The NSW government has announced a relaxation of restrictions around auctions and open homes in the state, with property inspections and on-site auctions to recommence this weekend.
In a statement, the NSW government said that agents and vendors will be able to hold traditional property inspections and on-site auctions this weekend (while following social distancing rules), following the six-week limited shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is expected that property inspections will take place from Saturday, 9 May, pending final publication of the new Public Health Order.
In March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a crackdown on public auctions and open house inspections, as part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Australia. Private appointments for inspections were not banned.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the relaxation of restrictions was an important step in NSW and demonstrated the ongoing success in limiting the spread of COVID-19. However, they warned against complacency.
Mr Hazzard said these measures were vital to ensure the safety of customers, property owners and real estate staff as face-to-face open home inspections and on-site auctions recommenced.
“The community has done an outstanding job in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and we need to make sure we continue to exercise vigilance and care,” he said.
“Real estate agents should limit the number of people viewing a property and attending an auction, follow stringent cleaning and safety guidelines, ensure clients do not touch surfaces and always have hand sanitiser available.”
Commenting on the relaxation of restrictions, Mr Perrottet said: “The real estate industry has been adaptable in transitioning to online auctions, property inspections by appointment or online.
“Now, as we make the move back to a more normal mode of operation, we must ensure safety measures, such as social distancing, remain a key part of the process.”
While Mr Perrottet urged a common-sense approach across the real estate industry, he also advised that only serious home buyers should attend open home inspections and on-site auctions.
“If people are not genuinely in the market for a new home, now is not the time to be having a look through their neighbour’s house,” he said.
Real estate agents are being asked to follow the following health guidelines when they recommence inspections and on-site auctions, including:
- Ensuring physical distancing of greater than 1.5 metres is maintained;
- Promoting good hygiene on premises and at auctions, including hand sanitiser;
- Using digital platforms where possible to discourage physical contact;
- Keeping detailed contact records of people attending open homes and auctions;
- Ensuring people with any symptoms of illness do not attend a property;
- Managing the number of people entering small spaces;
- Considering extended times for open house viewings and inspections;
- Use outdoor venues for auctions where possible; and
- If auctions are held indoors, using large venues where physical distancing between household groups of one person per 4 square metres is possible.
The Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) welcomed the state government’s decision to remove some of the restrictions imposed on agents when showing and auctioning properties.
REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said: “Large supermarkets, home improvement shops and public transport all have people congregating in an environment not dissimilar to what is proposed for the property services industry, so we welcome the relaxation of these restrictions.”
“The property industry is fully cognisant of its obligations to ensure social distancing, the use of sanitising procedures and the like to protect the community. Accordingly, the property services industry acknowledges and embraces its obligation to follow the procedures and processes prescribed by government to protect the community.”
He continued: “The government has clearly demonstrated that the health and safety of the community is its primary obligation. While discharging that obligation, the economy was put into hibernation.
“Now that systems have been developed and deployed to protect the community, the government has clearly turned its attention to slowly reigniting the economy. The property industry as the single biggest industry in NSW is the logical place to start.
“Consistent with the mantra ‘we are all in this together’, the REINSW and its members will do whatever is required to support the government and protect consumers,” Mr McKibbin concluded.
Recent data from CoreLogic have suggested that while Australian housing values held strong throughout April, there has been a drop in market activity amid the restrictions placed on the residential sales market to contain the spread of COVID-19.
National housing values increased 0.3 per cent in April, but this marked the smallest figure for month-on-month growth recorded since June 2019, when the index fell 0.2 per cent.
Auction volumes and clearance rates have remained on the lower side due to the social distancing measures, with just 590 homes going to auction for the week of 3 May.
In the corresponding period last year, 1,479 homes were taken to auction with a clearance rate of 52.7 per cent.
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.