What does the start of the auction year tell us?
With around 950 auctions expected, it goes without saying that this weekend is a significant test for the Melbourne residential market. By the end of it we will have a clear indication of market sentiment in 2013.
Indications are already positive. This year has commenced better than the last one ended, and that was also better than it started. The overall picture is of slowly improving demand.
Critically, Victorian consumers are more confident than they were a year ago. While this continues to be the case it will be a positive boost for the market.
Last weekend the Melbourne clearance rate was 70%. To put that in perspective the last time we recorded a clearance rate that commenced with a seven in front of it Collingwood beat St Kilda at the grand final replay in 2010.
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How they year starts, however, does not provide a clear indication of how it will end in the auction market. In fact, over the past five years the weekend clearance rate has rarely been the same at the end of the year as it was at the start.
There are many reasons for this; the critical one, however, is the performance of the economy and how that impacts on consumers.
Last year it was stable over the year. The February clearance rate for Melbourne was 62%, and after reaching a high of 65% in October it ended at 60%. This represented a fairly minor spread of 2 points from start till end.
In 2011 the drop was more significant. In February it was 67%, and it dropped 12 points to 55% in December. This was due to a large number of vendors, buoyed by the 2010 market, listing for auction in early 2011.
From a price perspective the market peaked in 2010 but the clearance rate fell over the year, from 86% in February to 65% in December, a 21-point drop.
In 2009 the market rose, but with a spread of 6 points was stable compared to the years that followed. It started in February with 76% and ended with 82%. Volumes were, however, very low at the start of the year, consumer confidence was at a low ebb following the onset of the GFC in September.
Finally in 2008 the spread was 15 points as it fell from 77% in February to 62% in December. That year the market was particularly affected by the end of a cycle of increasing interest rates in the second quarter and then of course the GFC.
Robert Larocca is communications manager of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria