“My heart goes out to all vendors”: COVID lockdown plunges Victorian real estate into disarray

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12: A snap five-day lockdown due to a fresh COVID-19 outbreak has left Victorian real estate agents scrambling to rearrange weekend auction dates and inspections.

Stage 4 restrictions now apply across the entire state from 11:59 pm Friday, February 12 to 11:59pm Wednesday, February 17, with the state left to thank yet another hotel quarantine mix-up for the severe limitations. It means even exercise and shopping are only allowed within 5km of home and all students will be forced to learn from home.

2/15 Nathan Street, Ferntree Gully, was slated to go to auction this weekend but Harcourts Dandenong sales agent Glenn Williams has been forced to reschedule the event.

For the real estate industry, Premier Dan Andrews’ lockdown announcement today began a long afternoon of receiving and making hundreds of calls to anxious vendors and buyers.

And while Victorian agents have learnt the hard way how to rearrange and reorganise such details at a moment’s notice, this afternoon brought back unpleasant memories of 2020’s months of hard lockdown restrictions.

This gorgeous Victorian period home at 112 Lennox Street, Richmond, will no longer be auctioned tomorrow.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV)’s president, Leah Calnan, says the “you’re on, you’re off, you’re on, you’re off,” system that was now Victorian life was challenging for everyone.

But she particularly felt for the vendors of the approximately 800 auctions that were planned for this weekend.

35 Annand Street, Fitzroy North, will no longer be auctioned tomorrow.

“My heart goes out to all the vendors tomorrow,” Leah says. “They’ve had extensive four-week campaigns so it’s a challenge for them.

“And I think all Victorians feel very deflated, from school-aged children to older adults. Plus it’s frustrating that it’s another hotel quarantine issue.”

Leah says she also feels for all the prospective purchasers who will “have their hearts set on bidding” for properties tomorrow.

However, she remains confident that Victorian agents will do all they can to help both buyers and vendors through the next five days.

It’s still unsure when 203 Koornang Road, Carnegie, will now be auctioned.

 “As a result of COVID, real estate agents have implemented a blended approach for auction campaigns, which include face-to-face events and utilising online platforms,” she says.

“So they’re very familiar with this space. And one thing that 2020 has certainly proved is that real estate agents have learnt to be very agile.

“The timing (for this lockdown) was poor but we were faced with something very similar just before Good Friday last year and agents will make all the necessary adjustments (for) their vendors and also purchasers.”

But Leah doesn’t hide the fact that potential real estate alternatives such as online auctions “just don’t have the same feel or the same emotional buzz.”

“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” she says. “But five days is better than five months.”

Leah ends with a suggestion that auctions may begin to move to mid-week dates rather than the traditional Saturday times.

“It’s what we might see as a result of this snap five-day lockdown – but that’s a ‘watch this space’,” she says.

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