Sydney reported a record 136 new local cases of COVID-19 on Friday but the state's peak real estate body is advising that residents can still leave the lockdown this weekend in order to attend open for inspections in regional NSW.
The rule is in stark contrast to conditions in other states like Victoria and South Australia, which have both banned open for inspections statewide during their respective lockdown periods.
The Real Estate Institute of NSW said that residents of Greater Sydney can "go into a regional area to attend an open or onsite auction" if the property in question would be "a place of residence".
"A reasonable excuse to leave home includes inspecting a potential new home. If that home is outside of Greater Sydney, then opens and auctions may still be conducted and there does not appear to be any prohibition in the public health order preventing you from attending," the Institute advised residents currently located in Sydney.
This advice extended to those who "live, or are temporarily staying in, the LGAs of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool," according to the REINSW.
The NSW government currently lists "move to a new place of residence, or between your different places of residence" as a reasonable excuse for leaving lockdown areas.
A representative of NSW Fair Trading verified that the REINSW advice was correct.
Auctions and open for inspections within the Greater Sydney and Orange, Blayney and Cabonne areas are currently prohibited, although one-on-one private inspections are allowed.
Outside of those areas, including major population centres such as Newcastle, opens and onsite auctions are still permitted, subject to density rules.
The loophole was originally reported by The Newcastle Herald early on in Sydney's lockdown, but little appears to have changed as conditions have worsened.
The Herald reported that agents in the Hunter region were having to take matters into their own hands, discouraging or prohibiting Sydneysiders from attending opens in order to respect the wishes of vendors and protect other attendees.
The REINSW advised buyers to contact the agent before attending an open for inspection or auction to confirm that they wouldn't be excluded.
Summary of current restrictions in lockdown areas
Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) as well as Orange, Blayney and Cabonne
According to the NSW government, the following activities must not take place in areas of the state subject to lockdown.
- Auctions that people attend in person (online auctions are permitted)
- Open inspections (although one-on-one inspections by appointment are permitted, with masks)
Residents in Greater Sydney and the Central West are still able to travel outside of the lockdown zone to inspect an open property in regional areas, so long as it is with the intention that the property would be a new place of residence, according to advice from the Real Estate Institute of NSW.
A spokesperson for NSW Health stated that "People who have been in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, in the previous 14 days can only leave home if they have a reasonable excuse, including moving to a new place of residence, or between different places of residence."
Regional and rural NSW
Real estate agents and auctioneers must have and comply with a COVID-19 Safety Plan for retail and auctions. Auctions and open inspections can take place adhering to density quotients. Agents and clients must wear masks at all times and records of attendance must be kept.
All open for inspections are prohibited in Victoria. Auctions must be online-only throughout the state. The Real Estate Institute of Victoria has issued calls for one-on-one inspections to be allowed, similar to current arrangements in NSW.
Auctions and inspections have been postponed during the state's seven-day lockdown.