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Calls to class real estate as ‘essential’

03 April 2020 Grace Ormsby

In the event of further restrictions in response to the coronavirus, an industry group is calling for real estate services to be considered “essential” and allowed to continue its “vital” work.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) said it has written to the Victorian government to urge it to consider the sector as an “essential industry that supports our state’s economy”.

President Leah Calnan outlined that real estate services and transactions must be allowed to continue during the COVID-19 crisis and “safeguarded” during these chaotic times – especially if further restrictions come into play.

“While the provision of shelter itself is clearly an essential need, real estate professionals play a critical role in enabling the sale and purchase and ongoing management of shelter,” she argued.

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The president considered that the real estate profession acted quickly and responsibly in response to COVID-19 and applied a number of safeguards and procedures.

She also noted the investment in new technology such as virtual reality inspections and online auctions.

“Real estate services must be deemed essential to ensure the ongoing provision of shelter and to protect the property market and broader economy from collapsing,” she continued.

Ms Calnan went on to outline how Victorian real estate transactions “contribute billions of dollars to the state and local governments through stamp duty revenue and other property-related taxes and expenses”.

According to the REIV, the industry is one of the largest contributors to the state’s GDP as well as being one of its largest employers.

“The property market is the cornerstone of the Victorian economy.”

“Any risk to its trading would have a disastrous impact on all Victorians from both a personal and economic perspective,” Ms Calnan said.

Despite the coronavirus, the president noted that the need to buy and sell property remains.

“During times of economic uncertainty, people are often moved to take their money off the stock market and invest in bricks and mortar.”

She conceded property sales “will inevitably slow”, but observed that there will be owners who will have no other choice but to sell their properties at this time.

“Property sales are sometimes necessary to avoid financial ruin. An inability to buy and sell property would exacerbate financial difficulties, crush confidence and, potentially, negatively impact property values,” she flagged.

In addition, Ms Calnan emphasised the need for property managers to be able to continue operating: “During a moratorium on evictions, property managers can work through any government directives with tenants and landlords to assist in negotiations and ensure understanding by all parties involved.”

To ensure that real estate services can continue to be provided in a responsible and safe manner, the president said the REIV is committed to providing education, resources and advice to the real estate community.

Calls to class real estate as ‘essential’
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