The zoo re-opens

Morrell and Koren, the 1st buyer's advocates

We’re back.

Yup. The zoo has opened its doors and the wide-eyed are buying, or not buying, their tickets. What’s new? What’s changed? Will there be more of the same?

Short answer: Sorta.

Some of those who prowled the lion enclosure are now walking with the elephants; and there’s an occasional dinosaur to be found among the fossils. (If you follow the agents, you’ll see where the action is.)

What’s carried over from last year? Buyers wanting to pay less and sellers still asking for more; and that’s a gulf that many won’t bridge. A number of those big trophy homes offered in November are still waiting for even a cheeky offer. Christmas cheer? Not here.

What’s different? Vendors with $30-40,000 to promote their wares are nowhere to be found – if this keeps up, agents may have to start paying for their own ads.

For the two months since the curtain came down, $4 million + transactions have been missing in action. That’s had a knock-on effect resulting in those who may have been thinking of selling banishing all such thoughts. (We usually see a lot more on offer than we’re seeing this year.) Our instinct is that $3 million + people are waiting to see which way the wind is blowing and putting off deciding whether to sell until after the Easter break.

Looking for clues to support that? Look down the coast. The lack of activity in the beach market suggests that owners and even the better agents knew that the prices they were hoping for were simply not going to be there. The great homes just did not appear.

Yes, there were a few exceptions (there always are) but even where there were sales it was common to have only one real bidder at an auction.

And so that miasma has spread up the bay. A damp grey fog obscuring much, punctuated by some of last year’s wallflowers given new paint jobs and new agents and hoping to be asked onto the floor at last. Unlikely. Not now. Not unless the ex-agent really didn’t know how to dance.

But, remarkably, quality buyers are still there (we know because we’re competing with them). When sales are made it’s because both sides are working at it – there’s no such thing as an easy sale and those who are selling have learnt that the days of premiums are behind us. Those who haven’t are tabling valuations which suggest that some valuers are living in a different century. Those who haven’t are looking at taking the rental option for another year.

And still some investors are popping up in inner city areas. There were auctions with five and six people bidding.

Next weekend looks like being a big one, but it’s all quantity and not a lot of quality. Last weekend had an air of desperation (why else go to market in the first real weekend of February?) – the sense that vendors and agents felt they must deal or face 12 months that look even harder. Anyone for renting?

Which suggests … opportunities. For those who know what they are doing, not all will be losers in the year ahead.

And then there’s the inexorable transformation of the media landscape.

Mrs Rinehart’s newest toy, The Age, is looking more and more yesterday as a real estate medium. We speak to enough buyers to know that most (at least at the top end) are not reading the Saturday classifieds. Agents we talk to report being reached by email, not phone. The internet is a rising tide, submerging all else, and the waste is horrendous. Seas of ads which no-one looks at (and how long before agents start asking for your email address rather than your mobile number?).

David Morrell

Bayside: a change in the air?

We are over the Greek and European debt crises. We are most definitely over Kevin vs Julia. So thank the powers that be that we at last have the property market back for our amusement.

Winding back a little, you will recall that November/ December finished limply and that plenty of Bayside properties remained unsold, in turn providing a real challenge to those agents still on duty in January to clear the decks of old stock.

While a handful of soon-to-be-stale properties did clear last month, the low level of activity seemed to discourage would-be sellers from piling into the market in February and, as a result, there’s no heap of interesting and appealing choices out there.

Fast-forward to the week just past; the first real look at the market for 2012.

With the one or three exceptions, most selling agents would be a little disappointed with the results on the day, having been encouraged in the preceding weeks with the turnout to the open days and apparent renewed buyer interest.

Having said that, in Bayside there is a perceptible change in buyer sentiment in the air. The doom, gloom and negativity of late 2011 seems to have lifted somewhat.

While fence sitting is still popular, there are early signs that buyers are preparing to move – though this may not happen immediately. There’s a likely tipping point in the coming months when buyer confidence builds and one buyer’s action leads to another and the sudden impact of many raising their hands will see the pendulum move from nervous to positive.

What’s stopping that now is lack of choice for quality properties at realistic prices. Once prospective sellers become confident that buyers are back in the market, supply will start flowing and transaction numbers will increase.

And so the cycle continues …

Now back to those one or three exceptions.

1 Farleigh Grove, Brighton, has been in one family virtually since it was built 90 years ago so it does qualify as a “rare” offering. It’s in a quiet court between Church Street and the beach on 700 sq m. It’s a toss-up between a major renovation and a complete rebuild, so it had wide appeal. To prove the point, at least half a dozen bidders competed, pushing the price well past the apparent reserve of $1.85 million, to eventually sell for $2,222,000 or just over the magical $300 per sq ft (sorry, $3253 sq m). Prime property, sensible reserve = great outcome.

Curiously, a similar offering at 20 Birdwood Avenue, Brighton, an older brick house on 820 sq m with a Northerly rear orientation was passed in at $2.7 million (a tickle over $300 sq ft) with reserve of $2.9 million. The difference is that BIrdwood Avenue is in the blue chip region of Brighton’s Golden Mile, which has always commanded a premium of at least 20%, so given the previous result, this seems fairly priced.

Neighbouring Elsternwick recorded a strong result with the auction of a signature Victorian era house at 9 Staniland Grove. On 738 sq m and offering plenty of modern family accommodation, it sold for $1,925,000.

Further south in Bayside, Hampton and Sandringham generally had a forgettable day with only two results from the 10 offered.

The well-located 10 Victoria Street, Sandringham was one of the two that got over the line. Quoted between $1.7-1.8 million, it had plenty to offer and in such a prime location was always going to have interest. The final result at $1.935 million did not surprise.

The Bentleighs had a very good start to the season proper – only one passed in from the ten scheduled.

Highest on the day was 16 Coates Street, which easily broke through the seven figure barrier. It sold for $1.185 million.

Next week? We hope for a real sense of where 2012 is heading.

Damian Taylor

Something to say? Add your comment below.

Scroll to Top