BUYERS turned out in force over the weekend delivering a strong pass mark to the first test of the pre-Easter season.
Agents and buyer advocates cited low interest rates and pent-up demand as some of the elements drawing buyers back into the market after two years of lacklustre results and falling prices.
Melbourne's clearance rate of 73 per cent was achieved against a bumper crop of 903 auctions. The Real Estate Institute of Victoria said 541 properties were sold on the day, while 116 were sold before auction.
Of the 246 properties that failed to sell, 145 were passed in on a vendor's bid. The results of a further 35 auctions are yet to be reported.
There were signs of strong confidence at the top end of the market when four bidders, including pollster Gary Morgan, competed for a 14-room Victorian villa at 120 Powlett Street in East Melbourne.
Mr Morgan entered the bidding late in the auction, conducted by Nelson Alexander agent Arch Staver, and secured Claverings for $5,155,000, well above its $4,375,000 reserve.
Despite its size and deep 752-square-metre parcel of land, the double-fronted villa has a modest street frontage. Obstetrician Peter Renou had owned Claverings since 1972, and ran consulting rooms from a suite of offices on the ground floor.
Mr Staver said not much had changed in the Australian economy since late last year but confidence had picked up regardless.
The property had previously been owned by the Nunn family, co-founders of the now defunct Bourke Street department store Buckley & Nunn.
Wakelin Property Advisory director Richard Wakelin said a growing trend of demolishing older houses and building anew demonstrated the rising confidence in the market.
Agent Nick Johnstone auctioned the former Brighton police station at 100 Asling Street, just behind Gardenvale railway station. It fetched a staggering $1.66 million and will be the site of a new home.
The property is on 711 square metres of Crown land, which means its purchase incurs no stamp duty.
Mr Johnstone said three bidders for the property quickly took the bidding past the $1.05 million reserve and kept on going.
Mr Johnstone said Saturday's results augured well for the season. ''We had really big numbers, not just at the auctions but at the open for inspections too. There's a more positive vibe and the bidding was pretty fierce.''
The cop shop's price of $2341 per square metre was beaten an hour later by the auction of 98 Asling Street, an old weatherboard house on 555 square metres.
Marketing it as a pure land sale, Biggin & Scott agent Marcus Peters never opened the house for inspection. It was sold under the hammer for $1,365,000 or $2459 a square metre.
Mr Peters, who declined to confirm the price, which his vendor wished undisclosed, said people were attracted to the eclectic, neighbourly feel of ''old Gardenvale'', its village shops, convenient public transport and good state and private schools.