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San Juan Islands Real Estate: San Juan and Friday Harbor, Orcas and Eastsound, Lopez Island, Shaw Island and the Outer San Juan Islands

Imagine driving 375 miles, about halfway from New York to Chicago, and getting $1,000 - $4,000 for every foot you traveled. The San Juan Islands are ringed by that much shoreline, with buyers willing to pay that much -- on average -- for their nugget of water-side property. There are over 450 islands in the San Juans however only Lopez Island, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, and San Juan Island ( home of Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor ) have ferry service.

While ridge lines and inland parcels have gained popularity in recent years, shoreline lots have been and continue to be the jewels of the property market in San Juan County.

According to the 1950 U.S. Census, there were three pages of San Juan Island phone numbers in the phone book, compared with six pages of real estate related businesses in the 1999-2000 phone book.

The history of real estate in the San Juans is closely tied to land-use regulations designed to protect the land. Land-use regulations drove up the cost of property because of permits and development standards. The passage of the county Comprehensive Plan in 1979 signaled the change. Property values increased around 1980 and 1981, leveled off until a 1989 to 1991 increase, then leveled off again. The value of land in the county skyrocketed in the 1980s, more than doubling between 1984 and 1994. The value of property in 1983 for 1984 taxes was $897 million. In 1994, the value was $2.08 billion.

In the 1900's the San Juan Islands became infested with an exotic invasive European rabbit. The rabbits came from a careless care of pet rabbits on Smith Island. It is unknown how they were able to transport themselves from Smith to San Juan Island.

Snow is infrequent in winter except for the higher elevations, but the islands are subject to high winds at times—those from the northeast sometimes bring brief periods of freezing and Arctic-like windchills.

Summertime high temperatures are around 70 °F (21 °C) while average wintertime lows are in the high thirties and low forties.

The islands get less rain than Seattle due to the rain shadow of Olympic Mountains to the southwest.

The highest point in the islands is Mount Constitution on Orcas Island at almost exactly a half-mile (800 m).

Source: SJ Chamber of Commerce

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