Australia Home Sales Slump After Public Auctions Banned

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What was set to be the busiest week of the year so far for home sales in Australia has turned into a fizzer after public auctions were banned as part of social-distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

While 3,203 properties were scheduled for auction across the combined state and territory capital cities in the week ended March 29, 40% were pulled from the market after the ban wasannounced, data provider CoreLogic said in a statement Sunday.

Of the auctions that did proceed this weekend, just 51.4% of houses sold — the lowest clearance rate since June 2019, when the property market was starting to emerge from a near two-year slump.

The government on Tuesday banned open-house inspections and public auctions as part of more stringent measures to combat the virus, which haskilled 14 people in Australia.

Unlike other countries, individual inspections of properties are rare in Australia’s major cities, with realtors typically opening properties twice a week to encourage as many people as possible through a home. Auctions, a popular way of selling properties in Australia, are often held in the front yard, attracting crowds of bidders and onlookers.

“The coming months are likely to see substantially fewer auctions than normal,” CoreLogic said. While some listings will switch to a private sale — where the buyer and seller negotiate directly — “others will likely pull their property from the market altogether until confidence and selling conditions improve,” the firm said.

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