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Melbourne real estate agents scramble to move weekend auctions online as city goes into lockdown

ASSA | 2021-02-12 17:56:31

Real estate agents across Melbourne are scrambling to move hundreds of public auctions online after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Friday afternoon that the state would enter a five-day lockdown from midnight.

On-site public auctions and property inspections will be banned as part of the state-wide lockdown, which will run from 11.59pm Friday until 11.59pm on Wednesday.

There were 678 auctions scheduled across the city for Saturday, and while real estate agents say they are confident most will go ahead online, they expect some properties to be withdrawn and rescheduled for a later date.

Other agents have brought forward plans to sell under the hammer, hastily rescheduling auctions planned for Saturday to Friday night.

Ray White Victoria and Tasmania chief executive Stephen Dullens expected almost 100 auctions scheduled with the group to go ahead online on Saturday.

“Some of them were being held online anyway, and our teams are really well-equipped to be able to do them online now,” he said. “In fact, we are still calling at least 100 auctions a month online because many of our vendors are gravitating towards that option anyway.”

“No doubt, there will be some vendors who will want to hold off, and at the end of the day it is up to the vendor, but our strong recommendation will be to carry on online. The market is super strong at the moment, and we don’t see having to move an auction to online as being a reason not to hold an auction at all,” he said.

Last weekend, Melbourne had 523 scheduled auctions and recorded a preliminary clearance rate of 78.4 per cent. By Thursday, the clearance rate had been revised down to 74.7 per cent, following the collection of further results.

The previous weekend, Melbourne’s auction market recorded its highest preliminary clearance rate since 2015, according to Domain data, with 81.9 per cent of properties sold under auction conditions. This was later revised down to 79.1 per cent.

Marshall White Stonnington director and auctioneer John Bongiorno said news of the lockdown had caused added anxiety for some vendors, but most of the agency’s auctions would be held virtually, rather than withdrawn or postponed.

“After what happened last year, this is nothing new for us and we can adjust to online pretty quickly,” he said. “And the market, generally speaking, is also au fait with how it all works online now.”

However, he said some auctions scheduled for next weekend could be postponed by a week due to the ban on inspections.

“Looking forward, I think any properties where we’ve had strong interest, we will go ahead with those. But there might be some campaigns that we need to push out a week,” he said.

Domain senior research analyst Nicola Powell said the number of auctions scheduled for this weekend was slightly higher than for the same weekend last year, reflecting pent up buyer and seller demand and renewed confidence among vendors.

She did not expect large numbers of properties to be withdrawn from auction if the lockdown was limited to five days.

“We’re actually seeing a lot of properties selling prior to auction at the moment anyway. So some of these properties due to go to auction might have already found a buyer… some might simply pivot to online and then you might have some that are pushed back to later next week or next weekend,” she said.

“Melbourne is very well versed in transacting properties online and know how to deal with this. They’ve done it before. What would concern me more is if the lockdown was extended over multiple weeks and that’s when we could start to see auctions being withdrawn and vendors deciding to hold off,” she said.

Despite the heavy impact on Melbourne’s property market from two lockdowns last year, in which public auctions were banned from August to October, the city’s median house price hit a record high of $936,073 in the December quarter.

House prices rose by an impressive 5.3 per cent in the last three months of 2020, with pent up demand from buyers pushing prices to record highs once restrictions eased.

Unit prices also leapt by 4.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2020 – to a median of $569,677 – $14,000 higher than the record set in 2019, Domain’s House Price Report for the December quarter revealed.