It's been slim pickings for Canberrans looking to buy a home during the ACT's lockdown but new listings data from CoreLogic indicates relief could be in sight.
Canberra recorded 575 new listings over the four weeks October 3, up from a recent low of just 303 new listings for the four weeks to September 13, CoreLogic data shows.
Low stock levels, due in part to vendors holding off listing during lockdown, have left many Canberra buyers frustrated, particularly first-timers looking to get a foot in the door.
Emily Evans has just moved into her new apartment after an 18-month search and said she's ecstatic to have secured a first home but it wasn't an easy ride.
"I was aware how difficult the market is here and whilst I've been waiting to get [a property] over the past year and a half the prices have jumped so much. I would just save enough for a deposit and then they would go up another 15 or 18 per cent," she said.
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The property search became a numbers game for Ms Evans, spending most weekends prior to lockdown at auctions and jumping on the phone to agents as soon as a property was listed.
"It's definitely, from my experience, the first few people in are the ones that get it and if you're too late ... you've got no chance at all," she said.
Despite the recent uplift, Canberra's real estate stock remains low compared to previous years. According to CoreLogic there were a total 1,420 properties on the market on October 3, down 28.9 per cent on last year and 31 per cent lower than the five-year average.
It's a similar story elsewhere in Australia, with total active listings nationwide down 23.2 per cent for the year as at October 3.
Jared Clarkson is another Canberra first home buyer who recently secured a property after a two-year search.
"It was a pretty horrible experience, just because you get your hopes up that you're going to secure something and it just never actually happened," he said.
Mr Clarkson said the homes he was looking to buy would sell for well over the price guide, which was further exacerbated when the ACT went into lockdown in August.
"It got to a point where I was so frustrated and so fed up with looking at houses every Saturday and getting my hopes up, where I said 'I'll pay anything' and I think that's pretty dangerous," he said.
Competition heats up at online auctions
CoreLogic data also shows Canberra last week reported its highest clearance rate since late July, with 93.6 per cent of auctions returning a successful result. It comes as Canberra's property prices continue to rise at one of the highest rates in Australia.
MoiraMaloney of Maloney's Property said low supply and strong demand is creating a competitive online auction environment.
"We recently sold [a property] in Campbell and we ended up with 28 registered bidders," she said.
"I haven't seen that level of demand probably since the peak of the market in 2010."
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The temporary move to online inspections and auctions during lockdown has also opened the market up to wider range of buyers. Ms Maloney has had buyers snapping up properties in the ACT sight-unseen while residing in Melbourne and London.
"Neither of them could view the properties but ... they were quite comfortable to proceed with a sale," she said.
"It's interesting that, I suppose, the extra things that we're doing as agents to accommodate the buyer is even fueling demand a little bit more because it's broadening our marketplace."
When can we expect listings to get back to normal levels?
CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said as restrictions in Canberra ease further, buyers can expect to see more homes come onto the market.
"A rise in new listing numbers aligns with a relaxation of home inspection policies, where prospective buyers could once again arrange a private physical inspection of a home since September 18, as well as the normal seasonal increase in listings we normally see at this time of the year," he said.
But he warns it will take some time for the real estate market to fully recover.
"Higher stock levels will provide buyers with more choice, but despite the rise in advertised supply, active stock levels remain 31 per cent below the five year average," Mr Lawless said.
"Until stock levels rise more substantially, buyers are likely to continue to feel a sense of urgency amid stiff competition for available housing."
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