Nila Sweeney

Auction clearance in Sydney jumped to 71.1% in the first weekend of February, as first homebuyers raced to take advantage of the government grants and decade-low interest rates, according to RP Data.

For the week ending 8 February, all capital cities saw an increase in auction volumes, with Sydney recording the strongest buying activity. Total weekly auctions surged from 60 to 164, while the clearance rate climbed from 48.5% to 71.1%. Buyers were also active in Canberra with auction clearance rates rising to 63.6% from 12.5% in the previous week. Brisbane rose to 32.4% from 25%, with volumes doubling to 87 compared to a week ago.

In Melbourne, total auctions doubled from 60 to 125 from a week ago; however, clearance rates fell by about 10% to 57.1%. Buying activity slowed in Perth with the clearance rate falling to 37.5% compared to 53.3% a week ago.

Tim Lawless, national research director with RP Data, noted that the number of new advertisements for residential property continued to ramp up last week. However, there's still some way to go before the number of properties being marketed reaches the same level as in early December.

"If early 2009 is an indication, we should be back into normal listing conditions by about the first week of March."

The lift in market activity was mostly concentrated in the owner-occupier segment of the market as investors remain on the sidelines, according to Lawless.

"It's likely the trend of greater first homebuyer activity will continue, with anecdotal evidence continuing to indicate higher buyer turnouts at open homes and auctions. With more buyers active in this segment, it's highly likely we'll start to see upwards price pressure in this segment during the first half of 2009," said Lawless.

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