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NBR lurks around the live final of The Block NZ, where four three-bedroom homes rennovated by contestants are about to go under the hammer. The homes (see listings here) are close(ish) to the beach in Belmont on Auckland's North Shore, but are also off a busy main road, and share a right-of-way at 1 Eversleigh Rd (which was actually divided into five. The empty fifth lot of 450sqm, which borders Lake Rd and housed a sponsor's toolshed and site office during the series, will be sold separately to help production company Eyeworks cover costs).
The two-hour final drew a monster 637,950 viewers - a 39% increase over last year's final that put it at number one, ahead of the usual ratings king, TVNZ's OneNews. 1.19 million tuned in at some stage during the show. See more rating stats below.
UPDATE: Contestants Andy and Peter Walker won the auction-order challenge and chose to go first.
Bumping into NBR at (what else) the bar at the Rendezvous Hotel in central Auckland where the live auctions are taking place, contestant Andy Walker said the brothers had "no chance."
The brothers' house sold for $952,000, or $27,000 above its reserve (contestants keep the difference). So: he was almost right: slim chance. The Rangitikei pair did win the People's Choice Award, which meant they got to keep the car they drove during the series.
Second-up Loz and Tom Heaphy made $25,000 as their house sold for $947,000. Cruelly, the perennial room challenge winners finished last. Ms Heaphy quipped it was a slip in the back pocket given the couple had both taken 10 weeks' off work to compete in the home renovation show (TV3 says the competitors also get a weekly stipend, set at a level to pay their rent or mortgage back home plus living expenses).
Just as Auckland real estate was looking a little hum-drum, third up Alice and Caleb Pearson's house sold for $1,126,000 - $181,000 above reserve. Along with the $80,000 prize money, the couple walked away with $261,000 - a result that will do nothing to diminish New Zealanders' insane love affair with property.
"Go Asian dude!" tweeted TV3's Guy Williams tweeted as the winning buyer on the Pearson's property hung on tenaciously during a bidding duel.
Fourth-up Alisa Keall-Grant and Koan Vette also saw their house sell above the million-dollar mark. It went for $1,114,000 - $67,000 above the reserve.
Alice and Caleb (1C Eversleigh Rd)
Sale price: $1,126,000. Reserve: $945,000. Profit above reserve: $181,000
Alisa and Koan (1D Eversleigh Rd)
Sale price: $1,014,000. Reserve: $948,000. Profit: $66,000
Pete and Andy (1E Eversleigh Rd)
Sale price: $952,000. Reserve: $925,000. Profit: $27,000
Loz and Tom (1F Eversleigh Rd)
Sale price: $947,000. Reserve: $922,000. Profit: $25,000
ABOVE: Nervous moments before the auctions.
ABOVE: The Pearsons with host Mark Richardson.
Commissioning producer Sue Woodfield tells NBR ONLINE series three is already confirmed.
Ms Woodfield says a location is still being determined. It won't necessarily be in Auckland, but the city did provide the most potential for profit.
The Pearsons said they would put their winnings on their mortgage.
The winning buyer did not immediately appear in front of media. He was finishing paperwork. "Money is being transferred from China," a MediaWorks rep explained.
Labour's Trevor Mallard was quick to seize on NBR's tweet about that little factoid. It seems the Auckland reality series might have a little spillover into that house in Wellington.
And incidentally, yes, Alice and Caleb were the couple who left a copy of NBR artfully draped across the desk in their renovated study for its official snapshot on TV3's website. Winners, obviously.
EARLIER Oct 30: As the live auctions of the four The Block NZ houses loom (tonight 7.30pm - 9.30pm on TV3), MediaWorks is claiming the series as a triumph of event TV.
"The second series of The Block NZ has been a ratings hit for TV3, drawing even bigger audiences than in 2012," spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer says.
