Victorian real estate customers stuck in limbo: Dan White

Victorian real estate customers stuck in limbo: Dan White
Victorian real estate customers stuck in limbo: Dan White

The largest real estate group in Victoria holds great concern for many of its customers following the announcement by the Victorian Government that private inspections of properties will not be allowed until 26 October, 2020.

As managing director of the Ray White Group, I am asking the Victorian Government to reconsider its ban on private inspections.

Private inspections alone will enable the industry to safely serve its customers and ensure that the most important financial transactions of their lives can be undertaken without further delays.

It has been a devastating day. Many of our customers often need to move properties for fundamental reasons - be it illness, divorce or other hardships like unemployment. It’s been distressing to listen to the feedback from customers now facing significant financial consequences as a result of these restrictions.

It makes absolutely no sense to forbid private inspections when you compare the safe environment we can create compared to the activities that are being allowed.

Despite many customers needing to buy and sell, yesterday’s decision means that many customers will be racing the clock to achieve a settlement before Christmas, given the time required to market property and the usual settlement period. It also applies significant pressure to those searching for a rental property or trying to lease their property.

Our leading group has been inundated with calls from customers who are distraught at the prospect of further significant delays in the marketing and sales of their properties.

Distraught customers include 70-year-old Brenda Hemphill, of Ringwood, who has bone marrow cancer and just needs to find a rental property to move into on September 25.

"I have to be out of the house by September 25 as my husband’s business went bankrupt and forced the sale,” said Mrs Hemphill, who recently sold her unit at auction through Ray White Ringwood.

“I have bone marrow cancer and need to stay close to the hospital for treatments. We have had to sell our forever home and there’s no chance of delaying the settlement as my husband went bankrupt but the house was in both names,” Mrs Hemphill said.

“I cannot go and view any rental properties. I am imploring Dan Andrew to make life a bit easier for us as not everything is around the corner to get the things we need.”

Another distressed client named Judy, who has her home on the market with Ray White Chelsea, simply wants to move to Queensland to help support her daughter.

“My son-in-law is a pilot and due to COVID-19, he has been relocated to Sydney to fly freight planes and my daughter is a working mum trying to juggle work around their two year old child. I’m a nurse and I’m incredibly disappointed that real estate activity hasn’t been reinstated because with the correct COVID procedures in place, the risk to the public is absolutely minimal when privately inspecting a property,” Judy said.

“I’m all alone down here and my daughter is all alone up there, and she’s had her own emergencies. All I want is to be in a financial position to sell soon and go to her when the borders finally reopens.”

Based on the people we have spoken to, there would be thousands of Victorians in distress as a result of the announcement.

The Big Four Australian banks have all spoken at length about the size and extent of mortgage deferrals. While they confirmed that loan deferrals will be extended on a case-by-case basis to March 2021, the message is clear: “the property market is holding up well, you may want to make the decision to sell and put yourself on a stronger footing”. Unfortunately for our Victorian customers with mortgage deferrals in place, they will be unable to do so.

In collaboration with the industry, Ray White has developed a detailed set of operating protocols for conducting private inspections to keep our customers safe.

These include a single buyer and agent inspecting for less than 15 minutes, without touching surfaces and observing social distancing.

We are not aware of any community transmission occurring in Australia as a result of real estate activity, and we estimate that nearly 180,000 properties were listed and marketed across Australia since April. That includes conducting open homes and auctions throughout Sydney throughout July and August and private inspections in the lead up to the Stage 4 Melbourne lockdown, when community outbreaks were occurring in both cities.

We note that physical on-site meetings will be permitted from 13 September in the construction industry and display homes will be open by appointment only from 28 September. We see no difference between these settings (particularly for many properties that are vacant) and believe the same settings can be achieved in the real estate industry.

We call on the government to review its decision and would welcome any opportunity to work collaboratively, for the good of the Victorian community.

Dan White is the Ray White Group Managing Director

Victoria COVID-19

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