29 Oct Would you go home with this man? – Barry DuBois
Barry DuBois from Channel 10’s The Living Room meets strangers at Bunnings and goes home with them to help with some outstanding DIY jobs. He tells us how that works and what he learns.
Kevin: Barry DuBois is an interior designer and master builder with over 30 years’ experience. He’s one of Australia’s best loved TV personalities. Barry possesses the unique ability to communicate his professional knowledge on design, architecture, renovations, and DIY to homeowners who are outside the building industry.
You’re going to see that so cleverly demonstrated on Channel 10’s The Living Room where Barry meets people at Bunnings and then goes home with them to help them with a DIY task or two that they may actually be struggling with. Barry joins me.
Good day, Barry. How are you, mate?
Barry: Kevin Turner, always good to be on the show, mate. How are you?
Kevin: Mate, I’m fantastic, thank you. Great to have you back, too. Barry, I mentioned there about you going to Bunnings, and I love that part of the segment. Have you noticed when you do that, there’s actually a lift in their confidence level?
Barry: Definitely. My philosophy with DIY is just to get any job and break it down to as many small jobs as possible. When you’re in Bunnings, you often see people just strolling aisles, wondering how they’re going to take on this big project. I grab them, I see what the project is, and then we break it up into a couple little bits. And you’re right; it gives them confidence to do more jobs, which is great for the home and great for your self-esteem.
Kevin: Yes. And some of the small jobs that I’ve seen you do too, I know you can discount how difficult they are, but gee, don’t they make a huge difference, both to the people who live there but particularly to the property, Barry?
Barry: I did one a couple of weeks ago, and I think every suburban house in the country should have this. It was just a little screened enclosure for the front wheelie bins. An eyesore of the streets, they make up the landscape of our streets, but a job that looked like it was too big for this couple. They took it on, and the pride they had not just in themselves but in their home once we were finished was really beautiful for me.
Kevin: We talk about you being on Channel 10, and I feel like I know you very well – I’ve been talking to you for quite some time – but…
Barry: You do, mate.
Kevin: Just going back in history, you were a very successful builder, you had a great building company, and then at age 46, you retired and you went sailing. Tell me about that. What prompted that, Barry?
Barry: I loved what I did. I was a good designer, builder, and developer. If you love it and you do get confident, you become good at it. As you know, I’ve been in the property market most of my life, and we’re in a pretty high rate. We’re at one of the bubbles as I like to describe it. Some don’t like to describe it as a bubble, but we’re in a bubble.
And I was a little bit depressed. I’d lost my mom to cancer, Leonie’s dad had gotten sick and cancer as well, and I got a little depressed. I’d set goals earlier in life, and it seemed that we’d reached those goals financially. We weren’t there emotionally and mentally, I guess, but financially we were, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to take some time out.”
My dad was struggling with the loss of mom, and something I always dreamt about doing is sailing around the world, so I went for the Paris Boat Show in 2004, I think, or 2005 and ordered our beautiful yacht, Bella Sogni. Then my dad and I spent three seasons sailing around the Mediterranean in Europe until I lost dad as well.
But I came out of my depression, and my wife and I discovered lots of new things together. And I ended up on TV.
Kevin: It’s an amazing story. Obviously, you’re very busy, and I appreciate you giving us your time. I know how busy you are with your media commitments. You’re also a supporter of quite a few charities. You’re also the father of twins, Arabella and Bennett. What are they now, five or six?
Barry: They’re five and a half years old. They just started Nippers this season, which we’re all very excited about. We’re very proud. As I said, Leonie and I had had 13 failed attempts at IVF over many years. Leonie got cervical cancer after that, and we lost the ability to have children naturally.
Part of that period through 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008, we were investigating adoption and so on, but we discovered surrogacy in India, and our beautiful angels, with the help of some donor eggs and a surrogate carrier and my contribution, our beautiful angels were our seventh attempt. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.
Kevin: It’s a blessing, isn’t it? Mate, when did you get involved in property investment? How did that happen?
Barry: I’ve loved property my whole life. I was a builder, I was an apprentice carpenter, and I loved the fact that we built the homes of people who were going to have family. Family is the most important thing in the world to me. So, I love property.
Even as a young bloke, though, my dad had two philosophies. Everything you do, you can do 10% better. And his second one was my favorite: he’s never made a mistake his life; there’s just a shipload of things he’s not going to do again.
I would watch the builders we were working for and say, “You know, if he had done this, he would have been able to save those couple of bits of timber, and if you’d done this…” I would always say, “If I’d do it, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.”
And as it happens, I was only 19 years old and I was driving down the highway to our little farm we had down there in Goulburn, which is in the southern highlands of Sydney, New South Wales. I’d had about $2000 in the bank, which in those days was a lot of money, Kevin.
I whacked that deposit on that block of land, back when you could buy a block of land for $9000. Amazing. And then my girlfriend and I and my pal would go down. I’d work all week, I’d save material when I could with the blessing of the builder, and I’d go down and literally by hand, designed and built my first home when I was 19 years old.
It took a year to build it. I funded it literally with beg, borrow, and I’m not going to say steal, but I bought things out of my own pockets so that all I had was a little loan, which was only a personal loan on the land. I completed the house, and there it was for sale at $128,000.
For a young bloke – we’re talking 1979 or 1980 – that was a lot of money. I loved that house, so I made my first mistake, and I’m going to share this one with you. This is beauty. I fell in love with that property, and I made a house for $128,000 in a street that was only worth about $90,000.
So, as much as it was an amazing house, it wasn’t the right house for that street. I knocked back offers of less money, and then sat on it for a while and sold it, which was great. So I’ve learned things too. I never sit on property for too long now because there was a little interest rate rise there as well. And that didn’t hurt me but it cooled the market even more.
I sold the place in the long run. I sold it for $107,000 in the end. I had it on the market for $128,000. It sold for $107,000, which was still a lot of money, and I went on to my next one. And that was the start of my spec building career, designing and building homes.
As you know, that ended up going on to beautiful waterfront properties in Sydney Harbor, and I’ve developed since then land, I’ve developed shops and units, I’ve developed and built and designed just about every area of real estate in the country.
Kevin: You learned a lot of lessons along the way. We’ve probably got about a minute to go. I’m keen to talk to you about the record that you hold for the second highest per square meter rate sold in the country. You would have learned those lessons from those early days about how to make a property really valuable.
Barry: Yes. Two things you have to know when you develop property: never under-develop a property and never over-develop a property. They’re the important things. I was involved in a block of units that was the only two-story block of units in a street of three- and four-story units. So, rather than just develop it, I realized the potential there was to get the three-story.
It was in a prime position, so I went for big square meterage and I put a 200 square meter penthouse on the top of a block of units at Bondi Beach. That achieved just on $8.5 million, which to this date I think is the second highest ever achieved square meter rate in the country, around $46,000 a square meter.
Kevin: Barry, it’s fantastic talking to you, mate. I’m going to get you back into the show more often. You can catch Barry, of course, on Channel 10’s The Living Room.
Barry, thank you for your time, mate.
Barry: Always enjoy a chat with you, mate. Take care, and good luck to everyone.