Confidence – and caution – ahead of the traditional peak of the retirement selling season

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Sellers and operators are expressing a mixed bag of emotions as the village sector gears up for what could prove to be a critical time to boost much-needed sales in the wake of COVID.

One Fell Swoop Partner and managing Director Chris Rooke (pictured above left) says they are seeing very good levels of enquiry in Melbourne despite the obvious challenge posed by lockdown restrictions.

“There is a reasonable amount of pent-up demand,” he said.

While off-the-plan sales are off by 30%, resales and sales of completed communities are tracking on budget, he added.

They also have a strong waitlist for villages with new stages about to launch.

“Going into a shortened spring selling season, we are fairly confident we will hit our targets,” he stated.

They are now seeking clarification on the latest easing of restrictions for private home inspections which allows people to see homes for 15 minutes – but still only within a 5km radius.

In other states, Chris says they are also good levels of interest and reasonable levels of conversion.

“Obviously the aged care sector continues to be under some pressure,” he pointed out, ”and as a consequence, people are looking for alternatives where they can assess and support which we are seeing at two assisted living developments.”

He also attributes this to their changed approach to marketing.

“We’re focused a lot more on engaging with the databases,” he said. “We’re also doing a lot of online events to help keep people engaged and fill in knowledge gaps so once we get them onsite, there is a compressed timeline between enquiry and reservation.”

Darren Timms (pictured above centre), the Managing Director of project development, marketing, sales and village operations partner Entero, also says they are seeing very high enquiry levels for their developments in Queensland, in particular a vertical tower on the Gold Coast.

Entero expects to record its strongest month of settlements in October, which he says is expected for this time of year even given COVID.

They are also seeing higher than average interest from interstate buyers.

“Due to the border closures, they can’t come so we have a few buyers just waiting to be able to come,” he said.

Retirement Living Council (RLC) President, M.L. McDonald (pictured above right) is more cautious in her assessment, saying that the market is still depressed.

“I’m seeing the East is probably much more positive than what is happening in WA and SA,” she said. “Here it is still very slow and reliant on residential sales picking up.”

In WA in particular, M.L. pointed to the challenges around the grants for first home buyers which have disrupted that segment and stalled sales.

“Normally they would relieve some of those retirees looking to downsize.”

However, the RLC President says operators are reporting more interest at home opens in the past couple of weeks – plus more committed buyers.

“While their numbers may be down compared to pre-COVID, they are more committed and faster in buying – previously they would have taken 18 months to decide,” she added.

“We are seeing a bit of hope as first home buyers shift back into the market,” she concluded.

Add in Sydney experiencing its biggest auction clearance since March on Saturday on the back of less stock and strong buyer demand and Melbourne set to lift the ban on private home inspections, it would seem there is indeed hope.