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  • Property market favouring sellers in Omicron outbreak, but agents warn of looming shift

Property market favouring sellers in Omicron outbreak, but agents warn of looming shift

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The latest strain of Covid is wreaking havoc for businesses all across Australia. Cases have skyrocketed and there's a real sense of nervousness out there in the community. 

Many industries are hurting, but how is the property market faring? We spoke with top agents in Sydney and Melbourne to find out how buyers are behaving and whether sellers taking the plunge now are being rewarded.

Buyer demand remains high despite Covid nerves

"I'm finding personally that buyers aren't too worried about inspecting properties," says Tristan Tomasino, managing director at Biggins & Scott Buxton in Melbourne.

"There seem to be a lot more buyers out there, a lot of new buyers. The year has started off really well so far."

Even as shops and hospitality venues around the city struggle with a substantial drop in customers, open homes are attracting significantly more parties than they were in December.

"It's one of the biggest decisions of their life, so it's a bit different compared to going to the pub," Mr Tomasino adds. "I don't think it's having too much of an effect on the market at this stage."

Max Klimenko of Ray White Touma Group in Sydney's Redfern is also seeing a strong response from buyers so far in 2022, with last weekend's open homes attracting an average of 15 groups per property. 

"We're still seeing some quality buyers that missed out last year. Those buyers are frustrated, they are motivated, they are absolutely drained. They missed out on three or four properties last year, they don't want to go through that again," he explains.

"Plus, there are a lot of new buyers coming through, they're getting their pre-approvals, and they're looking to jump on something."

Listings have dropped, making for strong selling conditions, but more are on the way

A defining feature of the 2021 housing boom was a severe shortage of stock on the market that simply couldn't satisfy demand. 

A surge in new spring listings helped even the balance a bit, but both agents are now seeing a reduction in what's available on the market again. Neither of them expects that to last, though.

"I'm just sensing that there's a lack of stock at the moment," says Mr Klimenko.

"But I'm getting more phone calls now than I did last January, that's for sure. People are wanting to sell, they're wanting to move and make decisions."

Mr Tomasino is also experiencing an uptick in seller interest now. 

Tristan Tomasino, Biggins & Scott Buxton
Tristan Tomasino of Biggins & Scott Buxton is seeing plenty of buyers in the market, but sellers are starting to return. 

"A lot of properties that passed in and couldn't sell last year have now subsequently sold, so there's now a bit of a lack of supply," he said.

He expects a new influx of properties to hit the market in the coming weeks, though, and for that dynamic to shift between now and Easter.

So is now a good time to sell?

Mr Tomasino explains "I've said to [my clients] that if I was looking to do something in the next six months, I'd be putting my property on the market yesterday.

"I think the next three to four weeks is going to be a fantastic time to sell, and then I think it might stabilise a bit heading later into the year."

He notes that "A-grade" properties are going to sell well no matter when they're listed, but for anything that may need some work or isn't in an ideal location, it would be especially important to act now rather than wait until late February or March.

"When you say 'should we wait?' — wait for what?" Mr Klimenko asks.

"The future is unknown, we can't control that. We know what we know now, and we know now the market is good."

He concedes that there is "a little bit of nervousness" in the current market, but "we know what is happening right now and we can take action. We can run strategies around it and plan.

"I believe that this first quarter will be a big one because of the overflow of buyers from last year."

How can sellers ensure a safe and successful campaign?

Ultimately, despite case numbers hitting record-breaking highs and other industries grinding to a halt, both agents insist that it's business as usual when it comes to real estate and Covid safety.

"It's nearly our third year now with Covid and I think people are a bit more accustomed to it," Mr Klimenko says.

Max Klimenko, Ray White Touma Group
Max Klimenko of Ray White Touma Group is still seeing relative confidence from both buyers and sellers.

In this climate, his agency is regularly taking an initial "two-step" off-market approach which involves gauging interest levels and getting feedback from their database of buyers for around a week before listing publicly. 

That way, he says, there's also the option for one of those hungry "overflow buyers" from last year to also come in with a strong offer, saving sellers money on marketing and speeding up the process. 

For open homes, Mr Tomasino points out that "everyone has to wear a mask indoors, everyone's socially distancing themselves from everyone else. Most buyers are in and out in 5 to 10 minutes. 

"I'm finding personally that buyers aren't too worried about inspecting properties."

He notes that some of his clients have opted to move out of their home for the duration of a short, three-week campaign, either into a family member's house or into an Airbnb.

That way, he says, sellers can avoid any form of contact with buyers for their peace of mind. As a bonus, they can keep their styled home looking pristine, and it also allows the agent to arrange private inspections at the drop of a hat without having to work around anybody else's schedule. 

What else needs to be considered?

As far as the real estate industry is concerned, the same Covid-safe protocols are still in place to protect buyers, sellers and agents. 

Social distancing, mask-wearing and checking in are all a normal part of the procedure now, and that doesn't seem to be deterring buyers from getting out there and putting their best foot forward. 

Online auctions and inspections by appointment are still options for those looking to be extra careful, but results are showing that the system is continuing to drive success. 

Of course, every market, suburb and property is different. The most important thing a seller can do is speak with a top local agent who understands the area and its buyers, and can advise on the best course of action.