred to the very low inventory of listed properties. This thin inventory is coupled with huge buyer demand. Bidding wars have become standard procedure. The inventory keeps shrinking and few new listings come onstream to replace the steady sales. Owners, unless they have to, do not want to be sellers.
This clear-out of inventory for Salt Spring began around June 23, 2020, when the ten week closures, throughout B.C., ended. When B.C. Ferries reinstated routes and sailing schedules, the rush to rural in our area began.
Salt Spring Island, Land & Luxury Residential Homes
This kind of intensity always begins with entry level residential and then evolves to the luxury residential segment and to undeveloped land opportunities. By late February, 2021, bidding wars were underway in the residential segment. By late March, undeveloped land options began to sell. Most buyers continue to be from Vancouver.
The allure of a rural lifestyle is now in synch with the ability to work from home. The pandemic has created a viable digital lifestyle, and this, along with continuing low interest rates, has resulted in historic sales patterns in all secondary home regions. This includes on Salt Spring Island.
The buyers are looking for a year round lifestyle, with health care options (Salt Spring has a hospital), education options (3 elementary schools and a junior/senior school), and all services/amenities available without having to leave the island.
The form of governance for all Gulf Islands is the Islands Trust (a provincial government body), and for Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands the CRD (Capital Regional District, out of Victoria) is also part of the governance model. Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are not municipalities.
Truly is a lifestyle rewrite
Buyers at the moment plan to live full-time on Salt Spring…this truly is a lifestyle rewrite. Recreational living has been a mainstay on all Gulf Islands for many years. Choosing to live full-time is different. This may bring about a more sustainable year-round business outcome…with less emphasis on seasonal tourism as the economic driver on the Island.
Post-Pandemic Salt Spring Island
Change is definitely the mantra as we struggle to be fully post-pandemic. Digital ways are predominant. Ever more important to seek new outcomes for marketing and presentation of both real estate and visitor experiences. In change lies opportunity.
Meantime, the splendour of May is erupting all around us…so important to really “see” and to savour the natural world. Nature both restores and nurtures us. Maybe time to re-read those Romantic poets that we endured in school? Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands surround us with beauty…enjoy!
Current Inventory & Sales on Salt Spring Island
And real estate? At this very beginning of May, there are approximately 29 residential listings…without separating out townhomes, waterfront, acreages…just “residential”. These options range from 499,000 to 14,000,000.
At this very beginning of May, there are around 37 land listings. Again, not separating out waterfront, acreages, lots…simply undeveloped land. Prices range from 239,000 to 2,495,000.
At this very beginning of May, there have been 130 “solds to date”. Sale prices have ranged from 199,000 to 5,645,000. Half of the sales have been below one million and half above. The number of sales to date is about the same as sales for all of 2020.
Salt Spring Island
This attrition of listings is the same in all secondary home markets, including on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands. Owners are wanting to stay where they are, unless they have to sell. Buyers wanting to move full-time to a rural area are on the move. The ability of the internet to now support working from home…wherever home happens to be…allows this choice. The acceptance by consumers of this work from home concept is a part of the shift. A perfect storm, resulting in profound societal change. (And, we didn’t even get to look at peer to peer connections in the block chain era!).
Well, Thales, one of those savvy Ancient Greeks, did alert us that we never step in the same river water twice
May is one of the most beautiful months on the entire Pacific Northwest Coast. Give yourself the gift of experiencing it all…choose a different place to visit, on Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands, every day. Lucky us to be here!
Here we are at April 1st. The beginning of real Spring. Early April mirrors March…late April is a forerunner of amazing May. April is a shift month.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island, A Unique & Creative Space to Call Home
Whatever the season or weather pattern, beautiful Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands welcome one…these islands nestled in the Salish Sea are unique and creative spaces to call home.
Is It Easy to Move to Salt Spring Island?
Real estate in the Gulf Islands is always slightly apart from larger market trends. The form of governance in these islands is a provincial government body known as the Islands Trust.
Created in 1974 by the government, to “preserve and protect” the environmental beauties of the islands for the benefit of all B.C. residents, the Trust has curtailed growth (via strict zoning/bylaws). This effective cap on growth ensured that the Gulf Islands would remain these lovely park-like entities.
