INDUSTRY NEWSNationalNEWS

Auctions and open homes can be held across NSW

Freedom Day arrived in NSW yesterday with some good news from the State Government in that on-site auctions and open homes can take place statewide.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Andrews said there was currently no restrictions on where a live auction or open home could be held.

“The Public Health order notes that from 11 October there will not be any ‘stay at home’ areas,” he said.

“This means the whole state of NSW will be classified as ‘the general area’.

“If an area is subsequently declared a ‘stay at home’ area, then Part 3 – Directions to applying to ‘stay at home’ areas will apply, which includes restrictions on property inspections and auctions.”

Mr Anderson also confirmed agents and buyers did not need to be fully vaccinated to attend an on-site auction or an open home.

“There are no vaccination restrictions on who can inspect a property for sale or lease or attend an auction for real estate,” he said.

“However, vaccination remains the key to reopening our state in a COVID-safe way and everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they can.”

Mr Anderson said a COVID-19 Safety Plan must be developed and implemented for a sale or leasing event for real estate by the agent conducting the event.

If inside, the one person per four square metres rule must be followed and outside the one person per two square metre ratio applies.

Mask are requires for everyone over 12 years of age inside.

The clarifications follow a confusing few days for the sector, with the Real Estate Institute Agency of NSW battling to get clear direction from the government after an incorrect COVID Safety Plan was provided.

You can read our earlier coverage below …

Sunday 10 October (5pm)

It’s been a befuddling 48 hours for the NSW real estate industry, with the State Government now rewriting the COVID Safety Plan after mistakenly providing one that said agents and buyers had to be double-vaccinated to attend open homes.

In a Facebook livestream on the Real Estate Institute of NSW page at 4pm Sunday, just eight hours before ‘Freedom Day’, Institute CEO Tim McKibbin and president Leanne Pilkington said it had been hard work over the previous two days to seek clear, correct information from the government.

Mr McKibbin said it was now clear that agents and buyers did not have to be fully vaccinated to attend open homes or on-site auctions, which are allowed from Monday 11 October, but they did need to be to attend in-room auctions.

“So Friday we started out saying agents didn’t have to have big signs up and stop unvaccinated people coming into their opens,” he said.

“Friday, late afternoon, we got given the COVID Safety Plan, that said you did have to do that.

“Then yesterday and today we’ve been bouncing back and forth with government trying to get them to explain why the public health order doesn’t require it but the COVID Safety Plan does require it.

“After much pushing and pulling, they’ve now come back and said, and I quote, ‘that we inadvertently’, unquote, captured auctions (and opens) and we didn’t mean to,” Mr McKibbin said.

“But you’ve got to be fully vaccinated to go to an auction house.”

Ms Pilkington said the NSW Government was going to rewrite the COVID Safety Plan.

“It is going to allow unvaccinated people to go through open homes, and it is going to allow unvaccinated real estate agents to be at open homes, we assume.”

Mr McKibbin said the Institute was yet to see the rewritten COVID Safety Plan and the government hadn’t given an indication of when it would be finished.

“They’ve got to draft it and then they’ve got to send it to us and we’ve got to read it,” he said.

“This is so, so ridiculous… I’m getting calls, you’re getting calls from people saying, ‘What is going on?’

“It is actually tough enough for people in the field to actually understand what their obligations are and to implement their obligations when they’re given 15 minutes to do it, and then additional to that they’re changing things every 12 hours.”

Mr McKibbin said they’d also sought clarification about whether there would be any ‘stay at home’ areas where on-site auctions could not take place.

On-site auctions are allowed to be conducted from Monday, 11 October, in ‘the general area’, but not in ‘stay at home’ areas.

“We’ve said to them, ‘Are we going to be having any ‘stay at home areas’, could you tell us?” Mr McKibbin said.

“It’s 4pm, we’ve got eight hours before it’s going to be tomorrow and we don’t know.”

Ms Pilkington said she was taking an optimistic approach in assuming there may not be any ‘stay at home’ areas, but conceded that there could be and it was frustrating not to have clarity on that issue.

“Everyone’s just got to be responsible enough to listen to the news themselves, and find out if there are any ‘stay at home areas’ declared,” she said

“That means open homes are no longer able to be held.

“If you are in a ‘general area’, yes, you can do opens and no people do not have to be vaccinated.”

During the livestream agents and agency owners were messaging in questions including whether or not they’d need to redo their own COVID Safety Plans and whether or not vendors had to be fully vaccinated in order for an agent to do an appraisal.

Mr McKibbin said he believed agencies would need to redo their safety plans once the government issued its rewritten plan and his “best guess” was that a vendor did not need to be vaccinated to get an appraisal if the agent was happy with that.

“I want to see the documents that the government says, ‘This is now the one you can rely on’,” he said.

On the issue of in-room auctions, Mr McKibbin said attendees would need to be double-vaccinated.

