We’ve been looking at houses to buy in Melbourne. Anyone who knows me knows my complete obsession with property and my complete failure to do anything about it. But we arrived in Melbourne keen to finally buy the family a family home.
And when we looked at the house prices our jaws hit the floor.
They make London look like a fire sale.
OK, yes, I’m exaggerating.
But what’s equally challenging is their favorite mode of sale: auctions.
No private negotiating with an estate agent here. No, in Melbourne you have to come out in broad daylight (inspection reports done, bank finance ready) and go mano a mano with any other interested parties.
It’s house buying gladiator-style.
It’s also a party. All the neighbors come. Picnic chairs are set out. People gather in front of the house, the lucky few under the shade of a tree.
You can usually tell who’s going to be bidding. They’ve got that steel, confused, deranged look in their eye. And there is usually a lady standing in the back, talking on a mobile phone. She’s a buyer’s agent, hired for an exorbitant amount of money because her client just can’t face the fray.
And then the auctioneer comes out. Usually male, dressed impeccably, with a shark’s smile. With a flourish he rips down the For Sale flag and gets the auction going.
He starts by rambling off the houses finer details. And always put a great spin on things.
When we were waiting for the house we were going to bid on, a car roared by as if the road was a well used freeway. “And look, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, not missing a beat, “the make of that car, a BMW. That is the stature of this neighborhood.”
I read that Melbourne house auctions are better attended than football games. Not surprised. Though I’d say they are more akin to watching a tennis game. The swishing back and forth of heads as the bidders, usually two in the end, battle it out. It is high drama rewarded with clapping at the end.
We didn’t get the house last Saturday. There’s a real art to bidding at auctions and we failed miserably.
The young woman who bought it psychologically demolished us. Fixing us with a withering stare, she bid high and with conviction while my husband and I bickered about how much to go up by.
It all happened so quickly: our opponent steam-rolling along; our children whispering, We hate the house, We hate the house; the bully, I mean the auctioneer, sneering at our bids. He tried his best to get us to go higher, even disappearing into the house to give us time to rethink. But we knew that whatever increments we would go up by the lady would just nod her bid. So we stopped. It’s called psyching out the opposition. And she was rather good at it.
Luckily we weren’t mad about the house. My children were right. It was pretty ugly. Even the auctioneer called it unassuming in his preamble. That pricked my ears. For that kind of dough, honey, I want my house to be dressed to the nines and ready for its close-up.
I mean, it’s what you have to tell yourself. Right?
So the woman, flanked by cashed up 60-something parents, was quickly escorted into the house to claim her prize and put her signature to the legally binding proceedings.
We wandered off in a daze and had a good lunch.
But we’ve seen another house online….
Heaven help us.
For an idea of how these things go you can actually watch them on youtube.
And no, the house we bid on didn’t look a thing like that one.
photo by geoftheref (flickr)