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By Ray White Whitsunday

APRIL 2020 will likely go down in the history books as the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A month in which New Zealand was in lockdown for nearly all of the month without permission to trade.   Australia restrictions were less onerous, yet our members had to overcome customers’ perception that our industry was in fact closed and explain that we had adapted to new safe ways of operators.

It was another month in which the resilience of our markets shone through yet again.  Our own settlements were only down less than five per cent year on year, at $3.37 billion.  There was no reluctance on the part of the our buyer customers to settle the transactions that they entered into prior to the current challenges.   NSW/ ACT, WA and SA/NT all had a very strong April in regards to settlements. The media headlines last weekend screamed that settlements were ‘assumed’ to down by 40 per cent are clearly highly way off the mark and not based on any fact at all.  Our numbers speak for themselves.

It was also another month that underscored the resilience of our members, and their commitment to create business opportunities and great solutions for our customers.  Our headline trading result came in at $2.54 billion in April, which was down 22 per cent year on year.

This is an incredible result.  Let us remind ourselves again that NZ was in lockdown and there was severe restrictions in Australia, yet we were only down by 22%.  Many industries like travel, tourism, hospitality, retail and car sales reported trading falls of between 60-100 per cent in April.  We are incredibly grateful for the industry we are in – we keep saying that we wouldn’t swap it for any other.

What was most satisfying about our April figures was knowing that none of us could have done anything more during the month to influence the outcome.  So are enormously proud of the results, knowing that they give us confidence for the months ahead.

Within hours of the Prime Minister standing up in late March and declaring “no auctions” we held our first online auction. Our digital, auction, marketing and media teams all worked together to demonstrate a lightning fast pivot, resulting in 386 auctions in the month of April alone.  We cleared 40 per cent on auction day with over six average registered bidders on each auction.  The top sale under the hammer was of a cattle station in New England, Oakholme, sold by Rural NSW director Andrew Starr and Lachlan Cullen for $4.8 million under the hammer, some $1.3 million better than the highest offer pre auction prior.   April 2020 was definitely a month for the true believers of the auction method.

However, we do have a lot of work to do to communicate to our vendors that we can create competition for them and deliver great outcomes in the current environment.  And that waiting for the market to return to peak activity has risk associated with that decision.

All eyes are on our listing numbers at present.   Listing numbers have been gradually declining, even as sales figures remain strong.  We have seen good buyer enquiry and registered bidder numbers at auctions are as high as anytime over the past 12 months.  The Reserve Bank also left its official interest rate unchanged at 0.25 per cent at its meeting this week, which essentially means that interest rates cannot get lower.  While there are potentially future risks to the economy in regards to employment and migration, we can confidently express to our customers that now represents an opportunistic time to market property for sale with very low supply and high demand.

Until next month, I’m Dan White.

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