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In the competitive world of real estate, buyers will use whatever advantage they have to win the keys.

The new owners of a tightly-held Edwardian on a large block in Fitzroy were so determined to ink the contracts, they asked a relative to bid alongside them on Saturday.

The tactic worked – as two separate bidders, on either side of the crowd, they squeezed out a third contender and secured 82 St David Street for $1.95 million.

Bidder Simon Barr – who the home was knocked down to – opened bidding at $1.7 million.

He appeared to be competing against a man in a red jumper alongside a woman, as well as a party of three, who were the main underbidders.

But the contender in red was Mr Barr’s brother-in-law and the woman was his partner.

Even Chambers auctioneer John Costanzo was in the dark on the ruse, which is a legal but bold and uncommon tactic, until all three – the winning bidder and underbidders – headed inside to sign the contracts.

The St David Street auction was one of 84 scheduled across Melbourne on Anzac Day.

The clearance rate clocked in at 86 per cent from 56 auctions reported to the Domain Group.

Auction listings dipped significantly on Saturday in respect of Australia’s sacred day.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria encouraged agents to call off auctions on Anzac Day or at least schedule them after 1pm.

At the St David Street sale, which was held at 1.30pm, a crowd of about 60 gathered.

Mr Costanzo took a long recess shortly before the hammer fell, with the elderly owners emotional and reluctant about the sale.

The home had been in their family since the 1950s and they moved out six months ago, due to their age and fragility.

After a wait, during which the family and extended relatives discussed the sale, the vendors handed over ownership to the Barr family.

“It was that last decision they really didn’t want to make,” Mr Costanzo said.

The three-bedroom house has laneways on both sides on its title and a spacious backyard, overlooking a church. It was in original condition, with well-looked after cornices, arches, leadlight windows and soaring ceilings.

“Fitzroy is one of the most sought after suburbs in Melbourne and also the type of home it is, you don’t see very many Edwardians in Fitzroy, and I think it is a style that people have really taken to,” Mr Costanzo said.

“[Bidding] started higher than I thought it would start because a lot of buyers who had been through said it needed work and car access was a bit of an issue.”

Mr Costanzo said the buyer’s tactic was risky but paid off.

“They did a bit of a tag-team, so they were bidding for the same team and thought they would split their resources and work that way and that may have had a detrimental effect on the other bidder, who thought ‘I am competing against two’, but in the end, wasn’t,” he said.

“It does happen and you don’t always know it has happened.

“It is risky – you can’t have someone standing behind a pole where you can’t see what is happening.”

Mr Barr said they loved the area and had been wanting to buy back into Fitzroy after living on Collingwood’s Oxford Street.

He said the family plans to renovate.

“Basically the land size, to have this much space in Fitzroy, is a bonus,” Mr Barr said.

“We really wanted the property and sometimes you have to pay a little bit extra.”

He said he decided to enlist a relatives’ help to bid to ensure their play for the property “looked quite firm”.

“We knew how much we’d go up to,” Mr Barr said.


Posted by Emily Power & Alistair Walsh – Domain (Fairfax) on 25th April, 2015