Unit sales lag as year ends in house buy rush

Houses were the hot favourites over the weekend, outselling units by a factor of 14 percentage points.

Houses were the hot favourites over the weekend, outselling units by a factor of 14 percentage points.

The traditionally cheaper unit market attracts a range of first home buyers, older downsizers and investors. But they appear to have cooled their heels while families urgently finalised their arrangements before Christmas

Data from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria data shows the clearance rate for units and apartments fell to 58 per cent from 68 per cent last weekend, whereas houses rose to 72 per cent from 68 per cent.

It's not as if the sheer number of units and apartments on the market dragged down the clearance rate: 289 units went to auction this weekend compared with 361 last week.

Buyer advocate Frank Valentic said the buyers in this part of the market had more choice than families, many of whom wanted to be in particular school zones.

"If you want to be in the McKinnon High School zone you have to fight for it because they are rare," Mr Valentic said.

The poor performance of the flats market caused clearance rates to slip overall: down to 66.7 per cent from 1161 auctions according to researcher RP Data; and 66 per cent from 944 auctions reported to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria. Australian Property Monitors recorded a rate of 70 per cent from 670 results.

RP Data's Robert Larocca said it was the third consecutive weekend in which auction clearance rates failed to reach 70 per cent.

"With a few more weekends of over 1000 auctions, including around 1500 next week, buyers will be able to drive a better bargain," Mr Larocca said.

Of the 944 results reported to the REIV, 117 were sold before auction and 320 were passed in with 139 results yet to be reported.

Jas H. Stephens director Craig Stephens, who is selling former prime minister Julia Gillard's Altona house, said the market was sensitive to higher supply despite low interest rates.

"Build-up of supply means clearance rates will probably drop to the low to mid-60s for the rest of the year - buyers are discerning and investors are too," Mr Stephens said.

The biggest auction deal of the weekend was a 1493-square-metre block with two houses at 15-17 Irving Avenue, Box Hill, which sold for $6 million.

Four bidders, with development plans, pushed it well past its $4.3 million reserve at the auction, conducted by Lindellas' Dennis Dellas.

"This is a record all around. At $4018 a square metre, it beats the previous record by 30 per cent," Mr Dellas said.

Big family homes were in demand at the top end. A five-bedroom Edwardian house, at 17 Uvadale Grove, Kew, fetched $4 million, well above the $3.5 million reserve, after bidding from five parties.

The auctioneer, Jellis Craig's Alastair Craig, declined to comment on the price but reported he had also sold 8 Thomas Street, Kew, another five-bedroom house, for $2.6 million, $600,000 over reserve.

But not everything burst past its reserve price. Two bidders, one on the phone to Beijing, fought for a five-bedroom house at 62 Glyndon Road, Camberwell.

When the bidding finally hit the $3.73 million point, Marshall White auctioneer John Bongiorno went inside to consult the vendors. After returning poolside to the 100 spectators, he declared it on the market and it was sold.

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