Earlier this week, the government confirmed that it has cracked down on in-room public auctions and open house inspections. Here’s how some of the nation’s real estate bodies have responded.
On Tuesday, 24 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that from midnight on Wednesday, 25 March, a series of new restrictions are to be applied as part of the government’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 on Australian shores.
“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.”
Following the news, a number of real estate bodies reached out to offer their perspective on the crackdown.
REIA president Adrian Kelly said the real estate body both acknowledges and supports what the government is doing to combat the coronavirus, though stressed that the latest restrictions are “not a shutdown of the real estate industry”.
“While it is not business as usual, there are opportunities for any real estate agent who looks for them, there are still ways of conducting inspections and to auction property. Innovative and flexible agents should make better use of technology,” Mr Kelly said.
“The REIA and individual institutes are going to be providing very strong leadership during this time and information will be measured, factual and direct. This is the time for the industry to step up and respond to what is happening.
“We are fortunate as we are not in lockdown like New Zealand. We need, as an industry, to play our part in stopping the spread of this virus.
“If there are agents not receiving communications from their real estate institutes, it is their responsibility to get in contact.”
The REIQ, together with other state peak bodies, has already been working collectively with real estate professionals across Australia while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CEO Antonia Mercorella.
“This includes a toolkit with strict health measures and alternative methods for real estate transactions that the industry has quickly adapted to,” she said.
“This includes social distancing measures and the use of technology in place of open home inspections and in-room auctions.”
Ms Mercorella also noted: “The Prime Minister’s announcement is not a total ban on real estate transactions from taking place, as that would have a devastating impact on the Australian economy.
“While in-room auctions cannot be conducted for the foreseeable future, online and telephone auctions will inevitably become the new normal. The REIQ will seek further clarity from the federal government regarding outdoor residential auctions that adhere to outdoor restrictions already in place.
“With restrictions on open home inspections, which traditionally attract large groups of people, also prohibited, private inspections by appointment remain a workable option coupled with hygiene safeguards as recommended by Queensland Health, which ensures real estate transactions can and will continue.”
Meanwhile, REIV president Leah Calnan said the state’s agents are likely to turn to technology following the Prime Minister’s announcement.
“The Victorian real estate sector is a flexible, innovative and resourceful industry capable of dealing with any problem,” Ms Calnan said.
“Many agencies have already invested in online platforms for property auctions and have been trialling them in recent months, and houses will continue to be sold in Victoria.
“As the threat of the coronavirus continues to evolve, it is important agents review their work practices and monitor the advice daily.
“Local agents are turning to technology to satisfy the high demand in Victorian real estate, with virtual reality inspections and transactions conducted over the phone and electronic document signing over the internet becoming commonplace.”
With interest in Victorian property remaining strong, “real estate agents will be doing their best to meet the needs of their customers safely”, Ms Calnan added.
“Anybody interested in selling or purchasing a home is urged to contact their local agent and ask about the exciting online methods that can make that dream a reality,” the REIV president said.