More than 2.95 million viewers have tuned into the series so far this year (5+ cumulative), with an average audience per episode of 465,200 viewers (5+), a 13.5% increase on the 2012 numbers. In the key 25-54 year-old demographic, The Block NZ is currently the #1 show on television, with an average 25-54 audience of 259,100, 6.8% higher than in 2012. [UPDATE: the two-hour final drew an average 637,950 5+ viewers - a 39% increase over last year's final. The average 25-54 audience was 346,300, a 30% increase on the 267,900 in 2012 1.19 million tuned in at some stage during the show.]
"Last night the two hour special of The Block NZ gave TV3 its biggest night since 2007, with a 33% share of the primetime 25-54 audience," Ms Lorimer says.
NBR will be behind-the-scenes at the live auction special tonight, hoping to answer the key question: Does Loz cry during the ad breaks too?
Scenes from The Block NZ open homes (PHOTOS)
UPDATE Oct 19: If you're following The Block NZ, here are a few pics from today's open home (there's another for the four homes tomorrow, on the corner of Eversleigh and Lake Roads on Auckland's North Shore).
Click any image to zoom.
Queues are long, but some locals are making hay by charging $10 to park in their driveway, while others have rolled out BBQs to hawk sausages.
Fair to say it's not so much fun on the northern side of Eversleigh Rd, however, where dozens of homes are literally barricaded.
ABOVE: TV3 folk the reckon the crush is bigger than last year, when 10,000 people went through over the two days. Foreground in sunglasses: contestants Alisa Keall-Grant and Loz Heaphy.
ABOVE: Contestants Loz Heaphy, Andy Walker and Tom Heaphy with nine-year-old fan Charlotte Barry-Walsh. One of The Block NZ's less-than-flash neighbouring properties is behind them.
The homes are off Lake Road in Belmont, a thin strip of suburb sandwiched between the posh Takapuna and Devonport. State and NZ Navy home are dotted around.
ABOVE: Contestants Koan Vette and Alisa Keall-Grant with Keisha Castle-Hughes.
ABOVE: In the sponsor-crazed world of The Block, crowd barriers are, of course, merely another opportunity for signage.
Earlier, the series' building supervisor, Peter Wolfkamp, said he'd but criticism the advertiser name-checkers were a little OTT, but he told NBR, "Bottom line is we make this TV ourselves. We don’t get a cent from NZ on Air or Creative New Zealand or anything like that.' This is an extremely expensive project. We’ve got to look after sponsors and they look after us. It’s just business, eh.”
As doors opened at 10am, people at the front of the queue told NBR they had been waiting since 7am.
ABOVE: Contestants are on-site today and tomorrow. Left-to-right: Caleb and Alice Pearson, Koan Vette, host Mark Richardson, brothers Andy and Pete Walker, Loz and Tom Heaphy.
If you're a Block open home veteran, the homes are bigger than last year, but still a lot smaller than you'd expect from seeing them on TV.
Bayleys is marketing the properties.
There's a loosely-enforced ban on photos in various areas, but you can see various pics on the homes Trade Me listings here.
Bayleys agents are loitering everywhere, but none would comment on price expectations ahead of the homes' auctions on October 30.
ABOVE: "That artwork is removable," an agent volunteered as NBR shuffled past. Ouch. Loz, sue.
Earlier, Wolfkamp noted to NBR that run-down homes further down the street had sold in the mid $800,000s.
“And they’re not a patch on these. Without being biased, these are genuinely good houses. You get a new kitchens, you get a new bathroom, you get new plumbing, new roofing, new insulation – so they should go for a premium price.”
Againt this, the mews/right-of-way setup makes the homes a little cheek-by-jowl, and Lake Rd is a busy thoroughfare. Still, they're pretty smart. If NBR had a spare million ...
ABOVE: The series' ever-present cameramen. Their weapons of choice look like Canon DSLRs, kitted out with fancy stablisation rigs and audio accessories.
ABOVE (L-R): The Pearsons, Koan Vette and Alisa Keall-Grant, hosts Shannon Ryan and Mark Richardson.
