Listings are down but buyer search activity is up: REA's Nerida Conisbee

Listings are down but buyer search activity is up: REA's Nerida Conisbee
Listings are down but buyer search activity is up: REA's Nerida Conisbee

The stage is well and truly set for the return of theatrical home sales in New South Wales, after the state government lifted restrictions on in-person auctions and open-for-inspections this weekend.

Real estate agents are back to selling homes in an environment that maximises their performance and prospective homebuyers have been able to inspect properties more easily.

The Northern Territory lifted restrictions on live auctions and open-for-inspections last weekend, while up to 10 people are allowed to inspect homes in Western Australia.

A return to the usual ways that people can buy, sell and rent property is the best news for the industry since mid-March, but the real benefit will come once we see increased real estate listings.

A big challenge for Australia’s economic recovery will be confidence, and right now, listing volumes are still well down.

Listings are down but buyer search activity is up

Since the weekly low over a month ago, buyer search activity on has increased by 46 per cent nationally and is now flowing through to buyer enquiry.

Enquiry is now up 24 per cent compared to the same time last year. While the connection between buyer enquiry and transactions is not an exact one, it does show greater intent to purchase than searches alone.

There are many factors driving this uptick including a relatively low number of active COVID-19 cases, a stable banking system, incredible levels of government stimulus, and importantly, the gradual opening of the economy.

Interest in commercial farming surges ahead

Buyer interest in all commercial property types dropped in April with the exception of commercial farming.

Compared to April last year, demand (views per listing) is now up 22 per cent. At the other end of the commercial property spectrum, retail demand dropped 37 per cent and office demand declined 30 per cent.

Interest in commercial farming is likely to be partly driven by COVID-19. Unlike shopping centres and offices, which are experiencing high numbers of closed stores and empty spaces, farms are still operational, and people still need food.

Other factors also playing a role in commercial farming demand include the weak Australian dollar and the drought breaking,. Many buyers are also Looking beyond seasonal and commodity cycles when purchasing.

Western Australia is attracting the most interest while South Australia is the only state with a decline in activity. During the drought, some WA commercial farms were recording bumper conditions contrasting what was happening on the eastern seaboard.

Homes are selling faster compared to last year

Interesting data looking at days on site from outlines just how quickly homes are selling at the moment compared to the same time last year.

Seasonality often impacts how quickly properties sell. For example, selling a home in January generally takes longer than in September, which is also consistent with broader market activity.

Since COVID-19 lockdowns started in mid-March, days on site – the number of days a listing was active on to the date it was delisted due to being sold – has increased.

However, this increase is not unusual and is typical of what we see in April given the Easter holiday period, as well as Anzac Day.

Encouragingly, days on site in April 2020 were far lower than what they were in April 2019. It is likely that the low number of properties for sale, combined with increasing levels of search and enquiry, are driving this trend.

NERIDA CONISBEE is the chief economist for the REA Group

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