Buyers limp, ice looms and wood ducks fly

It’s a limp toward Spring. At the top end buyers are still around and they’re being seen at inspections, but there’s little on offer to excite them. Disinterest rules.

We’ve been feeling the pulse of Map 58, trying to detect a heartbeat. Hardly a flutter. The agents will tell you that this is the usual Winter hibernation, but there are some indications that we’re nearing another Ice Age.

From the agents’ perspective, it’s a vicious circle: those who haven’t seen it all before can’t understand why people won’t give them their homes to sell while those same people are reluctant to buy elsewhere when there is so little choice.

There could be a break in the clouds after the September school holidays, but we doubt it.

And then, defying logic and expectations, a wood duck lands at 3 Avalon Road, Armadale. After an expressions of interest campaign that floundered for months, suddenly a buyer appears with, we believe, $7.5 million in hand. Or about $1 million more than we would have paid. Quack.

Saturday’s action at the top end, or lack of it, was confined to Boroondarra.

They’re the kind of results which suggest that too many vendors are still ahead of where the market has retreated. Their choices are to wait the arrival of the endangered wood duck (see Avalon Road) or to lower their expectations.

Weather report

The industry offers an interesting mix. There are agents with the experience to survive even an Ice Age, but there’s a bunch of the younger crew who have never seen a real downturn before and will have to learn fast how to survive the chill; while end-of-epoch barren wastes are wandered by lonely dinosaurs who have still to come to grips with how their world is being changed by the internet – who struggle even with text messaging.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all dept.

The latest in off-market transactions. Last week, a new offering appeared at $20 million plus. But before the agent will tell you where the house is or how much you will be expected to pay, you have to sign a confidentiality agreement. Really? Kids, there are maybe five people in this town who are looking at that level and you don’t want them talking to each other, is that it? Could it be that the property is obscenely over-priced and you don’t want them comparing notes? Perish the thought.

Visit the Morrell and Koren websiteSlow hammer, cont’d

There’s been a new development in the hammer saga. Slow hammers – when an auctioneer takes forever to knock a property down even after bidding has stopped – are now so very last week. Damian’s eye-witness report is below. It reinforces our argument that Consumer Affairs Victoria and the REIV must put forward a system that is fair to all parties. If bidders cannot take auctioneers at their word and don’t know even after a property is declared on the market whether they are bidding for the right to buy or only to refer, that adds yet another unneccessary uncertainty.

David Morrell

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Bayside battens down.

With little of substance on offer, buyers were in shut-down mode on the weekend: average to poor auction clearance rates and, more telling, very few privately transacted sales made during the week.

Brighton’s highest and only auction result was a modest $683,000 for 8/49 Wilson Street. There was also a mysterious $3.1 million sale recorded in Black Street; which we reported as sold weeks ago.

Although I am told there are a number of sales pending in the middle and top end, it appears that may be wishful thinking on behalf of some agents who are struggling to bridge the gaps between their clients’ expectations and reality.

Beaumaris and Black Rock had the week off and Hampton wasn’t much better with the better of two only results:

  • 2/25 Keith Street, Hampton East, sold for $735,000.
  • 36 Villeroy Street — a well located and renovated period house in the highly regarded Castlefield Estate  —  was surprisingly ignored. The highest bid was the vendor’s $1.51 million and the reserve is set at $1.65 million. When a property like this one fails to excite, alarm bells should be ringing.

Sandringham offered two properties with price expectations well in excess of $2 million.

Not unexpectedly, neither sold nor attracted a single bidder.

44 Tennyson Street pushed a lot of buttons: it’s in a blue ribbon part of the suburb, is a timber reproduction of the beachside style and offers all the fittings and finishes expected in a quality house. But … a family size property with this accommodation on only 590 sq m? The agent’s report was brutally frank: no bidders, reserve $2.25 million.

Nearby at 3-5 Heath Street, a generous allotment of 1813 sq m — formerly an aged care facility — was passed in on a vendor bid of $2.5 million with the reserve a fair hike further North of that: $2.9 million.

Bentleigh provided some hope with solid results in excess of a million dollars at two auctions.

3 Hobart Street brought $1,085,00 and 20 Talbot Avenue $1,210,000

Mr Gavel reinvents auctions

Over the weekend, we were on the receiving end of a new gavel bangers’ tactic.

We were bidding on behalf of a client on a property which had been quoted at $1.05-1.2 million.

Including us, there were three bidders. When bidding reached $1.2 million, we asked whether the property was on the market. “I will let you know,” came the reply. Bidding continued to $1.25 million. Same question, same answer. $1.28 million. Same question, and this time Mr Gavel sent his scribe inside to ask the vendor. Yes, came the answer and Mr Gavel loudly and unequivocally declared the property to be on the market and would be sold to the highest bidder.

At $1.33 million, we had exhausted the only other bidder and after making his first, second and third call, Mr Gavel was about to knock it down to us and then decided to head inside “…to seek final instructions!”

Pardon? Did you not say in front of this assembled throng that the property would be sold to the highest bidder? That’s us, Mr Gavel.

We were not quite that polite.

But, no, he went in anyway then re-emerged a full two minutes later and re-opened the bidding; urging the under-bidder to get back into the race.

That grubby little exercise cost our client another $20,000 before it was finally knocked down to us at $1.35 million.

Our client is now seeking legal advice on the laws of misleading and deceptive conduct and how to recover his $20,000.

Watch this space.

Damian Taylor

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