“All of the discussions we’ve had with government back and forward, that’s been consistent. They’ve said that is going to remain,” he said.

Mr McKibbin said the Institute would keep seeking information and clarity and would come back to share new information when it became available. In the meantime he urged agents to check the REINSW website for updates.

Elite Agent has contacted Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Andrews, for comment.

Saturday, 9 October (5pm)

Agents and buyers need to be double-vaccinated to attend open homes

Open homes will return across NSW from Monday 11 October, but agents will have to police buyers’ vaccination status, in a move the Real Estate Institute of NSW has labelled “stupidity”.

Auctions are also back, but confusion on exactly where they can go ahead still reigns.

Speaking on a livestream on the REINSW’s Facebook page on Saturday 9 October, chief executive officer Tim McKibbin and president Leanne Pilkinton shared with agents that the NSW Government had only provided them with a new COVID Safety Plan late on Friday.

“That COVID Safety Plan requires us to now ensure people are double-vaccinated when they come to opens,” Mr McKibbin said.

When Ms Pilkington asked whether or not agents had to be double-vaccinated in order to conduct an open home, Mr McKibbin said he believed they did.

“I think that anybody who goes onto the premises has to be double-vaccinated, and the obligation to do that, to ensure that’s happening, is on the agent,” he said.

“You will need to have signage at the premises saying you can’t get in unless you’re double-vaccinated, you need to have that in your marketing before the open, and you will need to do things like make sure that you see the green tick on people’s phones and you have to record the people attending with the QR code and those sorts of things.

“The words used are ‘take reasonable steps to ensure’. That’s what they’re saying.”

A frustrated Mr McKibbin said he’d spent all day making sense of the public health orders and the COVID Safety Plan.

“Outside of the stupidity of this, the insanity of it is they dropped it on us yesterday (Friday),” he said.

Ms Pilkington added that the government had not consulted the REINSW.

She said she had contacted Fair Trading and had been told agents did not have to turn unvaccinated people away from open homes, but the COVID Safety Plan, which the public health orders state must be followed, clearly contradicted that.

Mr McKibbin said he’d discuss the issue of agents needing to be double-vaccinated with The Real Estate Employer’s Federation Brian Wilcox, but he believed the answer was ‘yes’.

“The way I read it, it says anyone who comes onto the premises, and I think anybody is anybody, whether you are there to inspect the property, or whether you’re going in there as a member of the team, as staff.”

Ms Pilkington also raised the issue of whether this could impact a vendor’s ability to get the best price for their property, asking if vendors were ok with unvaccinated people attending their property could they then attend?

But Mr McKibbin said they couldn’t.

“They can’t go through the property unless they are fully vaccinated,” he said.

He said the only scenario that he still had a slight question over was one-on-one inspections, but even then he said he was 90 per cent sure the same requirements would apply.

“We’ve been completely blindsided by this,” Mr McKibbin said.

Reading further from the COVID Safety Plan, Mr McKibbin said agents were also being asked to “consider consulting relevant experts such as building owners or facility managers, ventilation engineers, and industrial or occupational hygienists to optimise indoor ventilation”.

“So I’m about to go and have an open for 10 Smith Street… and I’ve got to (consider) go and get a ventilation engineer,” Mr McKibbin said.

At this stage it’s still unclear whether these requirements will apply at auctions.

Ms Pilkington also asked whether tenants would need to be double-vaccinated to attend open homes at rental properties.

“It says you can’t, so you can’t,” Mr McKibbin said.

On the issue of live auctions, Mr McKibbin and Ms Pilkington said they could go ahead in ‘the general area’ but not in the ‘stay at home area’.

“Here we are, Saturday afternoon, and we don’t know what the ‘stay at home’ areas are,” Mr McKibbin said.

Ms Pilkington said there may not be any ‘stay at home’ areas, but it was important to get confirmation either way.

She said she and Mr McKibbin would be on the phone seeking clarification on all of the issues.

“We’re going to go back to every person that we know, including the minister and asked for urgent clarification,” she said.

If Mr McKibbin and Ms Pilkington find out any new information they will share it with the industry on another Facebook Live at 4pm Sunday, 10 October.

Elite Agent has contacted Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Andrews, for comment.

Friday, 8 October (4pm)

Real Estate Roadmap Confusion

Confusion reigns in the NSW real estate industry in the lead-up to the state starting to reopen from Monday 11 October.

The NSW Government is yet to let agents know what this means for them and, specifically, if on-site auctions and open homes can recommence.

The state hit its 70 per cent double-dose vaccination target on Wednesday and on Thursday morning Real Estate Institute of NSW President Leanne Pilkington said they didn’t know whether auction and open home restrictions would be eased or where.

“The public health order that we saw over the weekend, basically indicated that you could do opens and auctions if you are in ‘the general area’,” Ms Pilkington said on Thursday.

“But that you cannot do them if you are in the ‘stay at home’ area. 

“What they have not yet done is define the ‘stay at home’ area.”

