Coronavirus changes to real estate: How buyers and sellers are adapting to social distancing

Monday 20 Apr 2020


Mobile devices have become an important arsenal in the real estate industry for auctions and virtual inspections.

Geelong homebuyers and sellers have adapted to the new normal amid strict COVID-19 social distancing rules.

The real estate industry dodged a bullet when the State Government backflipped on a ban on physical inspections of occupied homes.

In the month since public auctions and open homes were banned, some people have turned to virtual technology, like 3D tours and online auction apps, to remain in the market. reported a record audience on its platform in March, while 16 per cent of properties listed for sale and almost 18 per cent for rent in Victoria carried digital inspections, first introduced on March 21.

But Geelong agents told the Addy buyers still won’t sign a contract unless someone has seen the property in person.

Barry Plant, Highton agent Kieron Hunter said his team averaged 30 private inspections a week and was converting more campaigns to online auctions, encouraged by the number of people wanting to buy.

“I see the positives. We get a bit more one-on-one time with the buyer. If they’re picking up the phone in the middle of this, you know they’re legit,” he said.

“At least this way we can qualify them. They can walk through on a 3D tour, see it all and do a drive-by and then ring us.”

Hayeswinckle, Highton agent Michelle Winckle said physical inspections were important for sellers too.

“I’m a huge believer that nobody buys house without seeing it. Never, ever,” she said.

“There’s a feel with a home that gets you the extra money. You can look at the pictures, but I can’t tell you the amount of homes that I’ve sold to people that have walked inside and gone ‘Oh, I’ve just loved it’.”

Some buyers have tried to test sellers’ resolve with low offers, but data shows that prices are holding up. data shows agents reported 53 sales in the first two weeks of April, with others subject to finance.

Geelong’s median house price reached $585,000 at the start of April, 1.7 per cent higher than the same time last year.

“You get a few emails from people offering really ridiculous prices, saying ‘because of COVID-19 you can take this,’ but we’re not going to do that because it’s way below value,” Ms Winckle said.

“I’ve had one where people were offering $200,000 below. Of course, a serious buyer paid the right price.”

Maxwell Collins, Geelong agent Eugene Carroll said while some vendors were more flexible on price, offers were increasingly subject to finance, a building inspection or even the sale of their home.

Like the young Geelong couple that secured the four-bedroom house at 82 Reigate Rd, Highton, which sold above its $640,000 to $660,000 range, on condition of finance, a week after its scheduled auction.


Young homebuyers have purchased 82 Reigate Rd, Highton after multiple buyers placed offers for the house last weekend.

Several buyers placed offers for the home with views across Geelong, Mr Carroll said.

“It was a young Geelong couple that are going to renovate and reap the rewards. They can’t go wrong with that.”

Peter Farago

20 APR 2020