Sydney people can drive to the Hunter to attend open-house inspections, something they are banned from doing in their own city.
A Newcastle real estate agent contacted the Newcastle Herald on Friday to express her "absolute outrage" that a Central Coast property agent seemingly bound by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in Greater Sydney had inspected one of her houses in Newcastle on Wednesday on behalf of a client.
In a subsequent conversation between the agents, the visiting agent had expressed the view that the state's public health orders did not stop her coming to Newcastle and she intended to bring a North Shore client with her to inspect the property at an open house on Saturday.
Real Estate Institute NSW boss Tim McKibbin said on Friday that the government had confirmed that Greater Sydney agents were allowed in regional NSW for work purposes, and buyers from Greater Sydney were also allowed to leave the lockdown area to inspect property in places like Newcastle.
"Provided it's a genuine inspection, you can drive to another location outside your zone," Mr McKibbin said.
"And that cuts both ways."
Stay-at-home orders issued for Greater Sydney on June 26 by Health Minister Brad Hazzard say "inspecting a potential new place of residence" is a "reasonable excuse" for leaving home.
The orders do not limit such an inspection to the Greater Sydney area.
The same orders ban open houses in the Greater Sydney area, but the loophole allows Sydney people to drive to Newcastle for open houses.
"It's ridiculous. What's the point of lockdown if people can drive up here," the Newcastle agent said.
"How are we ever going to get rid of this pandemic? I'm not going to be the agent who's going to bring COVID to Newcastle."
The Newcastle agent said the vendor had agreed that the visiting agent and buyer were not welcome at the open house on Saturday and could inspect the property via video instead.
"If more people get wind of this in Sydney ... we're having so many buyers from Sydney as it is. The lockdown's worthless," she said.
She estimated that about 25 per cent of potential buyers at open houses in Newcastle were from Sydney.
Hunter New England Health public health physician Dr David Durrheim said buying property "in my mind does not fall within the public's consideration of a reasonable excuse".
"It's quite clear that the judge in terms of these public health orders needs to be what would the reasonable public expect, so we do know that there are reasonable excuses, and that's really focusing on things that are urgent," Dr Durrheim said.
"Basic supplies, seeking medical care: those are the sorts of reasonable excuses."
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