Subtle shifts in the air….

….I think….

When Sal and I ventured out to the boonies back around the turn of the century, I thought we were going to be on the vanguard of an urban exodus from Vancouver.  I am amongst the first cohort of baby-boomers and we left early (our early 50’s) but I was pretty sure that the cost of living, the increasing urban ‘restrictions’ and the desire to retire would prompt a rush for the Gulf Islands at the very least and probably to other places much more hell and gone like ours.

I was wrong.  Until recently the demographics have remained stable.  Young people leaving; old, old people leaving and the merely senior-old ‘snowbirding’ for longer times kept the local population pretty much the same.  Birthing and dying is also a limiting factor at our age – more than half the population is OVER 65.  The birth/death ratio is out of whack.  But we were ‘holding’.

Didn’t matter how you ‘cut it’ the place was NOT growing.  It was stable but not growing and, to be blunt, all the while that same stable was getting older.  Mind you, all that is anecdotal and concluded primarily from inferential scanning.  One just kinda ‘knew’ what was happening…kinda….

To be fair, it was not JUST gut feel and scanning.  Advertised real estate prices gave an indication.  It is NOT an accurate indication because so much property out here changes hands but NOT through realtors and the MLS.  A lot of change is simply not published, not noticeable.  If there is any indication from real estate ads and such it is that fewer people were coming because the tax assessments were dropping and the listing prices were steady if not occasionally dropping as well.  For the last five years it has been a buyer’s market.  Speaking, of course, of a market that is barely visible….

But now…..?  I think there is something in the air…..

I am seeing more young people coming out here.  A few more properties have changed hands.  Prices have been rising.  Listings are down…fewer choices….The towns and villages on the Island are growing.  Builders are building.

AND more to the point of this blog, I personally, have been asked more often to ‘keep and ‘eye out’ for a piece of property.  In fact, I think it is fair to say that I will be right in predicting that at least two properties will soon sell on our island and several more will sell on the one next door to us.  And this is winter!

Is it a land rush?  No.  Is it a boom?  No.  All it is – so far – is an ‘uptick’.  The migration of youth seems slowed.  The interest from retirees seems increased and, lo and behold, that is enough to pique the interest of the middle aged because they can imagine relocating and finding work.

“Dave, do you watch real estate trends?”

Yes and no.  I watch trends of all kinds.  I am fascinated by group behaviours and the economics they create and, of course, real estate is usually one of the easiest markets to keep tabs on.  So, yes.

But do I keep a running tally of the value of any one piece of dirt vs another in one town or village or OTG situation?  No.  The money part is scanned only in big chunks (hmmm….everything used to be listed in the 500K range and now everything seems in the 700K range….?).  Of course, the last scan might have included bigger or better properties so there is NO real analysis…

…….just something in the air….

11 thoughts on “Subtle shifts in the air….

  1. I first started looking for property in Powell River in 2000. There were quite a few (bare land and houses) under $100,000 and even a handful under $50,000. Now just about anything in town is $200,000 or more and there are more now in the million range. It may be affordable compared to Vancouver or Victoria, but not really affordable for the people who live here. – Margy


    • True. But ‘people who live here’ do not have cashflow’. At least not market level cashflow. The prices are pegged for the urbanites. They are the pigeons. If there are lots of them the prices get fulfilled. If there are none, the properties don’t sell because the locals ain’t buying. If there are some pigeons but not lots, prices are negotiated. Simple really. An algorithm based on non local license plates on the ferry would result in accurate market projections. A money guy could control the market with such an algorithm.


  2. With the cash generated in YVR dirt, I am surprised there hasn’t been a rush of money to the islands. Perhaps the OTG really only appeals to the hardcore bunch and there are only a small few brave enough to take the challenge.


    • Well, the Gulf Islands are not really OTG if there’s a ferry or Hydro service and most of them have that. So I thought it was ‘soft’ enough. And many islands are booming, to be sure, but…..well, the further north you go, the less noise from the boom until you get to us…..then it is only an uptick. Still, the exodus might be on the verge of happening. Maybe.


      • The islands you are referring to are Cortes and Quadra? Quite a few million dollar listings.
        I remember your ego was somehow bruised a bit when your well to do neighbor with the trophy wife and helicopter brushed off your advice when building their place back in 2010. How did it turn out, is the place a million dollar property? More importantly,is he reading this blog, 😆. Just curious.


      • The first thing is to disregard the listings. Well, NOT totally but understand that at least half of what is for sale is NOT listed. And that which is listed is often the expensive stuff that warrants the work of an agent. You could have 20 acres on my island and it would be a waste of time to ‘list it’ because the realtor can’t afford to fly or water taxi potential buyers. Especially since it is water access only. What is the plane or water taxi doing while everyone looks? Ringing up a huge bill is what they do. Most realtors will just give you the address and stay home and watch TV. And guess what? For many of the best places, there is NO address. “Follow the old logging trail til you get to the end. The twenty acres is basically what you see on your right. Find the stream. That’s one boundary. Survey tapes are missing. If you like it, I can get you the GPS coordinates?”
        The best way is to visit the areas and find the one you like best. Then drive to the nearest neighbour (or boat) and ask who owns it. Don’t ask if it’s for sale. No one really knows. Then contact the owner. THAT’s the best way.
        Or know someone up here but even then, you still have to come up and see if you like it.
        Yes, my neighbour did the barge and helicopter. And, all in all, it was the right thing to do. I learned from him. He spent the bucks but saved gobs of time, tons of labour and gallons of blood.


    • I don’t think its a case of bravery, its a fear of leadership. Most us are afraid to initiate a trend but are ready followers once a trend has been established.
      I’ll never regret my move, unless its when the hoards of climate refugees overrun my little oasis of paradise.


  3. Saw a property for sale in the upper Fraser Valley area in a tiny nearly ghost hamlet. About nine acres, cleared with dwellings, out-buildings, community water, no zoning asking 1.2 million. The assessed value is about four hundred thousand. Within ten minutes of unmarked wilderness. On the market for over a year. The instinct to try to cash in is flourishing but to buy this property would take cash. Without a mortgage this gem will sit.


    • A million gets you two to five acres with waterfront and a nice house out here. But you are right, you really can’t carry debt.. Too limited cashflow opportunities as a rule. You RETIRE here. Too busy, as a rule, to work for monetary gain. You WORK but it’s all self-directed and in a cash-strapped community environment. AND, generally speaking, you are old so your workday is limited at best. The good news? You need 1/3 the income to live.


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