Stressed-out homebuyers are purchasing properties after only viewing them online as Victoria’s sixth extended lockdown continues.
And while the government doesn’t appear to be budging on reviving one-on-one home inspections, industry experts are concerned buyers are “diving into shallow water”.
It comes as house prices continue to soar, with properties still selling for premium figures amid the panic.
Scoresby woman Julie, who didn’t want her surname published, recently purchased a home for just under $1m after only having viewed it virtually.
Julie said she needed to buy to give her children a stable home. And with house prices and demand increasing dramatically after each lockdown, she knew time was running out.
“I needed to find a home that was near my kids’ school and on a bus route and if I waited I was going to be priced out, that was the situation,” she said.
“There’s this constant uncertainty.
”My kids are really resilient, but I just wanted a place for my kids, I wanted some certainty for them. This is about them knowing about where they’re going to be next year.”
Ray White Ringwood director Chris Watson said nine bidders tuned into the same auction as Julie. None had set foot inside the property.
All but one of the would-be buyers had planned to live at the property, he said.
“There are definitely people like Julie whose situations dictate they have to buy – they’re on a timeline, whatever their situation is,” Mr Watson said.
“These restrictions and the inability for the community to get through (a property) – whether it’s for renting or buying – are causing a lot of issues and a lot of stress for a lot of people.”
Harcourts Pakenham agent Tain Bartholomew likened the rise of online purchasing in the Covid-era to dating apps.
“It’s like when I met my wife through online dating – everyone thought, ‘geez you met online’, but now it’s the norm,” he said.
“We’ve sold 37 properties this month sight unseen, across Pakenham, Officer and up to Gembrook. They’ve (buyers) got no choice.
“We’ve got videos, floorplans, photos, the vendor does a video tour, we answer all buyers’ questions and if they want an extra photo, we provide it.”
But Property Mavens buyers agent Miriam Sandkuhler said she feared many desperate buyers were being fuelled by emotion.
Ms Sandkuhler said she would “never condone” buying without physically inspecting a property, unless there were rigorous legal safeguards in place.
But she added it was “tough” for people who were in need of a property and called upon the government to reintroduce one-on-one inspections for would-be buyers and renters.
“It’s insanity that the government won’t open up one-on-one inspections when we’ve done it in the past and it’s managed so well by the industry,” Ms Sandkuhler said.
“Housing is an essential service.
“I feel for people, I can empathise with people. But (buying sight unseen) isn’t worth it. It’s like diving into shallow water – the water looks enticing and bang, you break your neck.”
A spokesperson for the Victorian Government would not comment directly on the impacts to prospective buyers, but said inspections “must be conducted remotely” as “slowing the spread of coronavirus is our priority right now”.
“The Victorian Government will continue to monitor the impacts of the pandemic on renters and homeowners, and we encourage tenants and landlords to work together to come to an agreement on any issue they may have,” they said.
The spokesperson also highlighted the 130 reforms made earlier this year to protect renters after the end of the evictions moratorium.
And while Julie is happy with her purchase, and comfortable with the online process after searching for more than a month, she knows others aren’t as lucky.
She urged buyers in a similar position to “do your homework” and ask as many questions as necessary.
“It’s not the same as walking though, clearly, but it’s as good as you can get in this environment,” Julie said.
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