Among the 1700 properties scheduled to go under the hammer in Melbourne this weekend, five of them will be intently watched by more than one million people, including a team of government inspectors.
The auction of these Elsternwick townhouses, with a combined estimated worth of more than $12 million, marks the grand finale of one of the highest-rating TV shows of the year.
But the producers of Channel Nine’s The Block have little control over the result. Instead, the show’s ending is entirely shaped by the local property market and a handful of mystery bidders.
“The buyers are not avid watchers of The Block,” said Nicole Jacobs, a buyers’ advocate who has bought seven Block properties in previous years on behalf of clients. “They are there because they know what they want.”
This season marks the first time the reality show has had to comply with new Victorian underquoting laws: they require properties to be advertised with an estimated price range based on three nearby comparable sales.
When first listed four weeks ago, all of the houses had a price guide of $2.4 million to $2.64 million, but one property’s range was lifted to $2.7 million to $2.97 million earlier this week.
Consumer Affairs minister Marlene Kairouz said the government would monitor the Elsternwick auctions and review each property’s marketing material.
“Victoria is cracking down on underquoting so inspectors will be on hand for The Block‘s auctions on Saturday to ensure everything is above board,” she said.
Keen analysts of the property market say some of the houses could sell under the hammer for more than $3 million. The contestants take home the amount of money their property fetches above reserve, prompting questions as to whether the new laws could impact their takings.
The reserves are not announced until shortly before the auctions.
Frank Valentic, director of Advantage Property Group, said he was confident the houses would sell, and added that underquoting was “irrelevant” if the reserves were set within the advertised price guides.
“The reserves will no doubt be in line with the quote but Channel Nine always likes the contestants to win some money,” Mr Valentic, a regular buyer of Block properties, said. “So I would expect the reserves to be probably towards the bottom of the [price] range.”
Mr Valentic said the two bookend houses, 46A and 46E Regent Street, had attracted the most interest and were expected to fetch the highest price.
“I think most buyers are thinking those end properties, they won’t be surprised if they go for more than $3 million,” he said. “That’s the feedback we’re getting.”
Ms Jacobs said it was difficult to estimate what the luxury homes would sell for because there was nothing else like them on the market in Elsternwick or its surrounds. The houses could also tug on the heartstrings of eager families, she said.
“At auction you always need to factor in the emotional driver behind the buyer,” she said. “And if these are forever homes, people are prepared to put their hand in their pocket for a little bit more because they can see themselves being there for many, many years.”
Unlike previous seasons, this year’s houses — each with four or five bedrooms, a backyard, a triple garage and a separate studio — have appealed to owner-occupiers rather than investors. Local families looking to upsize and live near Caulfield Grammar School are expected to compete for the keys.
The body corporation fees, initially set at $8000 per house per annum, had turned off some prospective buyers who complained it was too expensive given there was no communal pool, lift or entertainment space. But the fees have since dropped to a more reasonable $4900.
The houses were dilapidated dumps, saved from imminent demolition and driven to the 3000-square metre vacant block Channel Nine paid $10.3 million for. Now completely renovated, extended and fully-furnished, each house is expected to fetch upwards of $2.4 million.
The finale of the The Block airs on Sunday night.
- This story was originally published on Domain.