Buyers are still keen, just not in all areas

Friday 27 Nov 2009

November is normally the year's busiest auction month, and accordingly the clearance rate typically tumbles under the weight of listings. But not so this year.

In the spring selling season, which has one week to run, vendors have fared well; there has been a 68 per cent success rate across Sydney, Australian Property Monitors says.

The season started off strongly in September with a 72 per cent success rate, albeit down on the year's 75 per cent August peak. Last month the auction clearances rate fell slightly, to 71 per cent.

The recent fading, while definite in its trend, is mild compared with that of past years.

The most marked deterioration in auction fortunes came as the 2003 boom faded. Auction clearance rates fell from the year's 68 per cent peak in August, to 64 per cent in September, 58 per cent in October and 48 per cent in November.

The rate in December was 42 per cent, only slightly weaker than the whole of 2004, when the averge was 44 per cent.

This spring's weakest Saturday was understandably the last Saturday in September - the biggest auction day in the state's history.

The clearance rate dipped to 62 per cent with a record 670 auctions. September was the year's busiest auction month with 2405 listings, narrowly edging out November with 2374 listings.

September was the bumper month as vendors rushed to capitalise on the last days of the full boost in the Federal Government's first-home buyers' grant.

After a very slow start to the year, the 1920 auctions in May edged out the 1407 in March as autumn's busiest month, in another reversal on the norm.

Despite the headline auction clearance rate, bullish prices are not guaranteed. Indeed, there are still plenty of market segments without any buyer intensity.

Take Bayview, which has had a 25 per cent success rate over the past six months, down on the 55 per cent northern beaches result and the overall 70 per cent Sydney success rate.

As Sydney's midday temperature was rising past 30 degrees yesterday, the agent Jim Langford, of Langford Property Partners, was advising stickybeaks that his prestige Bayview auction had been called off at the eleventh hour.

For almost three years the US entrepreneur Tom Wykoff has hoped to find a buyer for Bardoo, a five-bedroom, six-bathroom 1970 house set high above the northern beaches.

About $9 million had been sought on its February 2007 listing, which was adjusted to $7.5 million-plus by June 2007.

The house was first sold for $2.2 million in 2001 and, after extensions in 2006, has 1298 square metres of internal space, including a sunken circular seating area.

It comes with floor-to-ceiling glass to capture the views across Pittwater north to Scotland Island from its 5074 square metre block.

It was designed by Max Gregory and was built for the late magazine heavyweight Ken Murray, founding publisher of the magazine Australian House & Garden, whospent $317,000 on its excavation and construction.

This time Langford had hoped to attract bidding above $5 million. It now has a $4,999,000 asking price.

- Jonathan Chancellor - Sydney Morning Herald