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Melbourne property listings fall more than 50 per cent in August, figures show

Melbourne’s property market is hibernating through stage four restrictions, with sellers delaying listing their homes and buyers also waiting out lockdown.

Some owners who have decided to sell are also postponing auctions, and experts say the drop in activity from both sides of the market has saved Melbourne from a price crash.

In the four weeks to August 23, the number of homes newly listed for sale has plummeted 53.7 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to Domain data.

New listings over the four-week period are down 52.4 per cent from the four weeks before.

“What we’ve seen in Melbourne is a pullback of listings since the stage four lockdown,” Domain senior research analyst Nicola Powell said. “[But] it will help to support prices.”

The weak period during stage four would likely lead to another quarter of negative price growth for Melbourne, Dr Powell said, but a quick recovery could be on the cards after the lockdown lifts.

“It’s expected prices will continue to soften because we’ve seen demand shocks in Melbourne and it’s more exposed than other cities,” she said. “Following stage four lockdown, we’ll see a rapid increase in vendors coming to the market.

“I don’t think it will be a boom scenario in terms of prices immediately after. But transactions will start to return.”

Demand has taken a hit because of the lack of migration to Victoria, which is one of the biggest drivers of the property market.

Of 89 auctions scheduled for Saturday, 45 were withdrawn. Many agents cite a lack of buyers as the reason for postponement. Listings were also beginning to accumulate on the market, reaching their highest level in total since July last year, Dr Powell said.

“What we saw for July was total stock was 7.5 per cent higher than last year,” she said.

“What it says is we’re now seeing stock starting to build up and linger on the market.”

One auction planned for this week and later postponed was at 43 Carlton Street, Dandenong North.

Vendors Goska and Janusz Wolnik listed on the last day before stage four restrictions were enforced, and decided to postpone their auction because of the ban on inspections during the strict lockdown.

“We already had everything planned, but it never happened,” Ms Wolnik said.

The couple said it was frustrating, but were happy to have more time in their home of 26 years.

“We just accepted how it is. We can’t change it,” Ms Wolnik said. “We have a lot of time now to prepare all the paperwork and all this stuff involved in selling the house.”

Ray White listing agent Courtney Matthews said they had decided to tentatively push the auction to mid-October.

“I’m expecting there will be a bit of flurry of activity once we get out of lockdown,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be a very busy marketplace through the back end of September and October.”

Barry Plant chief executive Mike McCarthy said buyers were still looking at properties online, and that vendors were still keen to sell.

If vendors didn’t rush onto the market he anticipated a spike in prices, but he wasn’t sure how likely that was.

“Clearly it depends on what that balance is,” Mr McCarthy said.  “We know there’s demand there and we know that the pipeline is building, but where that balance falls we don’t know.”

He said the Barry Plant group had done 371 virtual appraisals this week alone, and said industrious sellers were already preparing their homes for sale when inspections could resume, adding they could reap strong prices if demand outstripped supply in early spring.

“Those [vendors] who go into the market early will benefit from the nervousness of [less-prepared vendors],” Mr McCarthy said.

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