Success at right value

Although Melbourne's auction clearance rate is almost 20 per cent higher than it was last year, and the housing market appears to be improving on a weekly basis, a lot of buyers continue to be prudent.

The reason? They are more knowledgeable about real estate values. And their experience of the 2007-09 global financial crisis gave rise to a strong savings ethos and an awareness that house prices can fall as well as go up.

Tighter lending criteria by banks and others mortgage finance providers is also keeping buyer exuberance in check.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said the Reserve Bank had been easing, or reducing, interest rates for 22 months. ''On average, by this stage in an easing cycle you would be seeing much stronger house price growth and higher levels of credit growth,'' he said.

Lending criteria had tightened considerably. ''The banks became a lot more cautious after seeing the damage the GFC caused in other countries, and the regulators have become tougher as well. The banks have the regulators looking over their shoulder,'' he said.

Estate agents continue to see the market as property-specific.

''Buyers are certainly more educated and have a lot more resources at their fingertips these days,'' said Leo Dardha, of Hocking Stuart Yarraville. ''But on the beat - at the auctions and at open for inspections - there seems to have been a kick since the federal election.''

On Saturday, Hocking Stuart sold a three-bedroom 1970s brick-veneer house in Seddon for $767,000, which was $127,000 above its reserve price. ''That's a huge amount,'' Mr Dardha said.

Saturday's auction clearance rate was 80 per cent for the 553 preliminary results reported to the Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors. The Real Estate Institute of Victoria reported an interim clearance rate of 78 per cent from 715 results.

Some property types are in heavy demand. Fletchers sold a three-bedroom townhouse in Kew on Saturday for $1.3 million, against a $900,000 reserve. ''It shows how desperately short we are of good-quality apartments for people who want to scale down their accommodation,'' said executive chairman Tim Fletcher.

There are signs that property listings are on the rise but overall supply is well down on previous years. Jellis Craig director Andrew McCann said the lack of supply, coupled with stronger buying by investors, downsizers and young couples, had contributed to multiple bidding at auctions.

Only 4 per cent of properties sold in Australia sell for more than $2 million, but Melbourne snares a disproportionate share of these high-priced sales. Mr McCann said the $2 million-plus market had strengthened - a view shared by Jonathan Dixon, of bayside specialist JP Dixon. Six months ago, the bayside suburbs were market underperformers, but Mr Dixon said demand had now ''gone up a notch''.

REIV chief executive Enzo Raimondo said Saturday's results were further evidence of a strengthening market: ''With the clearance rate improving and property prices going upward as well, we're set for a fairly strong final selling season for the year,'' he said.

APM senior economist Andrew Wilson said Melbourne was on track to achieve house price growth of 7 per cent in 2013.

There will be only about 60 auctions on grand final day next Saturday.