By KATRINA CREER
It was once exceptional for a buyer to purchase a home without setting foot inside the property.
But agents are now barely raising an eyebrow at the practice which has become increasingly common during Sydney’s extended lockdown. The trend is likely to continue in early spring with continued high demand and low stock levels.
Cathy Baker, principal of Belle Property Killcare, has been advising clients to come onto the market now rather than wait.
She recently appraised a luxury property on the Central Coast for $4.3m which later sold to a buyer after an online inspection for $5m.
“A lot of buyers are just buying virtually after the FaceTime tour and doing an unconditional (sale) straight away or coming back within 24 hours to get it all sealed,” said Ms Baker, who is a committee member of the REINSW Residential Sales Chapter.
“There is just an abundance of people trying to buy and what is making our job hard is the lack of stock and being able to match them with suitable properties.
“Some people have made impulsive decisions in Sydney to sell and then can’t find something to buy as the market keeps increasing.”
What’s holding back sellers?
REINSW’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim McKibbin, suspects vendors have been waiting for spring as well as an easing of restrictions.
But he believes vendors who have taken their property off the market holding out for ‘better times’ are doing so ‘unjustifiably’ and could be missing an opportunity.
“Vendors may be saying this is not the best time to sell because of travel restrictions, but I just don’t share those views because the data is speaking very loudly,” Mr McKibbin said.
“We have had at least five or six weeks where auction clearance rates have been over 80 percent and while it doesn’t represent the entire market, statistically it is big enough to give us an indication about the strength of the market.”
While demand is forecast to remain strong – also buoyed by a high number of returning expats – listings are expected to sharply increase once lockdown ends.
“If the message can get out to vendors that the lockdown isn’t a bad time to be selling, but in fact a good time, then that will impact things as well. But it would require a big education program,” Mr McKibbin said.
What’s happening now?
REINSW member Mechlenne Douaihy, principal of Merc Real Estate in Sydney’s Hills District, has noticed more vendors using lockdown to prepare for sale.
Confusion over what is permitted under current restrictions has made the task more difficult than in the usual pre-spring lead up. As a result agents are also being called upon to find trades within their LGA to help homes be market ready.
“I think as soon as people start hearing about any leniency of restrictions we will start to see more listings coming onto the market,” Ms Douaihy said.
“I think it will be sooner rather than later, so more likely to be in the middle of spring.”
Nervous sellers are also finding some confidence with off-market campaigns. This either results in a quick sale or a decision to go to auction or private treaty.
Ms Douaihy has been encouraging vendors looking to sell, to do so with a proper campaign.
“Otherwise, they won’t know if they have targeted the whole market to see who really wants it,” she said.
What will be a popular way to sell?
Auction bookings have been picking up, particularly for the month of October, although not yet at the traditional spring market levels.
Leon Axford, a committee member of the REINSW’s Auctioneers Chapter, is uncertain which way the market will go once restrictions are lifted. It may be there will be a huge increase of stock or it will trickle onto the market, keeping agents busy through late December and January.
Strong clearance rates are giving sellers confidence to take action regardless of lockdown. One vendor, who postponed their August auction until it could be conducted in person, is now among Mr Axford’s spring online bookings.
“They want to sell, have seen good results and so they are just getting on and doing it – there isn’t as much hesitation, given we have so many weeks of solid results,” he said.
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