Billions will be wiped from Victoria’s $20bn spring property market as it sits mostly idle in September under tough lockdown conditions.
A crucial part of the buying and selling process – physical home inspections – will remain banned until 70 per cent of the state has had their first Covid-19 vaccination, Premier Daniel Andrews announced this week.
That is expected to occur by September 23, and only private one-on-one tours of unoccupied homes will be permitted from then.
In a bid to push on, desperate sellers are considering moving into hotels to ensure prospective buyers can inspect their homes.
And five weeks after they could last set foot in properties, buyers are taking big risks to sign contracts “sight unseen”.
Hackers are also targeting the industry, with one of its most senior leaders revealing his agency was subjected to a ransomware attack a week ago.
CoreLogic figures show an average $19.92bn in property sales occurred each spring in the five years before the pandemic.
But that figure is expected to plummet by billions this year, with the firm’s latest data showing just 4820 homes sold across Melbourne in August, compared to more than 8000 sales in both June and July.
Data analyst Eliza Owen said while sales had bounced back quickly after past lockdowns, they might not this time “because property prices have continued to rise”.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria vice president Adam Docking said the situation was “really concerning” for sellers who needed to meet a settlement deadline after buying another home.
He estimated we would be into October before significant sales resumed.
“They aren’t just losing the weeks of lockdown
“There is likely two weeks to be added to lockdown to restart sales.”
He added sellers and agents pushing on with digital sales were “more vulnerable to hackers” as they embraced new technology and relied more heavily on email, with his own agency last week subjected to a ransomware attack.
“My business partner and I didn’t sleep for 48 hours as we tried to get back on our feet,” he said.
“None of our customers were adversely affected because of the historic security we had in place … but we will now be going even deeper into cyber security.”
He said buyers, sellers and agents proceeding in lockdown could not trust emails or even phone numbers shared by email, and should assume their security could and would be breached.
Meanwhile, Ray White Cheltenham’s Kevin Chokshi said his agency was preparing a support fund to help vendors move into hotels, like the local Quest serviced apartments, for up to three weeks from September 23, so their home would meet the unoccupied requirement for inspections to commence.
“We would want to move their personal items out of their home and to facilitate some time in a hotel, hopefully just a week or two,” Mr Chokshi said.
In the meantime, Ray White chief executive Stephen Dullens said a surprising numbers of Victorians were purchasing homes “sight unseen”, with 10 of the agency’s biggest offices recording 120 such sales since lockdown six began. Pakenham and Werribee had proven hot spots, with 20 sales each.
In the past week, the agency had also listed about 250 homes that were poised to sell without buyers, a photographer or even their real estate agent ever stepping foot inside.
Real Estate Buyers Agents Association of Australia president Cate Bakos said September would be a “grim and quiet” month.
But November, December and possibly even October could be “insane”, if inspections for occupied homes resumed soon enough.
In the meantime, Ms Bakos warned against buying without inspection as it meant relying on biased videos from a vendor. It could also leave buyers at risk of missing key details such as how natural light enters the home, or if it smelt or felt wrong.
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