Tech-savvy tenants move to lease Melbourne’s top rental properties


Are you looking to rent a new home in the next month or so? Then your best course of action is to fully embrace the virtual inspecting of properties via your devices and to be ready to sign a tenancy agreement without a physical inspection.

The extension of COVID-19 restrictions in Melbourne has redrawn the map when it comes to securing quality rental properties in the most favoured locations.

Property managers say prospective tenants who insist on waiting to physically inspect upcoming properties are almost sure to miss out on the A-grade rental homes in the best spots.

Those overly cautious tenants are being beaten to the punch by tech-savvy renters. The latter are happy to undertake video walk-throughs of properties, discuss terms on the phone or online with a property manager and then commit to a lease.

Nelson Alexander’s Head of Property Management Martin Sizer says tenants have changed their way of thinking in the face of the continuing pandemic restrictions.

“More and more prospective tenants accept they have to sign up for a property now after a video walk-through,” he says.

“Tenants who don’t want to miss out on their ideal property are not waiting for a physical inspection.

“The new norm is that people trust virtual walk-throughs. You can still ask questions over the phone with your property manager if you aren’t sure about any detail or issue. You can sign up for a lease and move into a property today with a contactless key delivery.”

Online is the only option for home inspections. Despite none of Victoria’s coronavirus cases being linked to real estate industry activity, the State Government has extended its ban on real estate inspections (both for renters and buyers) to October 26. Until then, digital walk-throughs are the only means of inspection.

Despite the stricter crackdown, Mr Sizer says some would-be tenants continue to think they need to tour the property first physically.

“They’re telling our property managers, ‘I’m interested, but let me know when I can see it’,” he says. “But, of course, the COVID restrictions have been extended, and online is the only option for home inspections.
“So we’re calling prospective tenants and pointing out the video walk-throughs we offer online and telling people that you can actually sign up and move in now. That could mean you avoid missing out on a property that you think is ideal.

“In the first week or two after Stage 4 restrictions came in, there was some apprehension about signing a lease based on a video walk-through. But that has sharply diminished. We are now seeing good-quality properties being snapped up by tenants following video walk-throughs.”

Real estate buyers almost always zero-in on the so-called A-grade properties (renovated, close to schools and transport, away from industrial and commercial locations). When they purchase second-best B-grade and C-grade apartments and houses, they typically expect a price discount.

The same trends are evident in the rental market.

Property Managers with Nelson Alexander, which manages more than 16,000 homes for landlords, are tracking incredibly strong demand in inner-city areas at the moment for houses that are close to public transport. That’s partly because there are fewer houses than apartments in the inner-city.

Mr Sizer says well-located houses available through Nelson Alexander’s Fitzroy and Carlton North offices are in hot demand and attracting a considerable number of online applications.

In other areas, property managers are seeing different trends. In some suburbs, five to 10 kilometres out of the city, for example, there is robust demand for quality one-bedroom apartments, with this market stimulated by the growth of single-person households in Melbourne.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria is calling on the Government to allow one-on-one inspections of properties earlier than October 26.

One-on-one inspections with an agent will allow people to buy and lease under COVID-Safe guidelines. The industry already has measures and protocols in place to ensure the safety of all involved.

These measures include only one person at a property with an agent to supervise and assist, disinfecting and cleaning before and after inspection, face coverings, no touching of surfaces during the inspection and importantly ease of contact tracing as contact details of every person inspecting the property are available with the agent.

The REIV’s Chief Executive Gil King says private one-on-one inspections are safe.

“This is about people, buyers, vendors and tenants alike,” Mr King says. “Allowing private inspections means that the market will be ready for revival when the time is right.”

Regardless of when inspections return to normal activity levels, Mr Sizer says Nelson Alexander is now getting “healthy numbers of tenants” signing leases without a physical property inspection.

He adds that because there is a large volume of rental properties on the market at the moment, rental prices are down in certain areas.

Mr Sizer says in some instances property managers are advising landlords that to stay competitive and get their property rented out, they need to reconsider their price.

It’s one more plus-factor for tenants who are prepared to embrace the video walk-through and commit to a lease.

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