Live auctions banned and open houses restricted: How do you view your dream home now?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a directive on auctions and open homes, effective midnight Wednesday 25 March, 2020. Following last nights national cabinet meeting, PM Morrison addressed the media where he confirmed these restrictions are to be set in place in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“In the retail space, auction houses, gathering together in auctions rooms, that can no longer continue,” the PM said. “Real estate auctions and open house inspections, that cannot continue.”

So, what now?

Many people are concerned: should they pull their home from the market? How will buyers view the home before they decide? How do you even buy property if you can’t attend an auction?

Real Estate Institute Australia president Adrian Kelly had one thing to say to buyers and sellers alike: “while it is not business as usual, there are opportunities…there are still ways of conducting inspections and to auction property.”

The property industry is working hard to ensure that potential buyers can still view display suites and available properties, while still ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy during this time. Industry representative are signalling that going forward, there will be two main ways prospective buyers can view display suites or properties themselves: private tours and virtual tours).

Ray White advised WILLIAMS MEDIA that the organisation was moving to 100 per cent digital auctions after Saturday anyway so they have moved up the timeline.

“I think we were ahead of the curve  in a lot of ways as all our 1000 offices were planning for this,” said Ray White Group Managing Director Dan White. “From midnight we’ll be 100 per cent private auctions where there is a digital room set up, streaming over devices and accepting bids over phones or via the digital platforms. In New Zealand last night we had one auction that had 15 phone bidders and a big result.”

“So it’s definitely not all doom and gloom, auctions can still create competition in this new world order, we are very respectful of the physical distance rule.

Mr White said no other restrictions were announced for either property management or sales businesses, subject to other restrictions on physical distancing and hygiene. 

“This is not a shutdown of the industry,” said Mr White, “it is a massive change to the way we do business but…the industry has a lot of tech and is capable to handle the new world.”

Also speaking to WILLIAMS MEDIA, John McGrath, founder of McGrath Estate Agents advised that they are proceeding as planned with most sales, as only some vendors are reassessing their sale process.

“Some appear to be tending towards delaying their auction until the far sides of this situation, whilst many others are happy to continue as planned,” said Mr McGrath.

“There is still very healthy buyer demand and with a reduced amount of listings many vendors are still comfortable proceeding to market. 

Mr McGrath said they weren’t seeing any great change to the way they are doing business: “we are simply shifting from open homes to private appointments and our on-site auctions will become on-line auctions conducted over a technology platform which allows buyers and sellers to participate in an auction from remote locations.”

Private display suites and property tours

This will be the way forward for quite a number of properties, particularly those that are already built. Private tours — consisting of the real estate agent and the buyer (and the buyer’s partner) — will keep the social distancing rules in mind, which is why they are being restricted to two or three people only.

Jo Prince-Gillies, head of Projects in Queensland for McGrath, told us she will be strictly enforcing tours of only one person (or couple) at a time to ensure the best practice protocols for social distancing are enforced.

“It’s a matter of safety and economy,” she said, “we expect that only qualified buyers that genuinely have a need to purchase will enquire during the foreseeable future. That may mean less actual inspections, but [the inspections will be with those] ready to make a purchasing decision.”

For Adam Gray of Space Projects, he expects nothing to change at all.

“We have always done inspection by appointment rather than open homes for projects. We don’t believe open homes give us the opportunity to walk through the project with the buyers and give them the attention they deserve. Hence, we are still completely open for business.”

The private tours will also be available at some off the plan project display suites.

Virtual tours

Virtual tours of properties and display suites will also be the way forward, according to several industry members.

Ms Prince-Gillies advised us that for off the plan projects, McGrath will utilizing virtual walk throughs and creative tools to clearly demonstrate the finished product.

“Items such as virtual walk throughs will have the ability to visually demonstrate the intent for the completed project. We will take the same approach with our completed projects with tours of each room for the varying apartment or townhouse types. Of course that will allow potential purchasers to ‘virtually’ see first hand the properties which will then give them confidence enough to make a time to inspect in order to reaffirm their interest,” she said.

For LJ Hooker Broadbeach Marketing Manager Jodie Muldoon, their projects will have their display suites open for inspection by appointment going forward, but they are working on creating the opportunity for virtual appointments as well. At the Mali display suite on the Gold Coast, sales agent Dean Muldoon will be using a combination of the virtual and inhouse appointments to help potential buyers get a feel for the under-construction project.

Of course, you can also use PropertyMash to find out more about off the plan and new projects throughout Queensland and the ACT. We provide in-depth reviews so you can get all the information you need on a project before you decide to see a display suite at all!

With these measures in place, people will still be able to buy their dream homes in a safe and healthy manner. The property industry is adapting quickly to this brave new world, and we have no doubt that they will rise to meet the task.

Written: 31 March 2020, Updated: 6 April 2020

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