ABOVE: A crane for aerial shots? No can do, say MediaWorks' receivers. But how about this ladder from Bunnings ...
ABOVE: Andy Walker scores a perfect 10 in the Dubious North Shore Humour challenge.
ABOVE: Pete Walker.
ABOVE: "Koan, you just keep your face hidden." Alisa Keall-Grant with her partner, reality TV bad guy Koan Vette. (Just how bad? He improperly followed paving stone procedure You had to be there. I think it's time to wrap up.)
UPDATE Oct 3: Seems Trade Me isn't the only brand that's made a free splash on The Block NZ. Here's a still from Alice and Caleb's study, finished on last night's episode (which of course trails real-life by several weeks; click to zoom). Can there now be any doubt that any show looms larger on NZ's cultural landscape?
Trade Me's free score on The Block
Sept 28: I've noticed contestants on The Block NZ mentioning Trade Me a lot. They're using the site to offload demolition items, and raise a little extra cash.
As any loyal viewer knows, the show is a symphony of product placement and sponsor name-checks (amusingly skewered by Grant Smithies in the Sunday Star Times here).
But I wondered if the auction site was enjoying a free score.
Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford confirmed my suspicion.
"That would be happenstance, especially around selling stuff on Trade Me. It's just part of the Kiwi vernacular and all that," he said.
"Like last year, Trade Me Property is sponsoring an upcoming challenge on The Block, but there are no paid product placement mentions for Trade Me or anything like that in play."
After a speaking engagement in Takapuna last week, I decided to skip lunch in favour of driving a up the road to take a contemporary snap of The Bock NZ homes to illustrate this story (they're on the intersection of Eversleigh Rd and Lake Rd - the main drag into Devonport - on the corner furtherest from Takapuna Grammar. See a Google Maps satellite view of how the section used to look here).
Click any image to zoom.
The Block NZ houses are now finished, mainly painted in a conservative white.
They sit homes sit around a mews-style shared driveway, which arguably limits the appeal - or at least the privacy - of front property, which bluntly borders the concrete expanse of right-of-way.
As I approached, I saw a guy doing some landscape work on the border of the driveway, and another guy chatting to him.
Walking down the driveway a bit, past the temporary security gate, I was surprised to see the second guy was building supervisor Peter Wolfkamp - the series' bad cop, known as The Wolf or The Wolf Man by grumpy contestants as polices building rules. On social media, some people's anger at the foreman is only matched by their inability to spell his name.
In person, Wolfkamp totally blows his reality TV image. He's personable and chatty as he explains the driveway is a shared space, so the (now-departed) contestants get a free pass. The area's being landscaped for them by contractors, whom he's overseeing.
Wolfkamp is also in the process of securing a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC) for each property, ahead of their auction at the end of October (there are public open days scheduled for the weekend of October 19 and October 20).
I tell Wolfkamp my household watches The Block NZ every night, despite the dizzying whirl of product placement - which is sometimes pretty over-the-top.
“A similar criticism was pointed at Julie Christie last year," Wolfkamp says, name-checking the show's former producer turned director of TV3 broadcaster MediaWorks.
"And she said, 'Bottom line is we make this TV ourselves. We don’t get a cent from NZ on Air or Creative New Zealand or anything like that.' This is an extremely expensive project. We’ve got to look after sponsors and they look after us. It’s just business, eh.”
The strip between Takapuna an Devonport is a surprisingly mixed neighbourhood, with posh homes interspersed with state and navy houses.
Could The Block NZ homes go for more than a million each?
Wolfkamp notes a couple of houses down the road sold in the mid-$800,000s.
“And they’re not a patch on these. Without being biased, these are genuinely good houses. You a new kitchens, you get a new bathroom, you get new plumbing, new roofing, new insulation – so they should go for a premium price.”
All photos by Chris Keall bar Vette/Castle Hughes/Keall-Grant by @kecahu.