Salt Spring Island Buying tips

Scott’s Salt Spring Buying Tips

I can help you negotiate the best price on any Salt Spring Island home for sale (use the mortgage calculator to help you work out your budget). But, before you make an offer to purchase a specific Salt Spring home, I can:

  • Talk to all the neighbours before the offer to purchase.
  • Find out about the seller’s motivation to sell their Salt spring property.  As your agent, I can tell you everything!  For instance, I will try to discover the real reason they want to sell their property.  Are the sellers fishing for a high price or are they serious about selling their Salt Spring property?    Information about a seller’s motivation might be valuable to a buyer.  The listing agent cannot tell you about the seller’s motivation to sell because of dual agency law (unless they have permission to reveal this information).

Following is a list of things to explore with experts in each area.   (Note:  The following items are not part of the home inspection.)

The “Mike Holmes rule” – Check the building permits!

  • I can get a letter from the sellers giving us the right to check the building permits.
  • Is the house built to the British Columbia building code standard? If you can see “not to code” work – what else might be there that you can’t see?
  • Did the owner obtain all necessary building permits?  (Electrical, propane, fireplaces and septic fields require their own permits.)
  • The Sewerage System Regulations where totally changed in 2006.  Does this house comply with the most recent regulations? OWRPBrochure2008
  • Is the house built to the plan on file?
  • Has the house passed all inspections?
  • Is the home heated with wood? Can you get a copy of the WETT inspection report? Wood heating guide
  • Are there outbuildings on the property? Any building over 108 sq. ft. needs a building permit.

Who was the Salt Spring architect or designer of the Salt Spring property?

  • Do they have the home plans on file?
  • What are their thoughts on possible renos or additions?
  • Who built the Salt Spring home?  (If the house is less than 25 years old, this is usually easy to find out.)
  • Are they still building homes on the island?
  • Is this the only house they have built on the island?
  • Can you meet with the Salt Spring builder and have them walk you through the home they built?
  • Is there a warranty on the house? Information from the Homeowners Protection Office BuyingANewHome HPO

Check for special problems often found in British Columbia, such as:

  • Moisture in the house
  • Wood eating Powder Post Beetles
  • Wood rot
  • Ask for a survey.
  • In British Columbia, you do not get a real property report from the seller.
  • Check out the property lines and the setbacks of your potential property.
  • Is it in a water catchment area?
  • Is it conforming to zoning or is it non-conforming?  (Never, ever assume zoning can be changed on Salt Spring!)

If the property is on the waterfront:

  • If it’s low bank, is the beach leased out to a clam operation?
  • Is it a “party beach” during the summer or a tranquil beach all year round?

A lot of Salt Spring houses have septic systems. Info about septic systems OWRPBrochure2008  Check the following:

  • Does the septic system work properly (or at all)?
  • Has the tank been pumped out in the last 5 years?
  • If the house has been enlarged, has the septic system been upgraded as well? Do they call bedrooms “offices” or “dens?” (Septic systems were sized by the number of bedrooms.)
  • Can you see or smell surface effluent?
  • Is it a gravity or pump system? How old is the pump?

Is the Salt Spring property serviced by a well? BC Ground Water Protection Regulation GWPR_private_well_owners  link to Ministry of Environment water protection and Sustainably Branch  If so:

  • Has the water been tested recently?
  • Is it a shallow well or deep well?
  • Is there a water storage system?
  • Does the well produce water in the dry summer months?
  • How many wells are in the area?
  • Is there a water license? Have the annual rentals fees been paid? Any outstanding annual rentals or fees become the responsibility of the new landowner.  This form has to be filled out and sent to the provincial government; change_holder Water ACT
  • What about the neighbor’s septic field? How close is it? Is it within 30 meters? If it is this is a red flag.
  • Is there arsenic in the water?  Yes, you read that right – there is arsenic on Salt Spring!!! arsenic in groundwater

Does the house have vermiculite insulation?

  • Vermiculite ore, produced by the Libby Mine in Montana from the 1920′s to 1990, was sold as Zonolite® Attic Insulation and WILL contain amphibole asbestos.  If the house has vermiculite insulation it “has to” be tested.  I, Scott Simmons, could not sleep at night knowing your house was not tested.  A few years ago buyers had a home I had listed tested.  The test came back positive.  The sellers decided to fire me and hire a new agent that did not know the home had failed a test.  I sent the new agent an email stating my concerns.   The home sold I do not know if the new buyers knew.  If it ends up in court I have a copy of that email.  This made me sad knowing someone would sink that low to save 15k or so when selling a home for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It will cost $15,000-$20,000 to professionally remove if it’s in the house.  Not all vermiculite has asbestos, but I was told by the testing company that 99% of tests are positive. Here is a copy of the Safe Work Practices for handling asbestos pdf from Work Safe BC. From the Vancouver Sun, Feb 2013 Asbestos safety often ignored in B.C pdf  and this  Asbestos Tougher sanctions needed for rule abusers pdf
  • Check for buried oil tanks.
  • I know of 7 sites from old gas stations, dump sites and or fuel storage sites on Salt Spring.  4 have been or are up for sale.   One had no disclosure they hired a brand new agent to list the property.  By law, the vendor must complete a site profile form and provide it to the purchaser prior to completion of the sale.  More info here at the Ministry of Environment site.    This is extremely important if you are looking at one of these sites.  In the future remediation cost are going to go up and up.  Caveat emptor.
  • How does any possible future development or possible right of ways affect this lot or house? What does the Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw #434 say about the area?
  • What could happen in the future in this neighborhood?
  • Check the Land Use Bylaw #355 and see what pertains to this property ssbylbaselu0355
  • If it is a view property, do you “own the view?
  • If not, who does?
  • Will they allow you to trim the trees?

Is it farmland is it in the ALR? Link to the Agricultural Land Commission site.   Farm Classification Brochure

Is GST owed on the sale of the property?  This is a grey area usually just new lots and new homes have GST but as a Realtor that has worked in a resort area, I know that vacation rental homes can have GST or if the property is owned by a corporation it might have GST owing at the time of the sale.


What is the upside? What are they missing? Is there a hidden value that the owners don’t see?  This is what an experienced agent hunts for.  Each year I drive approx 30 – 50,000 km and I rarely if ever leave the island.

Don’t buy a house on Salt Spring Island without benefiting from my Salt Spring specific real estate knowledge.  As a Realtor, I’m working for you and want to make sure you buy the right Salt Spring home, not the wrong house.

I have noticed a trend.  Those that spend time doing research make a better purchase than those that do not.

In the army, we had an old saying “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted“.



Scott Simmons