A cap on growth means that, over time, these islands will become enclave areas that one will have to be able to afford…already, they are not entry level pricing areas. First time buyers are not usual, without family help.
What was B.C.’s response to covid?
B.C.’s first response to covid was to shut down/require people to stay at home. A ten week covid closure was in place by March 12/20. Around June 23/20, restrictions were softly lifted and Immediately a strong real estate sales pattern clicked into place. The allure of a rural lifestyle was the theme.
Starting with entry level residential and then including affordable lots/acreages, the inventory thinned out and price points on Salt Spring began to rise…“bidding wars” occurred by mid-February 2021. Around late February/early March 2021, the higher end/luxury properties segment caught sales interest.
The Vancouverite Migration
Almost all buyers were from Vancouver and they were wanting to live permanently on Salt Spring. Sale prices to date range from 199,000 to 5,645,000. The volume of sales to the end of March now match an entire year’s sales in previous recent times.
So, at this very beginning of April, we have 39 residential properties listed. Townhomes, waterfront, view, farms are not separated out…it’s just residential/dwellings.
15 listings are between 349,000 and 995,000.
There are 13 listings between 1,069,000 and 1,985,000.
There are currently 5 listings between 2 million and 2,699,900. One listing is at 4,995,000.
There is a listing at 5,995,000.
A farm parcel is listed at 6,688,800.
An acreage is asking 12,000,000
a waterfront acreage is on at 14,000,000.
A waterfront farm is asking 14,000,000.
We have 45 land listings at this very beginning of April, again not separating out type…just undeveloped land options. Prices range from 239,000 to 2,495,000
There have been 77 solds to date
There were 58 sales below one million
14 sales between one and two million
4 sales between two and three million
and one sale over five million
This extraordinarily thin inventory of listings is partly due to strong buyer action. It also reflects owner reluctance to be a seller. Unless they “have to” sell, most owners are choosing to “hold”.
Salt Spring Island
A Hyperbolic Market
One recent scenario: one entry level priced listing and twelve buyers for it, resulting in a listing agent stating a time for all offers to be presented, no ability for a buyers agent to present their offer, the offers all seen by the seller at same time and a choice then made. This kind of outcome is why many buyers put in unconditional offers and also why the offers are “over ask”. It’s a hyperbolic market everywhere. Salt Spring is no exception. Will it last? Ah…the key question.
A Lifestyle Rewrite
The lifestyle rewrite in this post-pandemic moment is the main propeller to rural real estate activity, throughout B.C. Vancouver sellers remain the main buyers in all the secondary home venues. Recreating a life script is a strong motivator to action and this does not seem to have run its course…perhaps it’s just beginning?
Salt Spring Island & Land Banking
Also to be considered: the desire for safe hard asset investment, as a way to preserve capital in an era of printing press currencies and fears of inflation. Land banking is one such outcome. Current low interest rates invite buyer ability to buy. The societal shift to all things digital and the “work from home” ethic have become mainstream, which allows a rural move. Everything seems to have coalesced…the perfect storm, if you will.
Lack of inventory may continue for some time. An outcome will be serious price escalation.
There is always opportunity, no matter the background noise of daily events.
Are you thinking of selling? Call me…I look forward to sharing my knowledge of this current sellers market trend. You may decide to “hold”…you may decide to sell. “Of the moment” market knowledge is essential to make that important decision. I look forward to connecting with you. As a top selling agent, I bring to your benefit my expertise, plus creative and productive marketing solutions (local and global), and a solid understanding of the sale process.
It’s here…the month that sees the segue from winter-into-spring. Gulf Islanders/Salt Springers recognize March as the month that brings the first whispers of “the season”.
Mid-March to mid-October is often seen as the best weather time in the great Pacific Northwest Coast, and Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands benefit from a “cool Mediterranean” micro-climate. Less rainfall/more hours of sunshine…a welcome temperate pattern.
Even with the ongoing closures and pauses and delays of covid, this time of year brings with it a special enjoyment…that awakening of the earth that Spring delivers. Gardens and orchards and roadside bushes flower forward. Longer days. Sun warmth at patio coffee stops. Beauty everywhere.
