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

Inside Out (Australia) - - Contents -


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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