Property market stays warm in winter

Auction numbers in Melbourne have ramped up again this weekend as investors and upgraders continue to fuel market activity in the first real test of winter.

Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors figures show more than 840 properties were scheduled to go under the hammer in the metro area this weekend, compared with 777 auctioned over the same weekend last year.

Rob Elsom, director of hockingstuart Brunswick, Carlton, North Melbourne and Northcote, said the group - which has some 50 offices across Melbourne - had about 20 per cent more stock than at the same time last year.

''But the interesting thing is that we're clearing it above the rate that we were clearing at this time last year. So that would tell most of us that the market is very, very healthy because the volumes are obviously considerably higher but the stock's still clearing.''

On Saturday, hockingstuart's Joanne Royston reported 61 of the 79 properties auctioned by their offices had sold, which translates to a clearance rate of 77 per cent.

Overall, APM reported a clearance rate of 74 from 651 auctions in metropolitan Melbourne.

John Bongiorno, director at Marshall White, said the market had passed the ''first test of winter'' on Saturday with his group reporting a clearance rate in excess of 80 per cent from more than 20 properties auctioned.

''I think it's a healthy hangover of the autumn market … I don't think buyers have gone into hibernation for winter.''

Among other results, Biggin & Scott sold 18 out of 21 properties auctioned on Saturday while western suburbs agents Sweeney Estate Agents sold 14 from 17 properties auctioned.

Sweeney chief executive Darren Dean said the market was being driven by upgraders who favoured properties in the $600,000 to $900,000 range and investors snapping up one and two-bedroom apartments.

Kim Easterbrook, managing director of Elite Property Advisory, said while she did not believe the market was generally favouring buyers or sellers, a noticeable increase in stock levels over the past few weeks - particularly in the sub-$1 million market - might be a good sign for buyers. Despite an increase in stock levels, she said it was still difficult to find good-quality family homes in suburbs such as Bentleigh, McKinnon and Brighton East.

''There's a lot of pressure on the prices in those locations. But, as a general rule, the market is more stabilised than about three months ago. We're seeing a lot more choice.''

Ms Easterbrook said that with a dearth of first home buyers, investors were ''dominating'' the $400,000 to $800,000 price bracket while upsizers were accounting for a large part of the $1 million to $2 million market.

The strength of the investor market was seen in the release of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures last week, demonstrating what Andrew Wilson, senior economist at the Domain Group, said was ''strong activity'' among investors in April despite public holidays. Meanwhile, overall market figures put the proportion of first home buyers during April at a record low in Victoria.

Dr Wilson said the market did not appear to have been put off by seasonal factors at this stage.

''We're certainly continuing to track moderate prices growth in Melbourne at the moment.''

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