The real estate market on Salt Spring is now mirroring the same explosion of sales first experienced in Vancouver and then fanning out to Sunshine Coast, to the Interior, to Victoria, and to Vancouver Island. Now it is occurring on Salt Spring and on the Gulf Islands.
The inventory of listings is shockingly low.
Most buyers are still from Vancouver. There are now multiple offers and “bidding wars” in some price ranges. Buyers do have to put their best foot forward.
The Vancouver sellers do become the buyers in all the rural/secondary home markets. The Vancouver market, which did suppress between 2017 and 2019, because of provincial government taxation measures to do so, is perhaps being driven by sales to Hong Kong based residents, with Canadian passports. These buyers ignore the provincial 20% offshore purchase tax.
It appears to be a lifestyle rewrite that is underway.
Many things are occurring: the initial covid shut-downs in 2020 pushed everyone into the digital world. The ability to work from home is now accepted as mainstream. Extraordinarily low interest rates. A desire to leave the city. A concern over all the monies being printed by governments…the seeking of preservation of capital by turning to hard asset investments. Hmmm…a perfect storm? Maybe.
Sales Data March 2021
So, at this very beginning of March, there are 31 residential listings on Salt Spring Island, not separating out waterfront, view, townhome.
11 of these residential listings are between 445,000 and 998,000
9 listings between 1,069,000 and 1,985,000
One listing at 3,100,000
One listing at 4,995,000
One listing at 5,995,000
One listing at 6,688,800
One listing at 12,000,000
Two listings at 14,000,000
Only 11 fall into the category of “entry level” pricings. Hmmm….. usually there might be over 200 residential listings available. This is a sellers market.
At this very beginning of March, there are 49 land listings, ranging from 239,900 to 2,495,000. (Not separating out lots, acreages, view, waterfront). Land listings up to 500,000 remain the most active, at this moment.
At this very beginning of March, there have been 51 “solds to date”. That is a huge increase in sales in the first two months of the year.
Seven sales have been between 199,000 and 298,000
Four sales have been between 430,000 and 455,000
Six sales have been between 505,000 and 552,000
Ten sales have been between 605,000 and 685,000
Four sales were between 730,000 and 799,000
Three sales were between 800,000 and 878,500
Five sales took place between 900,000 and 979,000
Eleven sales took place between 1,015,000 and 1,850,000
One sale took place at 5,645,000
For the first time in several years, consistent high end sales are underway. It appears that the Vancouver buyers plan to live on Salt Spring…these are not recreational only buyers.
Not Since 9/11
The entry level residential options and the lower priced land options have all sold. The last time we saw a lifestyle rewrite was after 9-11. Between 2003 and 2006, there were few listings and prices rose by 60%. However, at that time, owners, who may have wanted to cash out, did start to slowly list.
Salt Spring Island Coast
Right now, though, with the faceless potential killer of covid still with us, most owners want to sit tight. Where would they go? Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands offer the allure of safety, in their cohesive apartness. The arrival of consistent vaccinations may be the solution to this treading water time.
Still on Hold, Virtually
Meantime, March sings its way through our lives and the Gulf Islands are offering virtual reminders of their pleasures. Loved events will be on hold until next year, as the provincial government prohibition on gatherings continues. It’s interesting, that virtual connection. Neither good nor not good…just different.
Meantime, on Salt Spring, hike the Mt Erskine Trail, picnic at Ruckle Park, watch the floatplanes chortle in and out in Ganges Harbour, enjoy a coffee break on a patio or deck (many to choose from…try them all), sunset watch from Vesuvius Beach, kayak out to Chocolate Island beach, and always always follow the protocols and support local.
Salt Spring and the Gulf Islands swim enticingly in the Salish Sea. Their welcome is always there.
October. Here we are…at the 4th quarter in a year’s activity.
It’s also the continuation of the Harvest season…with the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend in mid-month.
Covid…whether it’s considered a second wave or just the continuation and possible mutation of the first…remains the background to our days.
Most of us find ourselves saying “these are different days” and they are.
As the days shorten, and it cools in the evenings, the restaurants that relied on creative outdoor seating arrangements are grappling with how to social distance when back inside.
Ferries, grocery stores, retail are now making wearing of masks mandatory. Be prepared.
