April 27: A tale of one city

The portents suggested a quiet weekend: the Anzac Day holiday, few upper-end auctions (and none at the top) and a chill-factor steep enough to keep you huddled in your igloo. Together they promised a big weekend of nothing much.

Yet, down below $3 million it was bidders, bidders everywhere and hardly a hammer to drop. Houses open for inspection often had queues. One in Armadale offered a fair imitation of a King Street nightclub on a hot night: they had so many inside, the rest had to be held out.

Can bouncers be far behind?

There are, as we suggested last week, more buyers than properties to be bought, and economics 101 suggests that will prop up any market, but a question remains:

Why here, now, when the same rule seems to have no clout in the other capitals?

Perth? Closed for the duration. Brisbane? Not a white shoe in sight. Sydney? All hype, no action (OK, it’s Sydney, but …).

Yet Melbourne, with the exception of a few Cindarellas still waiting for their coaches (hello, Albert Park, are you still there?), chugs along.

Then what are the agents saying?

“Um.” “Err.” “Us?”

Before Easter they were predicting a post-Easter flood. Now they’re reduced to ?Hello, will you please sell your property as I have nothing else to sell and the school fees are due.”

That’ll work.

There are a few who are quietly succeeding off-market, but it’s still a trickle.

Enough. The weekend:

The top sale was 49 Mathoura Road, Toorak a two-storey Victorian in need of substantial renovations. The vendors were developers who knocked back an offer of $3.7 million last year and last weekend took $3.1 million. Given that the house needs another $1.5 million and $5 million plus for Mathoura Road is now at the upper end of believable, it seems the sums did not add up. Better the trim than the haircut.

8 Stodart Street, Camberwell a vacant block of over 1,000 sq metres, had four bidders and sold for $1,512,000 against a $1,400,000 reserve.

Even toward (shudder!) the bottom end, in groovy Elwood, 30 Addison Street one of a pair, had eight bidders. It sold for $1,030,000 against a $880,000 reserve.

Still by the bay, 16 Gurner Street, St Kilda a good family home, sold for where it should have with three bidders and strong bidding after a loud, loud, loud auction (will we ever learn to shut up?).

Next week? There’s a little more on offer, but the listings drought is yet to break. Sales will happen … if vendors are not too greedy.

The long-term crystal ball?

Last week we ran our yearly seminar in Hong Kong. There it’s pessimists ascendant. Compared to the land of Oz, the GFC has drained confidence and incomes in a big way. Time will tell who the realists are.

In the meantime, expect to see the reluctant return of numbers of expats.


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Bayside: Old games die hard.

It doesn?t get much better than this. 3 Butler Street, Brighton a three bedroom 1960?s single-level brick house on 630 sq m in the Orphanage Estate, sold at auction on Sunday. Quoted to buyers at between $900,000 and $990,000, it sold for (are you ready for this?) a mere $1,470,000!

Kids, that’s a blatant underquote of between 50% and 60%. Just when the hype was spreading that agents had finally realised that buyers are not dummies and should not be treated as such, this sort of nonsense comes along. Does anyone have the Office of Fair Trading?s phone number ?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Bayside, mixed results were the order of the past two weeks, with private sales dominating.

Finally, months after the close of an extensive expression of interest marketing program and Foreign Investment Review Board approval, 49 South Road, Brighton sold. Our mail is that a mainland Chinese buyer paid in the vicinity of $4.25 million.

27 Foote Street, Brighton sold close to its asking price of $4 million. It’s new, is on 613 sq m and has a basement garage, cinema, gym, 4 to 5 bedrooms and a lap pool.

43 Kinane Street on 1213 sq m with a north/south tennis court, has also been sold following being passed in at auction last November on a vendor bid of $3.3 million. A change of agent yielded a sale at a more than respectable $3.6 million.

26 Kinane Street was passed in earlier this month on a vendor bid of $1.7 million. Its sale at $1,620,000 reflects an impatient seller and a lucky buyer. At land value only, that’s under $1600/sq m or $150/sq ft.  A reasonable expectation would have been around $175-180/sq ft.

223 Church St, a modest 1920?s 3-bedroom house on 620 sq m sold privately for $1.4 million.

Town houses are in demand: 15a Foote Street, Brighton sold for $1.3 million. Around the corner at 62 Cole Street a new townhouse brought $1.72 million.

Older homes on larger than usual land and in need of work are becoming harder to move. 328 St Kilda Street over the road from the Golden Mile, is a gracious but tired Old Brighton Residence (OBR) on 1500 sq m. Last Saturday week it was passed in on the auctioneer?s bid of $1.9 million and is now being touted at ?$2m+?, which could mean $2.01 million or could be $2.5 million or $25 million. Are we confused yet?

66 Were Street on the corner of New Street, another OBR, on 1147 sq m, was passed in at $1.92 million. Its reserve/asking price is apparently a secret. There may be a rationale for making it difficult for buyers, but it’s one which escapes us.

Over South Road and into Hampton (Brighton Beach, if you are selling), 15 Margarita Street ? on 790 sq m with a second street frontage to Gordon Street ? has been sold  for $1.9 million before next week?s scheduled auction. Dare we suggest that if the property had come to auction the buyer would have been lonely? The vendor should be giving a bonus commission on this one.

67 Bay Road, Sandringham sold under the hammer for $1.3 million.

3 Keats Street changed hands privately for $1.657,000

All meaning?

Now, there’s not a lot available, but there can still be strong buyer interest in the right property.

Longer term, winter is apon us but calms, famous for becoming before storms, have also been known to follow in their wake.


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