It began with momentum.
Across nearly all markets throughout Australia and New Zealand, new listing numbers were rising and being met by a growing number of committed buyers. We were extremely busy, in a working environment very natural to us.
By the middle of March, we began to realise that we would not escape the impact of coronavirus on our communities. Changes were made to the way we operated to provide a safe environment for our members and customers, though as some initial steps were implemented, rates of infection continued to cause alarm. New Zealand moved to a complete lock down on March 25. In Australia, public auctions and open homes were cancelled and our offices closed for non-essential work.
However, in Australia we appreciated the constructive dialogue with the regulators and other industry partners to formulate a safe set of new arrangements enabling us to operate. These new arrangements, together with fundamental changes to the operation of the rental market, and a rapidly changing economic outlook required rapid adaptation by all of our members to be able to serve our communities in the best possible manner. From the implementation of remote working, to virtual inspections, private digital auctions and electronic documentation, the spirit of our members to embrace the rapid speed of change, while empathising with the anxiety of our clients, has been breathtaking.
During all of this, we are extremely proud that we served nearly 9000 families and businesses find a new home or investment during the month. Our New Zealand network served a record number of people, despite being in lock down for the last six days. We advise that we did handle over $4.5 billion in sales in March, which was a lot more than the same month last year, to give comfort to our communities that our housing market, a key part of our overall economy, remains resilient. And as testament to the ability and resilience of our members to create competition despite the obstacles we confronted.
Many speculate on the future of the housing market. There are so many factors to consider. We have a very concerning national and international economic outlook. Yet we have very low interest rates, increasingly fewer listings, extraordinary government stimuli and a sense of continued faith in the value of property in especially uncertain times. While this debate will go on, we must focus on the basics and what we know works, and providing the best possible solutions to what remains an active marketplace.
So we finish our month isolated from each other but united by a sense of family. We are connected by a common bond to do everything we can to be of even more value to all our members and customers and be proud of our efforts in the months ahead as we have done as a group through so many similar situations in our history.
Ray White Group