As of midnight, real estate agents in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will be allowed to arrange building inspections, energy efficiency rating (EER) reports and photography/videography.
Since 12 August, the ACT real estate industry has not been able to bring any new properties to market, but some restrictions are set to ease on Saturday.
Real Estate Institute of ACT (REIACT) President Hannah Gill said the new conditions were “going to be a lot better” for the industry.
“Today’s announcement is a huge win for the industry. We’re really pleased… it will basically allow our industry to keep moving,” Ms Gill told Elite Agent just hours before the restrictions eased.
“The restrictions easing that we’ve heard today are significant because we can take properties to market, so that’s a really important factor from a supply perspective.
“As of Wednesday, of our membership base, there were 524 properties waiting to hit the market. If you take our median house price into account, that’s around $379 million not yet on our market.
“The challenge is all providers, such as building inspectors and photography, they’ve all got a month or two of backlog now. So we’re not going to see 500 properties hit the market straight away just because the backlog will take time to clear.”
The most significant “catch up” process for the industry is settlements. Canberra does not have digital settlement options, such as PEXA.
“It’s still very much traditional settlements,” Ms Gill said, explaining at present the settlements office is only settling properties where a stakeholder is at risk of homelessness.
“It’s all well and good now that we can get properties to market. It’s just the challenge of being able to settle them,” Ms Gill said.
“The Government is obviously trying to limit human interaction so they’re saying the only settlements that will be going through are the ones where the settlements mean, if they don’t, someone will end up homeless.
Ms Gill said that had significant flow-on effects for investment properties, with limited stock likely to come to market.
“Our vacancy rate in Canberra was 0.7 per cent pre-lockdown. So if we don’t see a new supply of investment properties coming onto the market, that’s going to become a very big problem very quickly.”
For residential investors, landlords and tenants, that means a lot is still up in the air, as there is no emergency declaration in place yet and JobKeeper is not available.
“In the previous lockdown we had here, we had a declaration in place for how they treat tenants who are COVID impacted. This time those haven’t been applied but it will if this lockdown extends,” Ms Gill said.
“The upside is we’ve done it before. We’ve had practice. The real downside is this time we don’t have JobKeeper for these tenants and potentially the investors who are impacted. That’s a real challenge.
“In addition to that, there are a lot of situations where those tenants are still in debt with repayments plans and things like that. Or there are circumstances where landlords offered discounts last time but then this time, they aren’t financially able to.
“There’s definitely a bit of a hangover from the last lockdown. We need settlements to continue to happen. Not just for certain purchaser types, it has to be the entire market.”
Ms Gill added overall, the Government has been engaging well with REIACT and has taken the concerns of the real estate industry into consideration.
“We appreciate the enormity of their challenges and how many industries they’re looking after. But I think what’s really pleasing is they’re listening to the feedback and they’re understanding the consequences of having that healthy supply of property,” Ms Gill said.
“We’re focused mainly on sales right now but whether it is sales or rentals, we need constant supply in the market.”
For local agents, Ms Gill urged them to continue following the rules.
“The Government are being strong on not wanting to see people finding loopholes. If they do, they’re going to shut us straight back down,” she said.
From midnight, the ACT real estate industry can:
1. Arrange a building inspection.
2. Arrange an energy efficiency rating (EER) report.
3. Arrange photography and videography of vacant or empty properties.
4. Settlements; if a relevant stakeholder may become homeless if settlement does not occur.
What the real estate industry is still unable to do:
1. One-to-one inspections. All inspections have to be a pre-recorded virtual tour at this stage
2. Property styling.
3. Live virtual tours. The Government is still trying to reduce movement around Canberra, so they only want agents to go to a property once, not continue to go back and forth.
4. Settlements for all other property types and stakeholders.