Australia’s most valuable property market is preparing to reopen for business after several weeks of strict coronavirus measures.
From next weekend, real estate agents in New South Wales will once again be able to hold traditional property inspections and on-site auctions.
The industry has endured tough restrictions on how it does business, with open homes banned and replaced with by appointment only inspections.
Auctions were also banned and forced to move to online platforms.
Industry pundits and researchers warned that the longer the restrictions stayed in place, the worse the economic hit would inevitably be.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the easing of restrictions was thanks to the state’s ongoing success in flattening the curve.
“Choosing a home is one of the biggest decisions anybody makes and easing the restrictions to ensure people can more easily inspect, buy or rent a property is an important step for NSW,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The real estate industry has been adaptable in transitioning to online auctions, property inspections by appointment or online, and now as we make the move back to a more normal mode of operation we must ensure safety measures such as social distancing remain a key part of the process.”
New data on property price movements for the month of April, released on Friday, showed a very modest increase in Sydney after several months of strong growth.
But experts warned there was likely a lag in the impact of the coronavirus crisis on values and declines were inevitable in the months to come.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the measures were crucial in protecting people and slowing the rate of spread of COVID-19 in NSW.
“The community has done an outstanding job in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and we need to make sure we continue to exercise vigilance and care,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Real estate agents should limit the number of people viewing a property and attending an auction, follow stringent cleaning and safety guidelines, ensure clients do not touch surfaces and always have hand sanitiser available.”
And Mr Perrottet said the sector shouldn’t become complacent just because the rules are being eased.
“If we want to keep as many people in jobs as possible and businesses in business it is important to follow the safety advice and not put others at risk,” Mr Perrottet said.
“If people are not genuinely in the market for a new home, now is not the time to be having a look through their neighbour’s house.”
The government is urging agents to ensure physical distancing of greater 1.5m is maintained at all time and that good hygiene on premises and at auctions is promoted.
Digital platforms should be used where possible to eliminate unnecessary physical contact. Outdoor venues for auctions should be used.
Agents should keep detailed contact records of people who attend open homes and auctions to allow contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
And anyone who is feeling unwell should stay away.