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Real estate industry leaders react to Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown

Barry Plant executive director Mike McCarthy believes, while the industry has been resilient during the tough lockdown conditions, the new changes are very welcome as buyers and sellers alike are becoming increasing frustrated with the limitations.

“We’ve shown as an industry, and certainly as a company, that we can meet the demand of buyers and sellers with one-on-one inspections,” Mr McCarthy said, before noting it was still a fairly inefficient method.

“I hate to use the word ‘grateful’ but I think the government has at last recognised real estate is an essential service here in Victoria. That’s step one, which is great.

“The next step is really around being able to do more than one-on-one inspections. But that’s not going to come until we get at least 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and more people at live auctions.”

Mr McCarthy noted inspections were the more prevalent issue, with much of Victoria’s population and the real estate industry itself being receptive to online auctions.

“It’s not ideal but I think the public have embraced streamed auctions and they have faith in that. We’ve seen tremendous auction results, even during lockdown. That’s not as big of a concern,” he said.

However, Mr McCarthy pointed out there was still a lot of confusion regarding related services, including photography, floor plans, videography and more.

“There is conflicting information on that at the moment. There’s one roadmap, which is Premier Dan Andrews’ and they’re silent on that issue with state directions. And then there’s the national roadmap which says which says you can’t resume those sort of services until the 26 October,” Mr McCarthy said.

“So we’re trying to seek clarification on that at the moment. A lot of agencies have just assumed you can just go and do photography but we’re not sure at the moment, it’s very confusing right now.”

The roadmap currently indicated when 70 per cent of eligible Victorians are double vaccinated, Melbourne’s lockdown would end, and on-site, outdoor auctions could go ahead with as many as 50 fully vaccinated attendees.

However, Mr McCarthy noted there would be resistance from people who did not want to get vaccinated.

“The unanswered question is what happens to people who are not vaccinated yet, how do they inspect property? What’s the process for that?” Mr McCarthy asked.

“We can’t effectively lock unvaccinated people out of being able to buy a home and provide shelter for their families. It’s a really interesting question that’s going to have to be dealt with. We’re just not sure yet.

“I think it’s a broader societal issue that’s going to impact a lot of people. Real estate agents, people behind the bar, wherever they might be, they’re effectively going to be the police on checking whether people are double vaccinated, that will throw up a lot of challenges right across the state.”

Mr McCarthy said Barry Plant was supportive of the vaccination rollouts.

“We certainly acknowledge and respect everybody’s right to choose whether or not to have a vaccine, but we certainly encourage anybody who is not completely opposed to it or are just sitting on the fence to get medical advice about getting it done. We’re very encouraging of it,” Mr McCarthy said.

“I think the broader issue for us is we’re a franchise operation. Each office is individually owned and operated by franchisees. They will each need to decide how they determine how they approach it.

“I think it’s going to become very self-selecting in a sense, because you’ll get some vendors saying ‘are you vaccinated? Or you cannot do an appraisal on my property’.”

Buyers have already started rushing to inspect

Marshall White Boroondara director James Tostevin agreed, explaining the market was too strong to be impacted by the potential loss of buyers who decided not to get vaccinated.

“Our CEO, Simon Jovanovic, said last week that ‘people are going to live a very quiet existence if they’re not willing to get the vaccination,” Mr Tostevin said.

“The way things are going with the strength of the market, with the momentum that we have, the inquiry numbers, the inspection numbers already on the weekend, I don’t think it’s going to hurt us.”

According to REA, buyer demand in Victoria surged over the weekend with requisitions for inspections in Victoria increasing by 382 per cent this week, compared to last. week

Director of Economic Research at REA Group, Cameron Kusher, explained Melbourne sellers have been apprehensive to list properties during the current lockdown, but buyer demand has not dampened.

“The surge in requests for inspections in Victoria shows that there’s been no shortage of demand from buyers, despite the lengthy lockdown,” Mr Kusher said.

It’s likely many sellers had been holding off listing their properties for sale until at least one-on-one inspections were allowed. Now private inspections are back on, we expect there will be a significant increase in the number of properties listed for sale over the coming days and weeks.

“As we’ve seen in NSW, the ability to inspect a property allows transactions to continue to occur and results in a more robust housing market.”

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Jessamy Tredinnick

Jessamy Tredinnick was the news journalist for Elite Agent Magazine from June 2021 - October 2021. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email