NSW estate agents get go-ahead to hold onsite auctions and open houses amid COVID-19 shutdown relaxation

Thursday 07 May 2020

The NSW property market will roll out the welcome mat from next weekend with agents and vendors able to hold traditional property inspections and on-site auctions after a six-week limited shutdown due to COVID-19.

Neighbours have been told not to stickybeak!

It starts from next weekend, May 9.

Coming into the last of autumn's listings, there were 269 auctions scheduled in Sydney this week, up slightly on last week's 192 homes, according to CoreLogic.

There were 539 on the same weekend last year, in the pre-election slowdown, and 795 on the first Saturday in May 2018.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the relaxing of restrictions was a sign of the ongoing success in limiting the spread of COVID-19, but warned there was no place for complacency, with community safety and social distancing to remain an ongoing priority.

Securing higher stamp duty will also help the state government coffers, industry observers noted. It is estimated there has been $1 billion lost to the budget bottom line.

The decision comes amid continued property listing website viewings.

REA executive director of economic research Cameron Kusher said search activity sat only nine per cent lower than its 2020 peak recorded in mid-February.

“Choosing a home is one of the biggest decisions anybody makes, and easing the restrictions to ensure people can more easily inspect, buy or rent a property is an important step for NSW,” Mr Perrottet said. 

 “The real estate industry has been adaptable in transitioning to online auctions, property inspections by appointment or online, and 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.”

Clearance rates fells into the 30s, a 15 year low during April.

The NSW move follows the recent relation of open house/auction rules last week in the Northern Territory relaxation of restrictions in Western Australia.

While in-room auctions and open homes are still not permitted in Queensland, some restrictions were been eased as of 1 May 2020 to allow private appointments for inspection, and iinspections with a maximum of six (6) people including the real estate agent inside the building at any one time, with no more than one person per 4 square metres.

Hazard said the new NSW measures were vital to ensure the safety of customers, property owners and real estate staff as a more traditional face-to-face way of inspections and auctions re-commenced.

“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,” Mr Hazzard 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.”

“If we want to keep as many people in jobs as possible and businesses in business it is important to follow the safety advice and not put others at risk,” Mr Perrottet said.

“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.”

On Saturday the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet laid out a plan to scrap what he described as inefficient taxes, expressing w wish to abolish stamp duty and payroll tax in a bid to revive the state’s economy following the coronavirus pandemic.

KEY HEALTH GUIDELINES INCLUDE: 

Ensure physical distancing of greater than 1.5m is maintained;

Promote good hygiene on premises and at auctions including hand sanitiser;

Use digital platforms where possible to discourage physical contact;

Keep detailed contact records of people attending open homes and auctions;

Ensure people with any symptoms of illness do not attend a property;

Manage the number of people entering small spaces;

Consider extended times for open house viewings and inspections;

Use outdoor venues for auctions wherever possible;

If auctions are held indoors, use large venues where physical distancing between household groups of one person per four square metres is possible.

- Jonathan Chancellor