27 March 2020

Virtual auctions still selling houses, as real estate industry says they're open for business

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Hannah Gill

Hannah Gill from Independent is a national Real Estate Institute Award winner. Photo: Supplied.

Among the many industries hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, real estate has grappled with the huge challenge of how to sell someone the biggest investment of their life. The message from Canberra agents is that they can make it work and they are open for business

Real Estate Institute of the ACT CEO Michelle Tynan said that the real estate sector in the ACT is now complying with the new directives from both the ACT and Federal Government and that many REI ACT members have already adjusted their business models to meet the restrictions.

“Many of our members have now switched to virtual tours, live streaming and other online tools to assist both buyers and prospective tenants search for property. This is now an essential service as people still need to have housing options,” Ms Tynan said.

Under current regulations, auctions can no longer be conducted onsite or in auction rooms, although virtual auctions can go ahead.

Open homes can no longer be conducted although private inspections can be negotiated with one agent and one client group and a maximum of two people per viewing.

Inspections are strictly 20-minutes long, by appointment only and social distancing requirements must be adhered to strictly.

REI ACT deputy president Stan Platis said the industry needed to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the protection of consumers, our members and staff.

“Anyone who wishes to view a property must have an appointment,” Mr Platis said. “The next person will need to wait outside until it’s their turn to inspect the home in the interval.”

Property advertising must now reflect these strict new conditions for inspections and the REI says it’s working closely with ACCESS Canberra to ensure agents complied with the new requirements.

In the midst of the drama, four ACT agents have taken out top awards at the REI Australia National Awards for excellence, including Hannah Gill from Independent Property Management, who received the national Operational Leadership Award. Kimberly Nugent, also from Independent, was named Residential Property Manager of the Year and Independent received the innovation award.

There are 20 categories in all and Guy Randell from Burgess Rawson ACT was named Commercial Salesperson of the Year.

Independent director John Minns told Region Media “obviously we are very proud to have Kimberly and Hannah on the team and for both of them to achieve an accolade of this kind is a wonderful recognition of two very important people.

Speaking about the company’s award for innovation, Mr Minns said “It’s a funny time – normally I think with awards you do get excited about recognition of what it stands for.

“But thank goodness for what we’ve done, because it means that we can operate remotely when we most urgently need to do so. Artificial intelligence is playing a part in online auctions, running meetings in every jurisdiction and helping us to be as close as possible to business as usual.

“Of course it also gives us better ways of being able to give people what they want. If they’re looking at buying from a project, renting or enquiring we can serve up what they want not just mass communications and that has been a benefit to the business already”.

REI ACT President Michael Kumm said the Institute was extremely proud and excited for the winners in the National categories and the ACT again dominating the winner’s circle.

“Year after year our member agencies and their staff demonstrate their exceptional industry knowledge, best practice and professionalism to the rest of the nation,” he said.

Due to travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19, the National Awards, due to be held in Darwin on 2 April 2020, had to be cancelled.

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Capital Retro2:43 pm 28 Mar 20

I checked a couple of these virtual auctions today. The viewer can be misled as to how many bidders there actually are as they are not “seen”. The opportunity to create “virtual buyer interest and bidding activity” can happen even if there is only one bidder. This can give a totally false impression of whether there were real bids being posted up to near the reserve price at which time the vendor puts in his higher bid and the property ends up on the market with a questionable bidding record which may convince the new prospective buyers that the property was being hotly contested at the auction when it wasn’t.

At a real auction this can’t be replicated as the bidders can identified and if there is only one low bid before pass in it can be observed or reported as such by interest parties.

Capital Retro10:04 pm 27 Mar 20

The boom times for real estate are over. Already some banks are defying the lead of the RBA taking rates to a record low by direct marketing term deposits offers to investors with rate increases between 6 months and 5 years of over 1.80%pa to 2.00%pa and 1.50%pa to 2.25%pa.

Kicking the can down the road had to end sometime.

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