Sweeping changes for real estate after coronavirus restrictions

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Auctions in Brisbane suburbs were expected to be conducted with live streams and phone bidding as well as strict social distancing and hygiene rules on the ground.

The way Australians buy and sell their homes changed overnight, with group onsite auctions and open homes now banned by the Prime Minister as part of measures to flatten the COVID19 curve. Here’s what’s going to happen now.

Fresh off the back of government calls for social distancing to become the norm nationwide, real estate industry peak bodies had braced for bans on group activities within the market, with major agencies also lobbying for the property sector to be allowed to operate under the new restrictions as an “essential service”.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night named inroom and onsite auctions and open for inspections among the list of activities that would be banned from midnight tonight as part of measures to control the spread of COVID19.

First to respond last night was one of the country’s biggest agencies, the Ray White Group which sells one in eight houses in Australia and New Zealand.

Ray White Group managing director Dan White said in a statement that “it appears the scope of new business operating practices the group proposed earlier (Tuesday) to support the flattening of the COVID-19 infection curve has been endorsed as appropriate”.

‘No other restrictions were announced for either property management or sales businesses, subject to other restrictions on physical distancing and hygiene,” he said.

“The key message to take away is that all real estate onsite and in room auctions and open house inspections will be cancelled as of Wednesday night, but our members will still be able to host virtual property tours, private inspections and online/digital auctions, as we have been encouraging.”

He said the industry would take heart from the PM’s statement that ‘all workers in the economy are essential’.

“We will carefully adhere to the latest restrictions,” Mr White said, which would provide “some challenges”, but were “necessary to face the current crisis”

He said many Australians relied on agents “to support them in renting, buying, selling and managing their homes. We are well prepared to do this”.

The PM’s announcement follows an early Tuesday call by the Real Estate Institute of Australia for significant changes to be made to the way all agencies conducted their business. “Past practice with open homes and public auctions needs to cease,” REIA President Adrian Kelly warned earlier in the day.

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Social distancing at work during an auction last weekend. Picture: Tim Carrafa

“One-on-one private inspections by appointment must become the norm coupled with the appropriate safeguards as recommended by health authorities.”

“With regard to public auctions, these can still occur via telephone bidding or by using one of the many online auction platforms available. We need to show some initiative and resourcefulness at this time.”

He said, “the sooner we all do what needs to be done, the sooner we can return to a more normal real estate market”.

Mr Kelly told The Courier-Mail that many of the measures were already under way across the bigger franchises.

“This has been talked about for a number of weeks now. I know that a lot of the larger franchise groups are a long way down the track with this, but we needed to get the message out to some of the smaller businesses that they need to get this.”

Mr White said his network of 1000 offices were ready for the shift.

“We have adapted very quickly to the new physical distancing requirements and we use technology to show, and then sell, properties without the need for physical contact.”

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Among the first auctions this Saturday in Brisbane is 51 Primrose Street, Grange, which goes under the hammer at 9am. Details here

“Our tenants need to know they can still talk to us, that we’ll still be working for them even when we may be doing so remotely.”

He said millions of residential and commercial tenants “will also need support during this time, whether it be for routine maintenance requests or for the more serious matters that will result from widespread financial hardship”.

He said “the property market is continuing to yield high clearance rates and it’s clear that many Australians still have a strong need to buy and sell property, regardless of the situation,”.

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33 Olivia Ave, Salisbury, is one of two properties that kick off Brisbane’s weekend auctions this Saturday at 9am. Details here

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