oc | Thursday 2nd April

Season Opener: February 16 – a quiet start to the year, but there are a couple of big weeks around the corner

And we're back! A rather quiet day stock-wise, but that didn't stop Melburnians from enjoying the first real auction day of the year. 36 Emo Rd, Malvern East, passes in for $1,200,000 in front of a good sized crowd of 70

Hey, isn’t it good to be back in amongst it in 2013! So far the anecdotal evidence is indicating the market is starting with a bit of a bang. Enquiry is up, the number of buyers through most opens is up, agents’ mood is up (compared to this time last year) and some of the early results appear up as well.

At 6.00 pm Saturday the James $M+ clearance rate is 80% on the 15 homes we covered. is out of the blocks at 2.2 bidders per auction.

So what do we take from this? Not much, given it’s early days. Although, if you are hoping for a strongish market, the initial signs are there that this may well happen in early 2013.

However, a couple of points to consider:

1. We have a very, very small seasonal auction sample to date. So anything we say is more based on supposition than evidence.

2. Early February always starts stronger than many expect – even in the black years. But things can peter out very quickly if the underlying market sentiment is actually not that strong. Early signs on the housing market – just like exit polls in election – can at times give false readings. Nonetheless, the signs are good right now for a solid market.

Biggest Auctions:

  • Malvern East, 21 Brunel St, Marcus Chiminello (Marshall White), under hammer, $2,321,000, 4 bidders
    As I approached this auction, the canopy of plane trees was a welcoming sight…(See More in Auction Reports)
  • , 14 Kembla St, Glen Coutinho (RT Edgar), under hammer $2,000,000, 1 bidder
    Great to be back at a Saturday auction…(See More in Auction Reports)


  • , 2 Cowper St, Greg Costello (RT Edgar), under hammer, $1,272,500, 6 bidders
    My first $1m+ auction for the season and it was a goodie…(See More in Auction Reports)
  • Murrumbeena, 3 Donal St, Craig Williamson (Buxton), under hammer, $1,500,000, 5 bidders
    At Donal Street today, the demand for the new large family was strong…(See More in Auction Reports)

Pass Ins:

  • Camberwell, 13 Orrong Cres, passed in, $1,400,000, no bidders
    While most of the 40-strong crowd huddled under trees or beside hedges…(See More in Auction Reports)
  • Malvern East, 17 John St, passed in, $1,370,000, no bidders
    My last auction for the day and by now it was very hot…(See More in Auction Reports)

Was that a bid? Mark Dayman (Marshall White) at 14 Glyndon Rd, Camberwell, under hammer, $1,610,000, 2 bidders

So when we will we know how 2013 is going to go?

We may actually get a fair idea early on, because we have two weekends of ‘borderline’ Super Saturdays ahead of us. We say they are borderline because, while technically we have numbers approaching the magical 150 auctions in Bayside and Inner East for the next two weeks, there are very few ‘landmark’ auctions among them. A lot of what’s on offer will fall either side of that magic million dollar mark.

So while the first blush of results will give you some idea of market direction, it won’t be until a few weeks after Easter that things will become really clear to any credible market watcher. Given Easter comes early this year, we should know for sure by the end of April.

We at James have been involved in some strong results this last week:

3 Bluff Street, Hawthorn East was due to go to auction this week with a quote in the mid to high one millions. But an acceptable offer a week ago for above $2m brought on a ding-dong boardroom auction (with Anthony Reis and James Redfern conducting proceedings), and three very motivated parties fought it out to well over $2,500,000. While this was a strong price,  it was not quite record-breaking – given it was 1200 square metres of prime north-facing Hawthorn East and the end result was $2,250 per sqm.

Down Bayside way, Stewart Lopez’s good work meant that the big one in Bay Street, Brighton on 3000 sqms, as well as an off-market near the Council offices on around 1000 sqms, both have sold stickers on them. It was in fact a three party simultaneous deal.

The above in total represents more than $10 million.

Agent Mood

As we dust off the cobwebs and crank back up our James Home Ratings engine, we have also been getting back into the saddle of ‘the chatter’ out there among agents. To date, that chatter has been very positive. Almost everyone is in a good mood, mainly due to the incredibly powerful finish to 2012. (It was particularly good for us, with almost a third of our company’s annual turnover coming through in the last six weeks of last year in terms of happy clients. This seems to have been market-indicative for selling agents as well.) But this year’s positive mood is also supported by the strong numbers we’ve been seeing at opens, and by the fact that our phones are ringing with new clients wanting to buy homes. We’ve also seen some actual results, which was not the case at this time last year when most agents had no deal to talk about.

Michael Gibson CEO of told me his holidays were unusually short, “but this year I didn’t mind as there has been some action”. (I wouldn’t have minded either Michael, if I had got that $16m deal away.) – Bradley Brown, CEO of Fletchers, with whom I had a lovely lunch last week, said his company has hit the ground running. I always love speaking to Rob Vickers Willis, Director of Abercrombys – he’s a very warm soul – and he too said his company’s results were echoing the above positive sentiment.

Agent Survey: How has the year started?

Nick Johnstone (Nick Johnstone, Brighton): “2013 is without doubt going to be a year we will all remember for a long time. The mood certainly swung in November 2012 and has continued with gusto in 2013 – I have noticed in the last couple of weeks that phone enquiry has increased markedly as well as a real sense of positivity and “ now is the time” approach. We are certainly changing our dialogue as I don’t think it will be long until we have an even playing field between the buyer and seller. We are really excited about what this year has in store and from an agency point of view it will again be, the harder you work the luckier you get. Bring it on.”

David Oster (Nelson Alexander, Ivanhoe): “We are seeing a spring in the step from the market. Stock levels are low and we are seeing increased numbers from the buying market and increased numbers at opens and some great RESULTS. With low interested rates and some positive signs from the share market we are optimistic of a solid year.”

Richard Winneke, (Jellis Craig, Hawthorn): “The year has started very positively. Large numbers at open for inspections, very few pass ins ( Boroondara ) and buyers keen to make offers prior to auction. Looks like a good year for sellers.”

Justin Long (Marshall White, Armadale): “The mood is certainly more optimistic from vendors and buyers alike, hence we seem to have good levels of stock available across the markets. The test will be how well this stock will be taken up, the auction outcomes over the next 6 weeks will give us a good bearing on that.”

Arch Staver (Nelson Alexander, Fitzroy): “ I think the 23rd will be the weekend that we know a little more about how the market will behave leading up to the early Easter this year. The signs so far in 2013 reflect a cautiously optimistic mood for sellers. We have sold everything that was a Christmas hangover and in fact several of the early February auctions that we had scheduled never made it to market as they were scooped up at firm prices by the early birds in January. With listings down to rather low levels we are hopeful that the strong results that we expect in the next few weeks encourage more sellers on to the market post Easter.”

So, as they say in the classics, bring it on! My only closing thought in our first week back on news is contrary to Andrew Demetriou stance with his code, I’m all for performance-enhancing methods for ours.

Love this job.

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