Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: Real Estate Experts Compare The Pacific Northwest’s San Juan Island Archipelago vs. New York’s Long Island Estates
Given the Manhattanization of Seattle, arguably the fastest-growing metropolis in America, who wouldn’t desire an island escape that’s close yet a world apart from the frenetic energy and congestion of city life? This collection of 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County have long been a secret getaway for Pacific Northwest families. But increasingly the San Juan Islands have been found by a new generation of affluent homebuyers, so it’s little surprise that the tides are rising.
“Without question, the San Juan Islands are among the most beautiful and protected natural sanctuaries in the world – perfectly positioned between the global cities of Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, BC,” said Dean Jones, President and CEO of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR). “Unlike their East Coast harbinger markets in the Hamptons, Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, The San Juans remain refreshingly low-key and relatively affordable for now but perhaps not for much longer.”
Jones refers to a recent article by Mansion Global entitled “It’s Not Just Chris Pratt and Bill Gates Who Are Flocking to The San Juan Islands,” citing data from Realtor.com listing the island county as the fastest-growing amongst the top luxury housing markets in the US. Despite $1 million+ home sale volumes doubling during the first half of 2016 compared with the year prior, experts suggest the region is still a relative bargain.
In the Legacy Homes Report, published by William Hillis, Research Editor and Publisher with RSIR, he concludes that not only are San Juan County homes of similar scale and finish both newer and substantially less expensive than Long Island homes but several Legacy Homes being featured are offered for well below replacement costs.
The opportunity to explore these homes firsthand was seized during a recent Legacy Home Tour hosted by RSIR and Wally Gudgell, an Orcas Island resident and real estate broker with Windermere Real Estate. From October 5 – 9th, dozens of brokers and prospective buyers arrived by land, sea and air to visit Legacy Homes ranging in value from below $2 million to $17 million. The lifestyle showcase included harbor-to-harbor seaplane transfer by Kenmore Air, accommodations by Rosario Resort and wine tastings by DeLille Cellars.
“Beyond the idyllic scenery and storybook lifestyle, visitors are surprised to learn our islands have a significant year-round population with renowned schools, a lively cultural scene, farm-to-table restaurants, organic grocers and every imaginable residential convenience,” said Gudgell. “We’re connected; so on the screen you’re a day trader or programmer but just out the window it’s like National Geographic, live with orcas, deer and eagles – it’s just incredible.”
Gudgell says the San Juan Islands benefit from a unique microclimate, which benefits from a rain shadow effect from the Olympic Mountain Range and has 20-percent less precipitation than nearby Seattle. The moderating influence of the ocean means summers are generally less hot and humid while winters are mild. In fact, the inland waterways of Puget Sound that extend north through British Columbia’s Inside Passage all the way to Alaska’s southeast panhandle is noted to be one of the planet’s greatest maritime experiences, drawing global citizens and their extraordinary yachts each year.
Significant sales in the region are to noted Seattle-area families, captains of industry, tech titans, Hollywood insiders and even members of government. But you wouldn’t know it upon first glance. Their profiles vary but one common interest includes the pursuit of privacy. Rather than spend millions more and take years to build their own estate, these buyers are attracted to the move-in ready homes.
Jones says California is a particularly strong feeder market because Washington doesn’t have a state income tax. Living in the Evergreen State as a resident of San Juan County for more than six months a year can save up to 13.3-percent for Californians. That retained income can help finance personal lifestyle pursuits like a yacht, world travel or investment in the next Seattle-area start up.
Getting to the San Juan Islands is as easy as it is beautiful. Regular car ferry service is offered from the mainland port of Anacortes; Kenmore Air flights via seaplane or wheeled aircraft depart regularly from Boeing Field – the flights are about an hour and make for quick commutes during the workweek. Private planes are frequent at local island airports and larger private jets and commercial flights can land in Bellingham International Airport with quick transfer to the San Juan Islands. Many families prefer to commute by private yachts; after all, they can cast off from their homes on Lake Washington and Lake Union, transfer to Puget Sound via the Ballard Locks and arrive in the San Juan Islands within a few hours.
“As the Seattle area prospers, it’s easy to imagine the continued discovery and increasing demand for homeownership in the San Juan Islands,” adds Jones.
A website has been established at LifeintheSanJuans.com for prospective buyers to learn more about Legacy Homes being offered for sale. And, in celebration of the “Savor the San Juans” promotion continuing through the end of November, newly registered guests will be entered to win a “stay and play” package which includes a seaplane flight for two by Kenmore Air from South Lake Union to Orcas Island with overnight accommodation provided by Rosario Resort.
Check out this showcase of properties for sale in the San Juan Islands and beyond – if a picture is worth a thousand words, a visit will leave you breathless.