Ms Pilkington, who is also the chief executive officer of Laing+Simmons, said the REINSW had been actively seeking answers from NSW Health and NSW Fair Trading, without success.

“The answer is they don’t know,” she said.

“I think what’s probably going to happen is in the next few days, they will define what those ‘stay at home’ areas are, if there are any.

“It may be that there are no ‘stay at home’ areas, and everything’s considered a ‘general area’. Or it may be that it’s only areas that have very high vaccination rates, or no cases that are ‘general areas’ and the rest is ‘stay at home’.”

Under the NSW Roadmap out of Lockdown all freedoms at 70 and 80 per cent are for fully vaccinated people only, but Ms Pilkington said the REINSW was also yet to see anything requiring agents to check attendees’ vaccination status.

“There’s nothing that we’ve seen that indicates that we have to check the vaccination status of anybody that we’re showing property to,” Ms Pilkington said.

“We’ve gone to NSW Health and Fair Trading, saying, ‘This is what we assume and this is what we’re telling people. So please confirm’.” 

Elite Agent has contacted the NSW Government multiple times to clarify what real estate agents will and will not be able to do come Monday, but are yet to receive a response.

Ms Pilkington said one slice of clear, good news was that principals and agents who lived in previously locked down LGAs would be able to head into the office from Monday.

“That’s great news,” she said. 

“I’ve got business owners that can’t drive to their office at the moment because they live in a locked down LGA and they can’t leave their LGA.”

Other updated freedoms NSW residents will have from Monday include:

  • 10 visitors (not including children 12 and under) allowed in the home if all people are vaccinated.
  • Up to 30 people can gather outdoors.
  • Masks are no longer required outdoors, except for front-of-house hospitality staff.
  • At venues and businesses: one person per four square metres, with a cap of five clients at hairdressers and salons.
  • Employees to work from home where possible.
  • Kinder, Year 1 and Year 12 return to class on October 18. Other years on October 25.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the common-sense changes would help life to return to normal as soon as possible.

“Vaccinations are the key to life returning to normal and the changes today will help family and friends reconnect, get kids back to school and get businesses back up and running sooner,” he said.

Deputy Premier Paul Toole said workers in regional areas who have received one vaccination dose will be permitted to return to their workplace from October 11 and will be given a grace period until November 1 to receive their second dose.

“This move ensures we get businesses in the regions re-open and local economies buzzing again,” he said.

“It’s about ensuring we make this a roadmap that works for everyone.”

REGIONAL NSW

Regional areas in lockdown are subject to the same restrictions as Sydney.

In other areas, home inspections and on-site auctions can go ahead subject to indoor and outdoor density limits of one person per four square metres indoors and one person per two square metres outdoors.

VICTORIA

In locked down areas home inspections are by private appointment and restricted to one household at a time, with the agent outdoors. Occupants cannot be home.

In other areas, home inspections are by private appointment with a maximum of 10 people, plus the agent.

Auctions are banned in locked down areas, but permitted with up to 10 people in areas not locked down.

Last month Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews outlined his state’s roadmap out of lockdown, with on-site, outdoor, auctions with up to 50 fully-vaccinated attendees, to restart once 70 per cent of Victorians are double-dosed.

That target is expected to be hit about October 26.

The regional Victorian caps will rise to 30 fully vaccinated people indoors and 100 fully vaccinated attendees outdoors once 70 per cent of Victorians have had both jabs.

Once Victoria hits a double-dose vaccination rate of 80 per cent, Melbourne and regional Victoria’s restrictions will be identical.

This is expected to be on or about November 5.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Home inspections and live auctions can take place, with agents encouraged to maintain social distancing and masks where social distancing isn’t possible.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Open homes and on-site auctions are allowed, with people required to check-in via the Territory Check-in App.

People are encouraged to practice social distancing from people they don’t live with.

QUEENSLAND

Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Townsville and Palm Island

Auctions and open homes can go ahead with one person per four square metres indoors and one person per two square metres outdoors.

If the space is less than 200 square metres then the one person per two square metres rule applies, with a cap of 50 people.

The rest of Queensland

Open homes permitted with one person per two square metres indoors and masks are encouraged where social distancing is not possible.

However masks are required in Ipswich, Redlands, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Sunshine Coast and Noosa if you cannot stay 1.5m away from others.

There are no density restrictions for outside auctions, but those indoors must follow the one person per two square metres rule. Masks are encouraged where social distancing isn’t possible.

THE ACT

Inspections permitted by private appointment and restricted to one agent and one other person at a time.

Only online auctions are allowed.

One person can attend a property for filming or photography purposes if no one else is there.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Open homes and auctions can go ahead with one person per two square metres and masks being worn where social distancing is not possible.

TASMANIA

Open homes and auctions can go ahead with up to 250 people per undivided indoor space or 1000 people outdoors, including staff and children. The total number of people at a home must not go over one person
per two square metres.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.