Inside Out (Australia)

Meg Mason’s trademark take on DIY dramas

Our Agony Aunt Meg Mason dishes out somewhat questionab­le style and decorating advice to would-be DIY renovators



My husband and I have been househunti­ng for four months, and have already lost out at a dozen auctions. Do you have any advice on how to succeed? We’re starting to lose hope. Jen, Coomera, Qld

Were I to sit, with sharpened pencil and legal pad, and try to jot down the components of a truly awful Saturday, the fifinal list would include… waking from a fifitful night’s sleep with the sort of tension headache

that’s impervious to pharmacy-only painkiller­s and a sleeve of Nespresso pods, swallowed dry; being, by breakfast-time, so gripped with a nameless dread that your puffed quinoa is like chalk in the mouth; falling out with your husband because he forgot to remove the property section from the papers before bringing them inside, as per instructio­n, and now you can’t unread a headline announcing a 74 per cent jump in house prices since last Wednesday. Add to the list, realising as you rinse your conditione­r, that you may

have misplaced a six- fifigure bank cheque made out to cash; experienci­ng a crushing disappoint­ment of some kind, preferably attended by a palpable, very public reminder of how much money you don’t have compared to other people; and doing a spin class.

Bar that last one, I have also described an average Saturday at an auction. Having endured so many, as yet to no end, it’s no wonder your faith is failing. How, after all, could you ever have more money than the 50 other hopefuls clustered curbside, waiting for a sharp-suited auctioneer to get on with his eight minutes of intense psychologi­cal torture, all gavelwaver­y and bogus ‘going-onces’.

Can you ever know triumph when, barely having raised your paddle, a developer who’s left his Maserati running bids $800,000 over the reserve? What hope do you have against a 23-year-old punter whose parents are there to chip in that last million, when yours will later try and split the bill at yum cha. The futility! The anguish! The sobbing convulsive­ly in school-sports traffic on the way home!

To think, by way of aside, that there are people who pop along to auctions for fun. Not even in the market, just enjoying a takeaway coffee and the spectacle of human suffering, although – now I’ve said it – I can see that’s merely the modern equivalent of the ancient Romans watching Christians get torn apart by lions before heading off to brunch.

Anyway, where were we? Strategy, yes. Some experts say bid as much as you can as early as you can, so as to startle rivals with your apparently limitless resources and laser-like focus. Others say hang back and hope you’ll be able to storm in with a match-stealing thousand as the hammer falls.

But the method that’s worked time and again for me? Choose a property you really do have a shot at – which is to say, one with a guide price at least $300,000 below your toppy-top. Once bidding begins, peck away at the competitio­n with so many bafflingly tiny increments – $57.20, $1003, € 8 and an expired Bunnings card – that eventually, confusion sets in and their parking runs out and you’re home, sweet home.

I’ve been thinking about putting a plunge pool in the backyard. What factors should I consider before going ahead? Miriam, via email

If, after a very clear-eyed assessment of your rear proportion­s, you’re sure you have the space and won’t be forever stepping out of the bi-folds and straight into the shallow end, I say why not? Glorious on a summer’s day, lovely to look at, even sitting under a thick blanket of dead frangipani­s, and if it’s only 2m x 2m, you can truthfully tell your co-workers you knocked out 50 laps before coming into the office.

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