Real estate agents are known for being optimistic. As a profession, they’re a glass half full group of people. It’s just the way they are! However, BDmag wasn’t sure whether Damien Keyes, of Keyes and Co Property, would be able to maintain an optimistic outlook when asked about the property market, post COVID-19. Happily, optimism prevailed… and Damien even provided buyer inspection figures, to back up his findings.
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Inspections took a huge dive in March when quarantine restrictions were first introduced, before plummeting even further in April. However, in May the inspection figures soared back up to almost meet February’s figures. Was this because people were so bored of looking at their own four walls, that they’d happily book home inspections, so they could look at other people’s?
The proof is in the sales. Keyes and Co recorded a record-breaking 21 sales in May, which Damien said was the most sales achieved in a month since the company’s inception almost eight years ago. So it seems these buyers weren’t just bored sticky beakers after all!
One of Keyes and Co’s agents, Alex Martin, sold 13 of the 21 properties, which were mainly priced between $250,000 and $450,000. The pool of interested buyers was predominantly made up of owner occupiers, with two of the sales achieving the full asking price due to buyer competition. Six of the thirteen sales received multiple offers from different buyers.
Damien sold seven of the 21 properties, with one of these sales being to an investor. The rest were buyers seeking to purchase and upgrade properties. These sales suggest a measure of confidence returning as buyers are feeling comfortable enough to take these steps.
As a result of social distancing, agents were only allowed to conduct private viewings with no more than two people present after 21st March. Damien said that buyers had remained active online throughout the COVID lockdown and the use of 3D virtual tours had proved invaluable. However, as soon as restrictions eased and open homes became possible from the 9th May, buyers quickly sprinted for the door!
This healthy market activity has given Damien and his team confidence that things may not stay down for too long.
Challenges and positive outcomes of COVID
When Damien was quizzed about the challenges of being in the real estate profession, during such an extraordinary time, he quickly replied that fear of the unknown was the most difficult factor.
“We simply had no idea how COVID would impact the market,” he said, “and we had a full list of clients riding through the same scary unknown with us.
“We weren’t able to provide exact advice on how to respond… that was very difficult.”
When auctions were banned, Damien and the team had four home owners relying on them to present their homes at auction. They had to act quickly to find an alternative solution. Literally, over-night, they transitioned to a digital auction platform, which allowed them to stream their auctions anywhere in the world!
For Damien, this was one of the positives outcomes of COVID, as it’s something he and the team can keep using post-COVID; offering Keyes and Co’s clients the convenience and choice to bid in person or from the comfort of their own homes.
Other benefits of COVID, Damien said, was the opportunity to focus, without interruptions, on a new strategic plan he, his wife Kirsty and the team had been in the process of setting up before COVID hit. This valuable downtime gave them the opportunity to work through this process and make it happen a lot faster. No wasteful bingeing on Netflix for this dedicated team!
On the downside, Damien said that he missed working closely, and often at a fast pace, with his tight-knit team while working from home during quarantine. As a manager, he feels that being able to share the highs and lows of the day’s events produces a kind of energy that lifts the team’s overall performance and morale… and which is impossible to replicate when you’re working from home and only connecting via phone or zoom.
Whilst it’s still early days, BDmag was keen to know if Damien felt that the rise in people working from home, combined with the obvious downside of living in a large city during a pandemic, might result in more people moving from metropolitan areas to experience North Queensland’s great lifestyle. Damien’s response was… optimistic!
Damien believes that as buyers’ confidence rises, especially when borders open, regional places like Townsville will become a very attractive option for people seeking a more affordable lifestyle.
He recently sold a beach-front home to a buyer from Canberra, who is moving here to enjoy the great fishing, and who jumped at the chance to leave the city behind when an employment opportunity arose.
First Home Buyers
With a swag of Government grants and a First Home Loan Deposit Scheme available to first home buyers, there’s never been a better time to get into the market. Damien said that his agency has sold a few properties to first home buyers, but not on the same scale as the increased activity he has seen in the new homes market.
“For those not wishing to build, there is good value in purchasing an existing home,” he said.
“At the moment there is still a gap between the cost of building a new home versus that of purchasing a comparable established home. In addition, an established home has the benefit of more facilities and services around it compared to a new building estate.”
Damien feels that an increase in confidence and sales in the existing home market will see prices start to rise and hopefully lead to an increase in values across the board. It certainly seems that he, along with his colleagues in the real estate industry, have every right to feel optimistic about the Townsville property market bouncing back.
By Susan Mattocks for BDmag