On-site real estate inspections are set to resume and a number of financial support measures for Canberra households have been extended after the ACT government prolonged the territory’s lockdown for another four weeks.
At a press conference on Tuesday, ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said the decision for “minor amendments” to the public health direction would allow businesses to resume some activities, including “limited private-appointment real estate inspections”.
This will allow real estate businesses to conduct on-site, private inspections from 11:59pm on September 17.
The Real Estate Institute of Australia ACT has confirmed that as part of the new changes, real estate agents will be allowed inside the property during the inspection and must conduct the inspections in 15-minute intervals, followed by a 15-minute interval prior to the commencement of the next inspection, for a maximum of two hours.
This means only four inspections will be conducted within that two-hour period. This is applied to any vacant, occupied or display property.
A maximum of two people from the same household is permitted to attend the inspection, so long as all parties involved wear a mask and check-in. Agents must keep a copy of a calendar of scheduled inspections for compliance requirements.
Property appraisals will only be allowed when requested by a seller or landlord in line with the current health directive for inspections required by law for the sale of a property.
The new changes will see Canberra’s property market literally “spring” into action, according to Domain chief of economics and research Nicola Powell.
“The timing of the easing of restrictions is perfect because the spring selling season is prime time in terms buying and selling homes and the momentum of activity will resume,” she said.
Under current restrictions, in-person inspections and on-site auctions have been banned and moved entirely online, seeing the usually busy spring market take a hit in the capital.
Property listings have fallen by 47.7 per cent over the past four weeks, compared with the same period last year.
The number of reported auction results has also slowly declined. On the last weekend before lockdown, there were 63 reported auction results. Last weekend, only 12 properties had reported their results.
“There are very few people who want to buy property without physically inspecting a home. This is a big financial commitment that people make,” Dr Powell said.
“While that didn’t impact the first few weeks of lockdown in terms of the auction outcomes, we’re starting to see that impact now.”
The latest announcement would kick the market back into action, similar to what had happened in Sydney’s property market, she added.
“The longer the ban on private inspections, the greater the level of pent up demand there’ll be and the more sellers would be confident to list their homes for sale once these restrictions ease,” Dr Powell said.
Real estate agent Obi Shadmaan, of The Property Collective, said the easing of restrictions on inspections would “unlock more buyers” and create more competition.
“The last four weeks haven’t stopped that demand but more buyers will come out of the shadows if they can inspect a property in person,” he said.
“The current restrictions have certainly put a hold on new homes coming on the market and this will now give sellers more confidence to go ahead and list their homes.”
According to internal Allhomes data, the number of views per listings was 18 per cent higher in August — when the lockdown was introduced — compared with March 2020 when Canberra’s first lockdown was underway. Leads per listing were also 61 per cent higher last month than March 2020.
The ACT government also announced that it would extend financial support measures for Canberra households, including the land tax rates relief program, until December 31.
Residential landlords who offer rent relief will be eligible for a credit on their residential land tax of up to $100 per week. This measure is estimated to cost the government $2.2 million.
The ACT government will also provide an additional one-off $200 increase in utility concessions, taking it up to $1000 in the current fiscal year. This is expected to help 31,000 Canberra households and will cost the territory government $31 million.
ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said the further easing of restrictions had been carefully considered and would be dependent on how the community worked together.
“When all of our businesses open, we want them to stay open … and when stay-at-home restrictions end, we’d really like them to stay that way this time around,” she said.
“This was not an easy decision [to extend the lockdown] for myself and my team. We have considered all the evidence and have really taken the time to consider this important direction that we’re now moving in.”