First time buyers were the stars of Melbourne's first big auction weekend for 2009, lured by falling interest rates and increased grants.

Interest for properties below $500,000 was intense, although a shortage of stock produced bidding wars and above-reserve prices.

The clearance rate overall was 77% but on only 436 properties, way down on the 1146 offered at the same time last year. In the apartment market — classic first-home buyer territory — almost 90% sold.

The Age