The Block auction a dose of reality, which Sydney finally loved

The Block auction a dose of reality, which Sydney finally loved
The Block auction a dose of reality, which Sydney finally loved

It was a dose of reality when three of the four houses in the Channel 9 series The Block 2011 failed to sell under the hammer at their weekend auction.

But what was noteworthy was there was no shortage of buyers for the Richmond cottages, even when you take out those who had a bidding paddle intended for a few seconds of camera fame.

The genuine buyers – mostly represented by unemotional buyers’ agents who also saw the marketing opportunities – just wouldn’t budge on price, and Channel 9 prudently didn’t want a sale at any cost.

The reserves all matched their marketing campaigns, so the pre-auction raid by Victorian Consumer Affairs to investigate claims of under-quoting was just another stunt that helped the ratings, which peaked at 3,089,000.

For Polly and Waz – the Steven Bradbury of the renovation world – the $855,000 sale was $15,000 and eight bids above its $840,000 reserve. It was the cheapest offering on The Block.

After some commendable auctioneering by Biggin Scott sales director Russell Cambridge, the house was knocked down to buyers’ agent Frank Valentic from Advantage Property, who was apparently buying for a couple holidaying in Bali. Valentic is chairman of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s buyer’s agent chapter. Cambridge has been with the Biggin & Scott Richmond team since 1993 and has sold well more than 2,000 properties at auction since.

There's little doubt the producers of The Block 2011 paid above market rates to get four houses in a row on Cameron Street – given they are a rarity. And the challenge of four houses selling in one auction session rather than four units was too high a hurdle.

Nine’s decision for reserves that were moderately reflective of current values was vindicated after the first offering – Jenna and Josh’s double-fronted cottage – attracted a post-auction offer reputedly at its $950,000 reserve.

It had been passed in at $901,000 with just the two bids, including a try-on at $750,000.

It seems negotiations continue on the double-fronted cottage through Woodwards Ruth Roberts and Robert Clements, as the estate agents are confident they can get something above reserve for the contestant couple to take home with them after their eight weeks of intense labouring.

Roberts told the auction attendees that it’s possible for the next buyer to extend the house with a second floor, which Channel 9 didn’t wish to do in order to keep the competitive playing field as even as possible.

Josh and Jenna have now set up their own design company, Bickering Designs.

The very disappointed Amie and Katrina – the sisters from rural NSW – had an $822,000 top offer,  and the house sold subsequent to auction at its $860,000 reserve. They will go home empty-handed to the bush after a journey they described as a “bloody waste of time”.

Rod and Tania’s offering got a top offering of $832,000, and it remains listed for sale.

The Block 2011’s Richmond auction results were a poorer showing than last November when for the first time in the four series that one of the four Vaucluse flats didn’t sell under the hammer, and only one fetched an out-of-line bullish result.

Who can ever forget the hoopla at Bondi Beach in 2003 and then at Manly in 2004?

There appeared to be between three and eight bidders (some repeating themselves) on the Cameron Street offerings, which were renovated over an eight-week period by the four contestant couples, who unlike in previous series, worked full time on their renovations.

Unlike the quick-paced auctions put to air, the auctions were painfully long – not assisted by starting an hour late, which prompted at least one buyer on the final offering to head home to his daughter as the babysitter’s time was up.

Additionally every auction was constantly interrupted by the monotonous “Is it at reserve yet?” query.

“Gee, you’re a tough crowd,” Jellis Craig auctioneer Clayton Smith summed it up during the final unsuccessful auction.

For some time now the smart money has been suggesting Sydney was set to enjoy a small property fillip while Melbourne still needed some price adjustment.

Just when and how that will come remains a point of contention, but The Block has assisted in informing the market that property outcomes can sometimes be underwhelming.

The most moving moment of the night had nothing to do with the gavel, but the tide of goodwill towards Josh and Jenna’s engagement.

Even if it too was somewhat contrived for the cameras, with it subsequently being learnt that Women’s Day had been there when he bought the Tiffany ring.

On the all-important television ratings, its seems even Sydney decided to tune in on the last night, virtually equalling Melbourne’s ever-strong hometown audience for the first time during the series.

And Sydneysiders got what they wanted!

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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