Victoria Real Estate Peak Body Urges Easing of Blanket Lockdown to Enable Property Transaction

September 22, 2020 Updated: September 22, 2020

The Victorian government’s harsh lockdown has invited strong criticism from the state’s real estate peak body for jeopardising livelihoods and assets of Victorians, pushing many families to the brink financially and emotionally.

Following the state’s announcement on Sept 5 of the reopening roadmap,  the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) called on the Andrew’s government to reinstate one to one inspection on properties to save the nation’s second-largest property market from crashing.

The organisation also urged the federal government to initiate an independent review into the state’s roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions.

In a public campaign launched on Sept 17, REIV pleaded with the state government to reconsider their decisions on the extension of the complete lockdown of the property market.

Currently in Victoria it is impossible to sell, purchase, or lease a property as physical inspections are not permitted until at least Oct 26.

“It is critical that the Premier understands that the property lockdown is hurting Victorians from all walks of life,” the campaign statement notes.

“The real estate industry, on behalf of all impacted Victorians, asks that you allow real estate transactions to resume in a safe and measured way,” the organisation said.

According to REIV, the real estate industry had implemented measures and protocols to ensure the safety of all involved before the introduction of stage 4 lockdown.

These measures included: only allowing one-to-one person inspection accompanied by an agent; disinfecting and cleaning before and after inspection; face coverings, no touching of surfaces during the inspection, as well as recording the contact details of every person inspecting the property.

REIV chief executive officer Gil King said the organisation had made multiple attempts to help government agencies understand that “private one-on-one inspections can be conducted in a safe manner.”

“We are not asking for live auctions or open house inspections. We know these pose a risk,” he emphasised.

The national peak body for the industry, the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), president Adrian Kelly has also written to Premier Daniel Andrews requesting a loosening of the restrictions on the real estate market.

“A healthy property sector has been a crucial support to economic growth in Australia and can be expected to play a vital role in Australia’s recovery in these unprecedented times,” said Kelly in a statement on Sep 15.

“Victoria is critical to (economic growth in Australia) as our second-biggest residential property market with 30 per cent of Australian capital cities and 20 per cent of Australia’s rental market and nearly 80,000 dwelling sales annually,” Kelly explained.

Kelly noted that the industry is committed to working with all Australian governments to manage the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and said many jurisdictions had praised the industry for its collaborative approach.

Families With Nowhere To Go

Leah Calnan, REIV president, said the decisions compound the financial stress on Victorians and also have a severe impact on the mental well-being of the community.

“We have cases being reported every day where people need to sell their property to get through these financially challenging times, and they can’t do so because the government won’t allow even a one-on-one inspection,” she said on Sept 7.

Emma Nicholls, a mother of 2, is among those reporting to REIV about her family’s predicament under the current Stage 4 restrictions.

Nicholls and her husband sold their house a few months ago and were expecting to hunt for their new home, but the extended restrictions make the inspection and purchase of a property impossible.

“Our sale settlement is coming up soon, and we have nowhere to go,” she told the REIV.

“As a family of 4 with a houseful of furniture, I can’t imagine how stressful and unsettling it’s going to be for everyone when we have nowhere appropriate to live.”

In an attempt to get together m, Emma started an online petition,  which has collected nearly 1500 signatures in two weeks.

The Heavy Toll On Business

Stephen Dullens, CEO of Ray White Victoria, echoed the concerns of REIV, saying the extension of stage 4 lockdown has  made the situation very “challenging.”

“Many of our clients had expected to restart their purchase after Sept. 13 when the initial stage 4 lockdown was scheduled to end,” he told The Epoch Times on Sept. 21. “But with the extension, many of them who need urgent accommodation are left stressed.”

The restrictions have also taken a heavy toll on businesses, with Ray White Victoria seeing an 80 percent reduction in sales and a 90 percent drop in listings since the lockdown. The city’s auction market has also ground to a halt.

“We had over 200 transactions during the first week last year, but the number dropped to 22 this year,” he revealed. “The regional area is better, but the metropolitan area just stopped.”

While REIV has criticised the lack of genuine consultation by the government with businesses in making the harsh decision, Dullen said there were signs of change.

“We have had meetings with the state government over the last week, and feel they are listening and considering their suggestions seriously,” he said. “Hopefully we can see some ease of the lockdown very soon.”