For a finale, it didn’t feel like the end.
In Ferntree Gully, 36 kilometres east of Melbourne’s CBD, one of the last public auctions before the coronavirus-induced ban took effect, the seller and agent were confident of a result.
Like people told to socially distance themselves from each other, agents from the local Ray White office placed the laminated signs indicating an auction 1.5 metres from the other.
No spectators were allowed to witness 24 Cinerea Avenue go under the hammer, far removed from the crowds that filled the streets five days earlier.
EYS auctioneer Fabian Sanelli said if anyone broke the 1.5 metre social distancing rule, he’d stop the auction.
The five families interested in bidding stood in a ring around the auctioneer and some wore masks.
Ray White Ferntree Gully agent Jack Rickard said he’d already brought the auction forward once because of the coronavirus lockdown, and had made a snap decision to do so again on Tuesday night.
“After the [Prime Minister’s] announcement made last night we had the option of keeping it the same but after the new laws that came in, it would have to be a digital auction or private offers,” he said. “Our office decided to bring every auction we had to today or tonight.”
- Related: The home owners who are still selling despite the COVID-19 restrictions
- Related: Renters affected by economic fallout of coronavirus crisis cannot be evicted, national cabinet decides
- Related: Property listings to fall, general market hiatus tipped amid coronavirus lockdown, ban on public auctions
Bidding started low at $750,000, but after a few bids, Mr Sanelli was taking bids within the quoted price range of $850,000 to $935,000.
The home was announced on the market at $920,000 and sold to a family for $940,000.
Vendor Kathryn Allen said while bringing the auction forward made her anxious, she felt she needed to take charge of her life in uncertain times.
“Now I’ve got the result that allows me to have some control and it’s a little bit of relief,” she said, after the auction. “There’s other things to be worrying about at the moment and at least I don’t have to worry about a roof over my family’s heads.”
Mr Rickard said it was becoming clear traditional auctions would have to disappear for the time being.
“Crowds have been getting big at auctions in recent times and that makes it hard to do social distancing,” he said.
Buyers were still keen to come and bid for the most part, Mr Rickard said.
“[But] we’ve lost a couple of parties to the date changes,” he conceded.
The buyers were keen to lock something down before the lockdown, and the recently built house was well-suited to family life, Mr Rickard said.
“It’s only 12 years old, it has three living areas so it’s a good family home. It’s got a nice big outdoor area,” he said. “[The buyers were] mostly all second home buyers upgrading from their first home.”