One of the more interesting events to occur during our brief stay in Melbourne took place on our final day there, when we went along to watch one of Sal’s good friends buying a house.

Generally the Aussies don’t go in for all that gazumping and gazundering nonsense that often happens when houses are bought and sold over here. Instead, they prefer to get the whole thing over with rather quickly–the majority of houses in Australia appear to be sold by public auction, which usually takes place out in the street just in front of the property. I’d seen this on Neighbours (and yes, Rob, you’re right, there is something worryingly fascinating about the “10 years ago today” bit on that website), but never in the flesh. So, when Sal’s friend Elise said that she was planning to take her first steps onto the property ladder courtesy of an apartment in leafy Ascot Vale, I was extremely excited about the prospect of going along to watch. (And try to resist the urge to scratch my nose / raise my hand / let my random number tourettes cause a scene in public).

It was a very sunny Saturday morning, and we turned up a few minutes earlier so we could have a look inside. Well, Sal and I did, at least–I’m not suggesting that Elise was planning to buy a property purely on the basis of a 5 minute viewing before the auction.

After we’d had a sufficient gawp, we headed back outside to take up a spot on the street under the shade of the trees, and watched as a chubby estate agent appeared and began ringing a big hand bell to announce the imminent event. Shortly afterwards, his younger, slicker, estate agent mate kicked things off with a few words to warm the crowd up, and a couple of gentle “one careful lady owner” style white lies about the property and its owners–he didn’t know that we knew that the girl who owned the place had been at the same school as Elise, making it rather unlikely that there was any truth at all to his claim that the vendor had lived there “for 10 years” and was “moving on to somewhere bigger” (we later found out that the actual reason for the sale was the fact that she had in fact split up with her boyfriend and they had to sell to pay off the mortgage; for some reason he didn’t mention that interesting snippet at any point during the auction).

But we were off. Well, the auction had started, at least, even if no one was ready to leap in with their bids just yet. (“Anyone want to start me off…? No, they never do, do they…”)

When the bids did come, the auctioneer did a sterling job of managing things, by making ever more ridiculous statements, implying that he was just about to sell and that this was your very “last chance” to get in with a new bid more times than I could count. He even went away with his mate “to talk to the vendor” at one point in a shameless attempt to drum up some tension.

But happily Sal’s friend managed to get her house in the end, thanks to some sterling bidding by her dad, who held off just long enough before putting in his first bid, and carried on strongly from that point onwards to make it look like they had all the room in the world in their budget, even though this wasn’t actually the case. Luckily, it was even less the case for one of the rival couples, who actually had to walk away before the end of the auction having clearly already gone beyond their limit, and not wanting to do something they might regret. After that, it looked like our friend might have it at just on her target, when right at the last second a guy at the back chipped in offering an extra $500–his sole bid of the day–and she had to go up again. Yeah, thanks for that mate, you just cost them $1500…

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