Coronavirus: Auctions survive on online bidding platforms, Zoom

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Melbourne’s auction action is carrying on, despite the public practice being outlawed by the Prime Minister amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With on-site and in-room auctions prohibited for the foreseeable future, real estate agents are going fully digital to send homes under the hammer.

This has lead to online auction platforms experiencing “unprecedented” demand from agencies across Australia.

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92 Hamilton St, Yarraville sold for $1.085 million at an auction run on Zoom.

Anywhere Auctions has signed up 30 real estate offices across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in the past two days, while Gavl notched a 200 per cent increase in traffic over a fortnight.

SoldOnline — which describes itself as “eBay for property sales” — is reporting a “1000 per cent increase in auction listing inquiries this week” across Australia.

In-vogue conferencing app Zoom is also emerging as an auction market player.

A three-bedroom Yarraville house fetched $1.085 million on Thursday night, March 26, at an auction held entirely on Zoom.

Jas Stephens Yarraville’s Andy Simpson said his agency had decided to shift the auction, which had been scheduled for Saturday, to the platform to capitalise on strong buyer demand for the property.

Mr Simpson said eight parties registered to bid on 92 Hamilton St. They were sent a Zoom video link via email and tuned in last night to watch auctioneer Branko Lemaic take bids.

“We read out the conditions like we would when we’d call a normal auction on a Saturday,” he said.

“Then we ended up having three bidders and the property sold on reserve.

“The bidders could see each other on screen; we like to be transparent with our real estate transactions, we don’t like to do too many ‘highest or best offer’ sales.”

Mr Simpson said he planned to run more auctions on Zoom as the coronavirus lockdown continued, while off-market transactions had also become more common with vendors reluctant to commit to full advertising campaigns given the uncertain circumstances.

EYS Auctions is also set to send a one-bedroom apartment at 4/121 Gillies St, Fairfield, under the hammer via Zoom at 6.30pm Friday, March 27. Prospective buyers are required to register with the selling agency, The Bisi Agent, prior to the auction.

4/121 Gillies St, Fairfield is due to be auctioned on Zoom on Friday night.

Melbourne had been due to host 1464 auctions this week, according to property data firm CoreLogic.

Many of those properties have been shifted to the private sale method, while more than 100 auctions were fast-tracked to beat the temporary ban.

An online buyer triumphed in one of the last auctions to combine in-person and digital bidding for the foreseeable future on Wednesday night.

Barry Plant Inner City Group director Rocco Siciliano said a couple won a Coburg North house for $1 million while sitting in their home “an hour away from Melbourne”, by placing offers via Anywhere Auctions.

3A Morris St, Coburg North sold to an online bidder.

“About 15 bidders attended in person, but 40 streamed the auction on the app or website,” he said.

Mr Siciliano said the buyers of 3A Morris St also signed the sale contracts digitally, “without having to come into contact with us”.

Barry Plant Group chief executive Mike McCarthy expected about 24 of the 108 auctions his company had scheduled across Melbourne this weekend to go ahead via Anywhere Auctions.

He tipped that volume to increase over the coming weeks, as agencies adapted to the new normal.

“For buyers, you still have that transparency factor and from a seller’s point of view, you have competition for your property,” he said.

“(Coronavirus is) a moving beast, but right now there’s still a lot of real estate activity and an increased level of desire to get a deal done for both buyers and sellers.”

Last week’s 1343 Melbourne auctions generated a final 58.4 per cent clearance rate.

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samantha.landy@news.com.au