By Merri Ann Simonson
Special to the Journal
As a realtor on San Juan, I have noted that over the last 20 years, the “typical” buyer profile has not changed.
The majorities of the newcomers are between the ages of 45-65 and interested in purchasing a second home or property for their future retirement. Since the recession, we have not had many investors in our market due to lack of appreciation, but that will change with more market recovery.
Most buyers are seeking a lifestyle change or enhancement. Our islands offer a very comfortable and secure place to live.
Most of the newcomers are very environmentally conscience and intend to be good property stewards. They come here for the beauty and want to keep it that way. Once established, they also become investors and may purchase income producing property or other rental properties. I assume they feel that it is comforting to have their real estate investments nearby their primary or second home.
Further, many participate in the communities in a variety of ways, whether it is direct donations, volunteering on boards or serving on committees. In the islands, it is possible to be as active and involved as one desires or secluded and remote.
For the group of people on the younger side of the range, those buyers are interested in our public and private school systems as they are highly rated and the comfort of a safe community.
For the group of people on the older side of the range, our hospital will allow more people to remain in the islands for an extended period of time.
Washington state’s tax structure is also more favorable than California and other states.
Looking at the chart (above), 76 percent of the buyers live in Washington. This falls in line with the premise that most second-home owners desire to purchase a home within 2-3 hours from their primary residence. The out-of-state buyer’s percentage was 24 percent, with California contributing the most. California was actually down a few percentages from the last time I created this chart, back in 2008.
Of the Washington buyers, 74 percent had the zip code of 982XX. This high level supports the practice of buyers moving to the islands first then purchasing real estate later. Many buyers desire to experience the island community, schools and employment for a period of time prior to making their buying decision. It is also much easier to shop for real estate while living here.
The breakdown for property type includes 64 percent for homes, condominiums and manufactured units, 27 percent land/lot sales, with nine percent commercial and multi-family. This supports the fact that in the current market you can buy existing homes for less than the price of constructing a new home. Again, this will even out with more recovery.
Real estate volume and transaction numbers are increasing, inventory is starting to be absorbed in several of the categories of our market, and the general attitude is positive. 2015 looks promising for those that desire to sell or buy property in the San Juans.
— Editor’s note: Merri Ann Simonson is sales manager/managing broker of Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands; Simonson@sanjuanislands.com