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Auction results highlight Melbourne’s pain

By Tamara Lloyd

The lockdown toll is being felt across the Melbourne auction market, with CoreLogic reporting a clearance rate of 27.3 per cent this week after three of the 14 homes listed for auction at the weekend sold prior, and eight were withdrawn.

Domain had similar figures, reporting a clearance rate of zero per cent after 10 homes were listed for auction, with half withdrawn and just two sold.

Addressing the issue on Sunday, Ray White Victoria and Tasmania CEO Stephen Dullens said with the Melbourne auction market at almost at a complete standstill this weekend, he was left asking ‘why?’

“While businesses from all industries looked to the Victorian Government last Sunday for guidance on what the reopening of Melbourne looked like, real estate, like many industries, was left disappointed,” Mr Dullens said.

“Instead of a gradual opening up from this coming Monday, a six-week extension to the ban on private, one-on-one inspections for potential buyers and tenants was announced.

“This was not what we were expecting, but more importantly, it was not what our customers were expecting.  “We’ve had literally hundreds of customers – sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants – contact us experiencing significant financial and emotional distress on the back of the extended restrictions.”

Among those impacted by the open home uncertainty is the Auffray family of Berwick, who Ray White stated had “$200,000 reasons to be upset with the Andrews Government’s ban on property inspections”.

The family listed their four-bedroom family home at 29 Hobart Ave, Berwick last week with Ray White Berwick Sales Agent Anne Haynes and were devastated there’s no private inspections allowed until the end of October.

“We need to sell our house in lockdown as we purchased a house in early July which we negotiated a very conservative settlement of 27 November 2020,” Mrs Joanne Auffray said, who runs her car broking business from home while home-schooling her two little ones.

“We just managed to get our photos completed before Stage 4 was enforced. We were disappointed but willingly accepted our six weeks in lockdown,” she said.

“Following Sunday’s announcement we discovered we cannot have a potential buyer through our house until late October. This leaves less than 30 days for us to sell and settle our house and in a dire situation.

“We must now hope their house will sell, ‘sight unseen’ and without as much as a building inspector allowed through their property. In the week since the Victorian Government’s decision to extend the lockdown and ban inspections of property in metro Melbourne for a further seven weeks, the leading property group’s sales plummeted 86 per cent, compared to the same week last year.

“We are devastated by this and do not know what to do!? If we cancel our purchase we stand to lose our life savings of $200,000.

“I cannot understand how private inspections are not allowed in homes, with a strict COVID safe plan. To have four months in Victoria when house inspections are not allowed will lead to monumental losses and heartache.”

Ray White said since Sunday, September 6 the network had sold 22 properties in Melbourne across its network of 60 offices that fall under ‘Metropolitan Melbourne Stage 4 Restrictions’. That’s an 86 per cent fall on the same week last year.

In the first week in July, the same network of offices sold 202 properties across metropolitan Melbourne. Regional sales are holding up better at 45 transactions since last Sunday.

The group’s data shows sales listings in metropolitan Melbourne last week fell to 84, down 51 per cent year on year.

Ray White Group Managing Director Dan White said the network was hurting.

“Our members and our customers are in pain. We support the measures the government has taken to suppress the virus to date but the ban on private one-on-one inspections is hurting all Victorians. The single largest impediment to transacting property is the ability of people to see the property,” Mr White said.

“Our franchisees and their clients are struggling and circumstances will not improve if the lockdown continues indefinitely and private one-on-one inspections are not allowed.

“Unfortunately, we have a collection of heart wrenching stories. For many people, the transaction to buy or rent a home is the largest financial transaction they make.

“Many Victorians were waiting for restrictions to ease to move forward and now they simply must buy, must sell or must relocate – their time is up wherever they are, for varying reasons – illness, financial and personal.”

He noted the group supports the belief one-on-one property inspections can be conducted in a highly controlled setting – in a pre-scheduled activity where only a small group of people interact with each other, while still being able to properly observe social distancing and enact effective transmission mitigation (ie sanitisation of surfaces and the use of personal protective equipment).

Cassandra Charlesworth

September 13, 2020

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