Government temporarily bans public auctions and inspections, part of updated social distancing measures

CBRE’s Justin Dowers (front) with The Auction Company’s Paul Tzamalis (centre) at the public sale of 22-26 Corrs Lane, Melbourne.

Public auctions and inspections will be temporarily banned following a national cabinet decision earlier tonight.

Service based retailers including beauty therapists, nail salons and tattoo parlours will also be forced to cease trading when social distancing measures come into effect at midnight, Wednesday March 25.

Hairdressers can continue to operate provided clients stay a maximum 30 minutes.

The Australian Education Union will meet with the government to decide on the short-term future of schools.

Controversially, building sector unions are encouraging construction workers to continue on sites where there are often more than 400 people in close proximity, fearing there would be no jobs if they stopped.

Social distancing changes

The social distancing changes come as Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians “to stay home unless absolutely necessary” and “use their common sense” to try and curb the COVID-19 spread.

BBQs with family and friends or “coming together to celebrate one-year old birthday parties” are no longer allowed, the politician said.

Shopping centre food courts will be closed as will amusement parks and arcades, play centres (indoor and outdoor), community and recreation centres, galleries, museums, libraries, community facilities and RSLs.

Funerals and personal training classes will be limited to 10 people. Five can attend a wedding (which is usually the minimum after the celebrant and witnesses).

“In the retail space, auction houses, gathering together in auction rooms…that can no longer happen,” Mr Morrison said. “Real estate auctions and open house inspections, that cannot continue”.

Commercial real estate agents have been converting auction campaigns for weeks

Regardless of sale method, commercial property inspections in Australia are typically conducted on an individual basis.

In recent weeks several agencies have been converting auction campaigns to private sale variations.

This afternoon, Burgess Rawson – which runs a high-profile same-day portfolio auction in Sydney and Melbourne – announced it would instead promote the next round of properties as deadline private treaty sales.

Gorman Commercial also said it would market a Canterbury shop and Dandenong service station via an expressions of interest campaign, cancelling scheduled public sales.

Late last week, Melbourne Acquisitions and Allard & Shelton changed an on-site auction planned for four Greville Street, Prahran shops to private sale campaigns.

Over 2100 homes nationally were set to be auctioned last weekend.

About 1000 were earmarked to go under the hammer in Victoria this Saturday.

Residential agent John Matthews, who recently established John Matthews Real Estate, said the ban marks “a very sad day”.

“There’s no greater thrill…than a public auction in the auction capital of the world in Melbourne,” the agent said.

“Sacrifices however must be made for the good of everyone’s health.

“We will still be able to trade via private appointment and utilise either private treaty or expressions of interest [campaigns] which is good, so we can still help serve the people with their real estate needs.

“Hopefully all auctioneers will be back out in the street again in no time especially in Spring”.

Online auctions are expected to become on the radar in the meantime – companies like Anywhere Auctions owning the technology to stream the sale of a Cheltenham medical centre to global investors last June.


Federal and state governments have been announcing stimulus packages this month – focusing on employment – in anticipation of what is expected to be a global recession.

Reports – and results – within commercial real estate circles show investor demand intensified since last week.

However with an anticipated rise in unemployment and fall in spending and consumer confidence, residential property in high-supply like some inner-city apartments, is expected to drop in value this year.

This could flow-on to project marketing and development sectors if the pattern follows national real estate dips like those in 2018/19 (prior to the last federal election when the ALP was proposing a range of new taxes), 2008 (Global Financial Crisis) and 2002 (following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks).

Opportunities noted during those downturns – including the return of expats from overseas which is said to have preserved prestige home values – could also come again.

Build-to-rent, a concept which could continue in a downturn, may also drive Australian development – and jobs – this cycle.

Today, some of the country’s biggest builders including Metricon called on federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar to consider boosting the first home owner grant.

Tax cuts – particularly those discouraging foreign investment subsequently slowing the residential construction sector last year – are another measure industry specialists recently said should come.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of