By Clare Quirk – This article first appeared on The Standard
Regional Victorian real estate agents are in a better position to weather the latest wave of COVID-19 restrictions than their city counterparts who have been left in limbo, an expert says.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan said metro real estate agents would be harder hit with stage restrictions compared with a return to stage three restrictions in the regions.
She said until the end of July the state’s property market was very strong.
“Our June quarter figures were confirming that even though there had been an adjustment to the median house price by 3.5 per cent everything was still showing good signs,” she said.
“Regional Victoria were complaining that they didn’t have enough properties to sell and that was the feedback through metro as well.”
But Ms Calnan said the next six weeks would be a challenge and she anticipated there would be low transaction numbers in the metro area in terms of sales and residential leasing.
“Regional Victoria can still operate through stage three restrictions and can still conduct private one on one appointments which is prohibited in metro,” she said.
She said the REIV was working intensely with the state government to get clear guidelines on what metro real estate agents could and couldn’t do in the stage four restrictions.
“We’re 36 hours in from the announcement and we still don’t have any direction or clear guidelines,” she said.
“From a practical point of view we have tenants who are vacating properties, we’re prohibited from working on site and there’s no clear clarification for on site, does it just mean in the office or on site on a property?
“Property managers won’t be able to complete final inspections which will delay the refund of tenants’ bonds, it will delay the commencement of new tenancies that are commencing at the moment and put additional financial stress on those landlords.
“For a six-week period we can’t show prospective tenants through properties, so the financial impact on owners who have vacant properties at the moment is just added.
“When government makes announcements it’s important they have a clear plan and not leave all these voids that they do.
“It just leaves everyone in limbo which adds to people’s angst and additional stresses which they didn’t need at this stage.”
Despite the challenging times Ms Calnan said she was proud of how the industry continued to respond.
“They’ve been agile, I’ve said change – they’ve changed. New directions have come in, they’ve abided by it.
“We know it’s extremely frustrating for everyone. It’s a challenge we all want to get under control.”
Warrnambool Ray White partner Fergus Torpy said the second time around of stage three restrictions would be a bit better.
Mr Torpy said auctions scheduled for later this month may move online and another one maybe done via a private sale.
“We know what we’re in for, to an extent,” he said. “Last time around we didn’t have any auctions.”
realestateview.com.au CEO Toby Balazs said although the next six weeks would be challenging for metro agents, he was optimistic sales would increase once the lock down ended.
“I think prior to stage four there was still a lot of positivity about some spring activity and we believe whilst it’s going to be very challenging over the next six weeks, undoubtedly, we’re cautiously optimistic that will result in a spike in activity post-lockdown period and we’ll have good buyer/seller transaction volumes in the spring,” he said.
“Through COVID-19 it has been tough and the listing volume hasn’t been there, the industry has been very resilient and I think shown a lot of innovation very quickly and responded very quickly to the point where there was still transactions occurring.
“It wasn’t the same listing volumes as normal but there was still good prices being achieved.”
Mr Balazs said the restrictions had also prompted greater interest for property in regional cities.
He said data from realestateview.com.au showed users were spending 20 per cent more on Warrnambool market listings in July compared to January this year.