Spring has finally arrived for Canberra’s housing market, with listings across all property types on the rise and the number of auctions getting back to healthier totals.
Prices have been going through the roof this year, with the ACT registering 20 per cent-plus gains so far, but while record low interest rates are bringing out the buyers, supply, particularly for stand-alone houses, has been scarce amid COVID-19 restrictions and general uncertainty.
The result has been quick sales for what has been on offer, auction clearance rates around 90 per cent and record prices across Canberra’s suburbs.
But that pent-up demand looks like being eased in the run to Christmas as lockdown ends and restrictions continue to be phased out.
CEO of Canberra property listings website Zango Darryn McRae said September sales listings increased by about 25 per cent on August when lockdown hit and October was looking up.
“We are already seeing in October more listings coming to market right across the greater Canberra region,” he said.
“We are also seeing both residential homes and also units getting a very high amount of views per property and increased enquiry levels through to the listing agents.
“With the most recent news specifically around open homes, it certainly will give more vendors confidence to take their property to market before Christmas.”
Mr McRae said lockdown had made it hard for agents to do the preliminary work getting homes to market, as well as not being able to hold open houses.
But the poor supply in the established market meant inquiries for new developments were very strong, he said.
One-on-one inspections were allowed last month, and from today (15 October), on-site outdoor auctions can also take place, although crowd limits of 25 people, including the agent and vendor, are in force.
CoreLogic’s auction summary this week showed 131 auctions were listed for Canberra, although it seems most will continue to be online as some agents wait until 29 October before conducting on-site auctions.
Ray White Canberra chairman Ben Faulks said listings for October had been strong, and most of those would come to the market over the next four to six weeks.
“Stock levels are ticking up and that will increase further into the back end of October and November,” Mr Faulks said.
He said the prices being achieved would draw more sellers out, particularly owners of stand-alone homes.
“I think people have a lot of confidence with the price they’re going to achieve so there is a lot of incentive for them to get to market,” Mr Faulks said.
Ray White Canberra is one of those firms that will be waiting until at least 29 October before going back on site for auctions, especially with virtual auctions performing well.
“We’ve taken the view that people are going to be a little tentative about gathering in crowds on site,” Mr Faulks said.
“We’ll continue with virtual auctions for the next two weeks and see what the sentiment’s like.”
He said there had been an average of seven bidders at auctions over the past 12 months, but over the last six weeks, that had increased to 7.5 on very strong volumes.
“We’ve been waiting to see if there is going to be a decline in demand, but we just haven’t seen it,” he said.
“People are as motivated as ever to get into the property market.”
Mr Faulks said APRA’s tightening of lending criteria had not seemed to affect the Canberra market.
Independent agent and auctioneer Andrew Potts said he would also continue conducting virtual auctions, which had proved very successful during lockdown.
The stumbling block was still not being able to go into the property.
“Agents are probably thinking the online process is working really well. Buyers are quite comfortable with it now, so whether it means you need to meet at the property itself is neither here nor there potentially,” he said.
“We can do it comfortably online and it’s not necessary really to meet at the property if they’re not going to look around inside of the home.”
But he said lifting restrictions on 29 October will herald more on-site auctions.
The success of virtual auctions meant that there might be a hybrid system in place in the future, especially if there was a reasonable number of interested interstate or overseas bidders.
Mr Potts said the on-site auctions had a different dynamic and were more intimate, but some buyers had commented how easy and convenient online bidding has been.
“They can do two to three auctions within an hour or two just logged on at their computer,” he said.
Mr Potts agrees that at the current prices, people would see it as an excellent time to sell but said it would take a lot more stock to satisfy the intense demand in Canberra.
According to the ACT Government Pathway, from today, outdoor auctions can restart with a limit of 25 people or one person per four square metres, whichever is less.
On 29 October, real estate services and auctions can then operate with 25 people across a venue before density limits apply.
These limits are one person per four square metres up to a maximum of 100 people indoors and one person per two square metres up to a maximum of 150 people outdoors.