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  • 'It's going to be hysterical': sellers advised to list before spring rush

'It's going to be hysterical': sellers advised to list before spring rush

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With more than half of Australia's population now in some form of lockdown, it's a bizarre time in what's already been a dramatic year for real estate. 

Many vendors are feeling uncertain about the weeks and months ahead as they wonder whether to push ahead with a sale now or wait until things have stabilised to some degree.

We spoke to top agents in Sydney and Melbourne about this conundrum and found that, with a frenzied spring selling season expected, stock levels currently low and high-intent buyers still out in force, there could be a golden opportunity to make the leap in the final weeks of winter. 

The market is still moving fast, and the ball is in the seller's court

You would be forgiven for thinking that lockdown means market activity is brought to a standstill, but that's far from the case. 

Shiv Nair of Harcourts Hills Living in Sydney's Baulkham Hills is still selling properties at record prices despite restrictions around inspections and auctions. 

"At the moment, because people in Greater Sydney can still travel for the purpose of purchasing a property, it hasn't reduced the number of buyers in the market as much as people think," he says.

"We're working with maybe 25 per cent less buyers than pre-lockdown. But then again, the reduction in listings is greater than the loss of buyers who are not in the market. People who are on the market at the moment are your genuine buyers."

Mr Nair notes that, while the number of groups inspecting properties has dropped, he's still receiving as many if not more offers, suggesting that the proportion of high-intent buyers is very favourable and they're not out there to muck around. 

Tristan Tomasino, director at Biggin & Scott in the Melbourne suburb of Yarraville, is also seeing properties sell "exceptionally well" despite the city being thrust in and out of lockdown. 

"The good thing with a week or two lockdown is it doesn't really affect the real estate market too much because we're utilising the momentum we had going into lockdown," he explains.

Even though restrictions in Victoria are stricter than in NSW, meaning any face to face activity is off the cards, Mr Tomasino says that's just motivating buyers even more to transact on either side of a lockdown. 

"We've actually in the last week sold some properties for really good prices with multiple offers coming through, as well as online auctions because we've had that momentum leading into lockdown," he says.

An influx of listings in spring could cool things off for sellers

Both Mr Nair and Mr Tomasino predict this coming spring season will be far more frenzied than usual, and that they're expecting a flood of new stock to come onto the market as the weather warms up. 

"I definitely think that days on market will increase come September and October, purely because there will be a lot more choice for buyers in the marketplace," Mr Nair says, adding that he predicts double the usual amount of listings coming this spring. 

"I suspect given the high level of expected price in the market, there may be softening in the market as well, because of the lack of competition between properties. 

"We might see a correction in the market—it may be small, a 2 or 2.5 per cent correction. But it just depends on how many sellers come on the market all at once."

Overall he sees the power balance shifting more towards buyers than it has been throughout this boom, while at this point it's still very much a seller's market.

Shiv Nair, Harcourts Hills Living
Shiv Nair, one of Harcourts Hills Living's top agents.

Mr Tomasino's read on Melbourne is similar in terms of a "hysterical" influx of spring listings, although he still expects the competition to favour sellers later in the year as people avoid apartments in favour of houses, where they can have the space they're so desperate for while cooped up at home.

"I think, for anyone that owns a home that's looking to close one chapter, whether it be move interstate or move coastal or a tree change, they're going to get a great price coming out of this next lockdown and through to Christmas," he says.

But winter is still one of his favourite times to sell because that reduced level of stock can mean there's less competition to secure a big sale. 

"I sold my sister's place about eight weeks ago now, in winter, and they had seven registered bidders, five bidders on the day. The reserve was $1.1 million and it sold for 1.4m," he says.

"So I don't just say that to people, I told my sister and brother in law to sell at that particular time of the year, and they got an amazing result."

If you're on the fence, what now?

Both agents agree that the tail end of winter is a fantastic time to move on selling properties to beat the spring rush. 

"I think it will benefit sellers greatly if they are able to come on the market now because the market is strong at the moment," Mr Nair says. 

His advice is to take lockdown out of the equation, secure an agent, arrange whatever marketing is necessary and to get the property in a selling-ready state to capitalise on the current conditions. 

"A lot of my clients at the moment are going off-market, selling their property through the database, and then [if the property hasn't sold] actually coming onto the market in the second half of August as we approach spring.

"I would aim to come to market as soon as possible to take advantage of the lower stock levels at the moment. Because the buyer competition is out there."

Mr Tomasino is on the same page, saying "first thing, if you're looking to sell, get a contract of sale and vendor statement done today. Solicitors are still able to work, we live in a world where everything is paperless now and everything can be done over the internet."

Tristan Tomasino, Biggins & Scott
Tristan Tomasino, director at Biggins & Scott Yarravale. 

He suggests getting everything lined up as quickly as possible: arranging a photographer to come as soon as they're able, speaking to your agent about organising a plan for listing, and getting the house in sale-ready condition. 

"There are a lot of things you can do to get your house prepared in lockdown, it's a great period because a lot of people won't be doing that, and trades won't be as busy."

He also advises preparing for a shorter campaign, as there's no telling what will happen in a few weeks time and most properties that are coming to market now are shifting fast. 

"The beauty of the markets that we work in is that they're moving so quickly that the campaigns now, we're doing three-week campaigns. And even sometimes that feels too long because buyers know what they want and they're coming in and making strong offers within the first week."