Auction market closes on low note

The curtain has closed on the last big auction day of 2012, with 900 home owners making a final push to sell before the Christmas hiatus.

But buyers proved weary and the clearance rate fell to 57 per cent for the 777 results reported to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

The day caps what has been a lacklustre performance for the auction market over 2012, which has been dampened by weak consumer sentiment and a flagging Victorian economy despite repeated interest rate cuts.''

This year has ended better than last year ended but the market is still some way from performing with strength,'' REIV spokesman Robert Larocca said. ''The market isn't moving quickly, but it's laying a good foundation for next year.''

The REIV reports the clearance rate has averaged just 61 per cent this year, well below the 10-year average of 73 per cent. But at this time in 2011 barely half of vendors were selling under the hammer.

Today was the first – and last – chance for Amber Partington and her partner Anthony to sell their Williamstown home before the market virtually shuts down until early February.

''We bought another property in early November, celebrated, and then woke up on the Sunday and realised we needed to sell our house before Christmas,'' Amber said. ''Naturally, we're a little bit anxious, but what ever will be, will be.''

It turned out they had very little to stress over, even though the inner western suburb's clearance rate has under-performed at 59 per cent this year. Hocking Stuart auctioneer Joanne Royston fielded nearly two dozen bids from five competitors and the Victorian cottage sold for $680,000, about $10,000 above expectations.

The couple were amongst nearly 4500 vendors who've put their homes under the hammer in the last five weeks, an unanticipated rush of listings after what had been a weak opening to spring.

But continuing cautiousness from buyers has led to plenty of disappointment at the coalface, with scores of property owners who couldn't sell under the hammer now facing a potentially lengthy wait until the market restarts.

Among the disappointed is the Uniting Church, which failed to sell their 1950s brick church on Nungerner Street in Balwyn today.

The property, one of ten others the denomination has sold in Victoria and Tasmania this year, attracted a vendor bid at $1.9 million. A post-auction offer at that price level will be considered by church authorities at a meeting next week, according to agents Christopher Russell.

''There's has been an improvement in conditions as the year has gone by, but it's still the type of market were if you even marginally over-price your property it's not going to sell,'' said Louis Christopher, managing director of SQM Research.

''It's also worth remembering that the properties that aren't selling at auction are getting recycled into the private sale market, where an enormous of amount stock is still available. It's not like they just disappear.''

Melbourne house prices also continue to fall, declining by 1 per cent in both October and November, analysts RP Data report.

With more than 1 in 7 of today's auction results not yet reported by estate agents, the clearance rate is likely to be downgraded as the missing results are tracked down.

cvedelago@theage.com.au Twitter: @chrisvedelago

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