Stars from The Block gather in front of crowds at today’s auctions in South Melbourne.She is the ultimate Block-a-holic: a woman so determined to own one of the reality television show’s 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 smash 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 this afternoon.
Only one or two dozen registered bidders, each brandishing a numbered paddle, were allowed to compete.
But once the camera men, 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, whose house is the biggest of the four.
Forbidden from revealing the results – and indeed, whether the property even sold – we can say this: it will make for compelling viewing when the final episode airs tomorrow night.
And 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 frantically 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’s 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 in front of the townhouses at 10am today, hours before the properties went under the hammer.
A fortnight ago, the public open inspections drew 45,000, only several thousand of whom – those who began lining up in the wee hours – got a look inside.
Everyone agreed that today’s auction was a vast improvement on last year’s town hall disaster.
“It (the town hall event) was a pretty crap idea,” said viewer Ashleigh Promnitz.
“The whole point is to be in the house to create excitement.”
“I would think that being there would add at least $10,000 to the price,” said her friend, Megan Jones.
“It didn’t make for good viewing last year; it felt like a bit of an anti-climax.”
“You need to be able to see what you’re bidding for,” said Sandi Jessup, who travelled from Beechworth with her partner and their son and daughter.
Despite Sportsbet putting Sophie and Dale as the front-runners, the crowd seemed split between the four couples: Sophie and Dale; Dani and Dan; Brad and Lara; and Mike and Andrew.
But six-year-old Sophie Simms has her money on Dale and Sophie. Her reason? “I like her name,” Simms said.
By midday, a further 100 onlookers had gathered. Even after the auctions finished at 4.30pm, dozens were still milling on the corner of Dorcas and Montague streets.
The results will be revealed in tomorrow night’s final episode.
If the properties sell above their reserve, the couples pocket the difference and the winners get an extra $100,000.
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