It is flu and cold season, along with covid virus, and the social distancing when out in public, the staying home when not feeling well, and the government encouragement to keep our contact groups small, are all features of this seasonal shift to Fall.
Covid has cancelled or re-imagined to a virtual platform many Island events (Fall Fair, Sip and Savour, Apple Fest, Salty Awards, craft fairs, Christmas on Salt Spring among others). Canadians are being encouraged by the federal and provincial governments to forego large family gatherings at Thanksgiving. All meetings and AGMs of various groups are also continuing to be held virtually.
Is The Past Prologue?
Marshall McLuhan reminded us in the 1970s that “the medium is the message”. Our communication methods create us as a species. Online is a talking head process. Will this make us into a species of observers and not participants? What then of Aristotle’s dictum that we are social animals? Hmmm….deep stuff here. Needs some thought. Change is the only constant. Virtual, though, is not the same as “in person”.
So, here we are, at the very beginning of October. In real estate, in all rural/secondary home regions, inventory has thinned right out. That province-wide 10 week shut-down, that began on March 12th, created a huge desire on the part of city dwellers to get to rural/secondary home regions. The Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, the Interior communities…all of them experienced a strong real estate sales uptick as soon as the government allowed phase one recovery.
At this very beginning of October, then, we see
84 residential listings on Salt Spring. This does not separate out waterfronts or farms or acreages…it is just all residential options that are still available.
They range in price from $420,000 to $14,000,000. (There are approximately 48 listings between $420,000 and $998,500. There are approximately 24 listings between $1,025,000 and $1,998,500. There are 6 listings between $2,000,000 and $2,700,000. There are 2 listings at $3,128,000 and $3,200,000. There is one listing at $6,688,800, another at $12,000,000, and two at $14,000,000).
At this beginning day of October, we see 69 land listings. Again, not separating out waterfront or farms or acreages…just undeveloped land options.
The available land opportunities range between $129,000 and $2,495,000. (There are approximately 60 listings between $129,000 and $995,000. There are 6 listings between $1,020,000 and $1,395,000. There are 3 listings between $2,150,000 and $2,495,000).
There have been 171 “sales to date”. In this unexpectedly busy year, we are seeing an increase in sales over 2 million (not a feature of our market between 2017 and late 2019).
(There have been 121 sales between $120,000 and $998,000. There have been 43 sales between $1,017,000 and $1,900,000. There have been 6 sales between $2,050,000 and $2,600,100).
Rural Shift Continues
The buyers in 2020 continue to be mainly from Vancouver and the desire to redo lifestyles and move to rural areas are the drivers of activity. It is a rewriting of one’s life script.
Vancouver buyers plan to live in the location they choose as their destination area…they take time as they first interview the areas they are considering, and so they do check out other rural regions before deciding “for” Salt Spring.
There are few new listings coming onstream to replace the “solds”. Unless they “have to”, most owners of rural properties are holding…they do not want to become sellers.
Thin inventory and high buyer demand can often lead to price escalation. At moment, it seems to be about price stability.
Conditions for Volatility Remain
Next year? There are many variables, including outcomes of elections this Fall, and the continuation of covid responses…the move to hard asset investments may also continue. If so, and inventory remains low, we may see serious price escalation begin. The Island Trust’s cap on growth and the continuing historically low interest rates will both be a part of this.
More information on market trends? Call me! Benefit from my knowledge, expertise, and experience. Your best interests truly are my motivation.
Meanwhile, beautiful October has arrived. Described by the English poet, John Keats, as the “season of mellow fruitfulness”, it is a segue from late summer into winter…enjoy its many Harvest pleasures.
Is Salt Spring Island A Tourist Destination?
The trails for walking/hiking beckon, sailing races have switched from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon, the restaurants and coffee stops continue their covid protocols and are offering seasonal delights. The Saturday and Tuesday markets are still underway. Farm gate stands await your pleasure. The Ganges galleries continue to showcase their artists. Watch the ArtSpring newsletter for upcoming events and look for the winter version of ArtCraft (social distancing in place for both, of course).
Salt Spring may have moved into a slower lane, but it remains a treasured place to visit in this softer season.
Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands are always lovely, but there is a special beauty on the great Pacific Northwest Coast that belongs to the Fall season and to October in particular.