Up to 20 people will be allowed at auctions and open-for-inspections in Victoria from next week, as social distancing restrictions are eased across the state.

The restrictions, introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19 in March, banned public auctions and open homes, with agents limited to one-on-one private inspections. 

Those restrictions were loosened earlier this month as public auctions, with a limit of 10 people, were held for the first time in Melbourne last weekend.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the limit on people at auctions and inspections would be increased to 20 as of June 1, as the spread of COVID-19 in the state remains low.

“Auctions and open-for-inspections will also be subject to the 20-person limit – plus those required to conduct the activity – with agents also required to keep the contact details of everyone who attends,” Mr Andrews said in an official statement.

Other announcements included the return of local travel and the opening of pools, playgrounds and parks, also from June 1. Restaurants and cafes will be able to re-open as of June 22, if community transmission rates of coronavirus remain low.

Public auctions were allowed to resume in Victoria from May 13, with a limit of 10 people. Photo: Stephen McKenzie

Agents have welcomed the news.

Barry Plant chief executive Mike McCarthy said the increased number of people at auctions would not only assist vendors and agents, but also those researching before buying.

“I think probably the biggest impact it will have is more in the research stage. It will allow people to get out and get an idea of the level of competition [from other buyers] out there,” Mr McCarthy said. 

“From an industry point of view, it will help productivity because anything that brings us back towards normal will help,” he said.

Marshall White Stonnington director and auctioneer John Bongiorno said it was fantastic news given the popularity of open-for-inspections in Melbourne.

He noted about 68 people turned up to inspect a three-bedroom home at 686 Riversdale Road, Camberwell, on Saturday. Each had to be socially distanced and only 10 at a time were allowed in.

“Anything we can do to stimulate the property market at the moment will help to stimulate the economy,” Mr Bongiorno said. 

He said the new measures would help not only the properties for sale, but also properties for lease.

“Any measures that make it easier to transact are welcomed,” he said.

The announcement comes after Melbourne’s second weekend of public auctions, with the city recording a clearance rate of 70.1 per cent on Saturday, from 72 reported auctions.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) also welcomed the news with president Leah Calnan telling Domain it was a “very positive” step forward for the industry.

She urged agents, buyers and vendors to continue following the government’s rules regarding social distancing.

Ms Calnan said REIV had not received any complaints about agents or agencies not following such rules.

“Agents have been working very hard to ensure they are complying with the guidelines,” Ms Calnan said.