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New hope for Melbourne first-home buyers as spring selling begins

Generic auction signThe Sunday Age Domain Photo CATHRYN TREMAIN23 June 2005/cjt050623.001.004 RICHMOND,AUSTRALIA 29 JULY 2017; Auctioneer Richard Impiombato from Delmege O’Shea in action at 42 Stawell St Richmond on Saturday 29 July 2017. Photo Luis Enrique Ascui
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‘Tis the season for first-home buyers. At least, that’s what economists are predicting ahead of the first weekend of the spring auction market.

Along with other owner-occupiers, young buyers in the market for their first home are tipped to dominate auctions across the state over the coming months.

Emboldened by stamp duty cuts introduced in winter, they are also expected to face less competition from investors, according to ME Bank’s Patrick Nolan.

“This season will be different from previous years in that we won’t see as much investor activity due to n Prudential Regulation Authority regulations curbing the amount of investor and interest-only loans banks can lend,” Mr Nolan said.

“We think there’s going to be much more opportunity for owner-occupiers to really get in there and compete.”

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said the strongest part of Melbourne’s auction market was in the budget price range.

“Spring will reveal whether that cut to first-home buyer’s stamp duty has really worked,” he said.

Spring is widely regarded as the best time of year to sell property and, as a result, more properties come onto the market. There are 894 auctions scheduled this weekend, forecast to rise to 1100 by mid-September. Related: Winter auctions up on last yearRelated: Families struggle to climb property ladderRelated: Melbourne’s new bridesmaid suburbs

Traditionally, the biggest auction days over the spring period are the weekends before the AFL grand final and the Melbourne Cup. More than 1400 properties can go under the hammer on these so-called “super Saturdays”.

Middle- and outer ring suburbs have recorded heightened auction activity this year, which is tipped to continue into spring, according to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

President Joseph Walton named Craigieburn, Reservoir, Dingley Village and Scoresby among suburbs recording above-average clearance rates.

In the past, auctions were typically only popular in the inner-city but Mr Walton said an increase in buyer appetite meant it was now the norm for properties further afield to sell under the hammer.

“Over the course of the past couple of years, there’s been a real spike in auction activity in the outer suburbs,” he said.

Samantha McCarthy, from Hocking Stuart Werribee, said auctions were not a deterrent in the outer west, where it was still possible to buy a freestanding house for less than $500,000.

“There’s on average five bidders per property in the outer west,” she said.

Ms McCarthy said first-home buyers were often bidding against each other, as well as competing with interstate investors.

“The investors are coming from Sydney; Melbourne is so much more affordable than where they are coming from.”

Dr Wilson said Melbourne had emerged as the strongest auction market in the country, tracking higher clearance rates than Sydney. There were 9868 auctions over winter, with an overall auction clearance rate of 71 per cent.

He expected clearance rates in Melbourne to remain above 70 per cent but said, overall, the market may not perform as well as last spring, when buyers were motivated by recent interest rate cuts.

He said the top end of the market had been an underperformer over winter.

“It’s certainly not as strong as the budget market, particularly the inner east,” he said. “There’s a real sense the [inner-east] market has topped out.”

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