The second lockdown in Victoria has taken its toll on monthly housing sales, preventing home buyers from accessing the HomeBuilder grant, according to the Housing Industry Association.
Fiona Nield, executive director for Victoria, said the stage four restrictions in the state affected the overall housing market activity during the month.
The expected boost from the federal government’s HomeBuilder scheme failed to materialise in the state during the month, as the overall sales activity for newly-constructed dwellings declined by 14.4%. The sales decline in August overturned the increases recorded in the two previous months.
"During stage four restrictions, Victorian home buyers have been unable to visit display homes and meet with builders around all the critical decisions necessary for contract signings. August’s results clearly reflect this situation," she said.
Nield said the moderation in sales activity is likely to continue this month, which could impact the number of homes commencing construction later this year and into 2021.
The restrictions are also preventing many Victorian home buyers from accessing the HomeBuilder scheme, which only runs for a limited time.
"To be eligible for the grant, home buyers need to sign a home building contract by 31 December. Even after home buyers are able to visit display suites and choose their builder, there will be limited time to complete the detailed design requirements before this deadline," she said.
Nield said the state government needs to find a way to reopen the real estate industry to help mitigate any further risks to the housing market.
"Display homes and centres operated safely throughout the COVID-19 restrictions until stage four with builders applying minimum numbers of visitors, along with appointment only arrangements, and all necessary cleaning and tracing protocols in place," she said. "These practices should be applied now to assist these premises to re-open as soon as possible."
Several groups are calling the state government of Victoria to reconsider its decision to extend the restrictions on real estate services. The state government announced earlier this week that the stage four lockdown restrictions will be extended until 26 October. This means that private property inspections are still not allowed.
Marcus Williams, CEO of Harcourts Group Australia, said the state government's decision is "unrealistic and unacceptable", given that many property businesses continue to struggle amid the lockdown.
"A simple solution exists: The Victoria government must restore the ability for consumers to physically inspect a property, in person with the assistance of a qualified property consultant, before committing to a significant financial decision," he said.
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