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Melbourne real estate restrictions: outdoor auctions, commercial inspections back

By Ben Jusufi

Auctions will return to the streets of Melbourne, and Victoria’s “hardest hit” real estate sector can get “back on track” following the easing of key real estate restrictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced outdoor auctions would be allowed with up to 10 people, plus the required staff, from 11.59pm Sunday, October 18.

The ban on physical inspections of Melbourne commercial properties would also be lifted, he said — a move agents say will help revive the struggling sector.

This will allow for one-on-one inspections of offices, retail stores, warehouses, cafes, restaurants, and other commercial listings to resume — three weeks after the same right was granted for residential properties.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan said her organisation had been “pushing for private commercial real estate inspections to resume” as a priority.

“There will be many commercial tenants considering relocation for their businesses, and there will be an array of vacant properties landlords need to lease,” she said.

“This will allow commercial agents to resume to some level of normality.”

Ms Calnan said the return of residential inspections in Victoria’s capital, from September 28, had brought the home selling and leasing markets back to life.

The revival of outdoor auctions was expected to take this to another level.

Auctions have been able to take place in regional Victoria — with 10-person limits and mask-wearing, social distancing, hygiene and record-keeping requirements — since mid September.

“There are many private inspections taking place, and sales taking place. We will start to see more auctions over the next three to four weeks, as well,” Ms Calnan said.

People are allowed to travel beyond the limits put in place by the state government — which will be increased from 5km to 25km from 11.59pm Sunday — to inspect a home, but Melburnians have been banned from attending properties in regional Victoria.

Hocking Stuart Yarraville agent Anna Grech welcomed the return of outdoor auctions.

She said while online auctions had been a fine substitute for on-site auctions during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdowns, allowing “transparency” to remain in the market, there was “nothing like having them on the street”.

“It brings more energy (and) emotional attachment to the sale,” she said.

REIV vice president and WB Simpson & Sons partner Richard Simpson said the much-needed resumption of physical inspections would help get the commercial market “back on track”.

“Properties have been just sitting there vacant for the last 10 weeks because we haven’t been able to show anyone through,” Mr Simpson said.

“Those landlords are really feeling it — a lot of them are self-funded retirees whose kids are having to help them with living expenses, is what I’m hearing.

“Commercial property owners who’ve also found themselves in financial difficulty haven’t been able to sell (to) help pay off debts.

“The commercial property sector has been the hardest hit, more so than residential.”

Mr Simpson anticipated the commercial agents across the city would have “people lined up” to inspect available properties, allowing the sector to “hit the ground running” this coming week and get deals done before Christmas.

Mr Andrews also announced non-essential outdoor home maintenance, repairs, renovations and painting would be able to resume from Monday, with a maximum of five workers, as would pool cleaning.

Victoria had just 137 active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.

“As so many cities across the world head into what is going to be a deadly winter, we in Melbourne and across Victoria are well placed to have a COVID-safe summer and a COVID-normal 2021,” Mr Andrews said.

“Yes, these lockdowns have come with pain and damage and hurt, but the strategy is working and will continue to work.”


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