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Open for inspections, auctions are back to COVID-normal in Melbourne as restrictions ease

ASSA | 2020-12-09 11:15:00

Open for inspections and auctions are back to “COVID-normal” after the Victorian government announced the coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted.

There are no longer any restrictions on the number of people who can attend public auctions, and open for inspections can be held without the need for private appointments.

Real estate agents will still need to adhere to the COVID-19-safe rule of having one person per two square metres in a home where they collect buyer details digitally, or one person per four square metres for those collecting them via pen and paper.

Real estate offices will also be able to open under the relaxed restrictions announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday.

Before the announcement, only 20 people were allowed at private in-person inspections and only 50 people at a public auctions held outside a property.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria welcomed the news, after clarifying with the government how the new rules would change the way agencies conduct business.

“It is really exciting,” REIV president Leah Calnan told Domain. 

While agents would embrace the new rules, Ms Calnan said there would still be some who would continue to hold private in-person inspections to ensure the COVID-19-safe rules could be met.

“I think there is a portion of real estate agents who will still utilise private inspections and technology at auctions,” she said.

Ms Calnan said agents would also look to continue using online auctions as part of their campaigns to allow more people to attend an auction from regional Victoria and interstate from the comfort of their own homes.

“I’m confident we’ll see the hybrid approach of using online and public auctions together continue,” Ms Calnan said. “It means people can attend an auction from regional Victoria and sit and watch from home and vice versa.”

The new rules bring an end to a number of restrictions which were placed on the real estate market in Melbourne for most of 2020.

In March, public auctions were banned and private, in-person-only inspections introduced, in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Auctions were held online only, and clearance rates plummeted to their lowest point recorded, down to 29.7 per cent, in April.

In May the restrictions were eased, allowing 10 people to attend public auctions but in July, as coronavirus case numbers rose across the city, the bans were reintroduced.

Bans were also put in place on private inspections of properties in August, allowing online inspections only, which forced the market into hiatus.

In October, the bans were again lifted, with clearance rates and auction numbers returning to more normal levels – around 66.9 per cent in November.

Hodges chief executive Carmel Kellett said agents were welcoming the news across the state.

“In Victoria, in Melbourne and across Geelong, we’ve seen a very resilient market,” Ms Kellett said. “The bounce-back has been significantly greater than we expected.”

She said the lifting of the ban on public inspections would also make the job easier for agents who had been juggling a number of private inspections.

“We’re expecting to see buyer activity roll into Christmas and the Christmas break especially, because people are not having their usual holidays [with an overseas trip],” Ms Kellett said.

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