Intimate auctions for Block-a-holics

Intimate auctions for Block-a-holics

Auction fever: the renovators and their fans.SHE is the ultimate Block-a-holic; a woman so determined to own one of the famous South Melbourne townhouses that she would bid on all four if necessary.

”We just really want one,” said the smartly dressed, middle-aged woman, flanked by her nervous husband. ”Dani and Dan’s place is our favourite but we’d be happy with any of them.”

After last year’s finale fizzer – in which three of the four Richmond properties were passed in at a mass auction in Fitzroy Town Hall – the producers of Channel Nine’s reality show vowed to do things differently.

Instead of cramming hundreds into a vast space, intimidating would-be buyers with camera crews and bright lights, they opted for ”intimate” auctions inside each house yesterday. Only one or two dozen registered bidders, each brandishing a numbered paddle, were allowed to compete. But once the cameramen, sound guys, realtors, publicists and lawyers arrived, there were more than 100 jostling for a spot in the living room, making it anything but intimate.

The Sunday Age was permitted to watch Brad and Lara’s auction but was forbidden from revealing the result – or whether the property even sold.

None of the assertive bidders showed a hint of camera shyness (apart from a couple who were bidding online from home, via a buyer’s advocate tapping at his laptop).

Notably absent were the renovators themselves, who watched a live feed from another room.

”There’s a definite sense of sadness,” Lara said before the auction. ”We’ve put so much effort into this place. We’re a bit emotional at having to say goodbye now.”

As the bidding began, auctioneer Karl Gillon from Buxton Albert Park set about knocking the neighbouring properties.

”We have real living zones,” he said, ”not those shoebox front rooms they call a living room.

”Forget about the cameras … you’re here to buy a piece of real estate that will appreciate over time.”

The fifth season of The Block has delivered strong ratings to Nine. Combined with the roaring success of The Voice, it has given the network a halo effect, lifting its performance in other areas such as news and current affairs.

Despite Nine’s insistence that this was not a public event, almost 100 smartphone-wielding Block-heads were found loitering in front of the townhouses at 10am yesterday, hours before the properties went under the hammer.

A fortnight ago, the public open for inspections drew 45,000, only several thousand of whom – those who began lining up in the wee hours – got a look inside.

Despite Sportsbet putting Sophie and Dale as the front-runners, the crowd seemed split between the four couples, including Dani and Dan, Brad and Lara and Mike and Andrew.

The results of the auctions will be revealed in tonight’s final episode of the program. If the properties sold above their reserve, the couples pocket the difference and the winners get an extra $100,000.

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