THE former head of the Real Estate Institute of WA has described Fremantle council’s decision to sell one of its prime investment properties through a DIY website as “foolhardy”.
As reported in the Herald, the council recently decided to offload its old child and youth services properties on Quarry Street at auction after two previous attempts fell through (“Quarry centre auction,” October 24, 2020).
But the council’s decision to list the 4133sqm, up-zoned East End property on the Victorian-based forsalebyowner.com.au left REIWA vice president and local real estate veteran Hayden Groves shaking his head.
“My initial thought was that it was a slap in the face for real estate practitioners, particularly local real estate practitioners,” Mr Groves said.
“Real estate agents have databases of investors and developers.
“It needs an arms-length negotiation and I have not seen any noteworthy campaign.”
Listing the site on forsalebyowner.com earns a place on the real estate juggernauts realestate.com.au, realcommercial. com.au and domain.com.au, which the council’s in-house marketing team wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
The council says this has allowed it to run a “broad” advertising campaign and create “significant savings of ratepayer fund from being paid in commissions to a third party”.
It has also used Google AdWords, social media channels and an email campaign from its own database to market the auction.
“As a result of the city’s advertising campaign approximately 50 parties have expressed interest in the coming auction via the public process specified within the advertising material,” the council said in a statement to the Herald.
But Mr Groves said that’s “below average … well below average” for a prime piece of real estate on the fringe of a major CBD.
He says without a knowledgeable real estate agent to “shake the buyer tree as hard as you can” the council risked a lower return on the sale.
“I can’t see that it’s in the ratepayers’ benefit,” he said.
An anonymous Herald tipster also pointed out the lack of signage about the December 2 auction on the site, saying when he rang up to inquire why, he was told the council was too worried about vandals defacing the sign because Quarry Street could get a bit rough.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson said he rang the contact number on the property listing, and the voice mail of a council employee who was on holiday.
“This is an extraordinary situation three weeks from an auction,” Mr Dowson said.
“At the very least this auction must be postponed, and a local agent appointed to maximise the interest and return on this valuable ratepayer asset for the ratepayers.”
Mr Dowson said the fact it took the council three attempts since 2013 to try and sell the land, as well as the debacle over buying an unsuitable asbestos-ridden block of land for a depot that now lays idle, showed the need for the state government to take a deeper look into the council’s deal-making.
By STEVE GRANT