Sydney’s property market is a subject that has found its way onto the Stubborn Mule more than once. In this post, regular guest contributor Zebra (James Glover) manages to combine property and television with some now-traditional beer coaster calculations.
Channel 9’s high rating renovation show The Block just finished its successful second series on Wednesday night. It concluded with an auction of the four properties that the contestant couples had spent 8 weeks, and in excess of $80,000 each, renovating. The prize for the contestants was the “profit” of whatever they made at auction in excess of the stated reserve. The reserves were varied to reflect unique features of each apartments such as views, an outdoor living area or double garage. The idea was that the couple with the best renovation skills would see their apartment achieve the most above the reserve. In the end the couple who won, John and Neisha, achieved a price of $1,105,000 with a reserve of $900,000 and so made $205,000 (they also won first prize and an additional $100,000 which we’ll ignore for now). Wow! $205,000! Okay that was for 8 weeks of back-breaking unpaid labour. But still. It makes you think that this renovating lark might be a pretty profitable way for making a living. A couple of apartments like that a year and you’d be in gravy! Or would you?
The first thing to consider is the fact that the other couples didn’t do quite so well, making $87,500 (Jake and Erin), $47,000 (Mark and Duncan) and nix (Brendan and Chez’s apartment passed in below the reserve). Okay, you say, but that is still an average of $85,000 for each couple or $42,500 per person for a couple of months’ work. So take $42,500, divide by 8 weeks times by 52 weeks, carry the 2, take off 20% for holidays less breakages tap, tap, tap, that represents an annual profit of about $200,000 each. Still not bad. Break out the champagne!
But buried in the self-congratulatory articles, no doubt generated by Channel 9’s PR department, are some sobering facts. Put away the Kristal and maybe open a cask of Ben Ean and take a seat. The entire unrenovated apartment block was bought for $3.4m. The total amount spent on renovations (not including the couples’ labour) was $470,000 (including $100,000 on common areas). That makes $3.87m. The total sale price was $3.89m. So the total profit was a pretty modest $20,000. And that doesn’t include stamp duty (about $200,000) or agent’s commission ($78,000 @ 2%) plus, let’s say, legal costs of $2,000. So, in reality, the washup of The Block is a loss of $260,000. They don’t mention that in the publicity.
My back of the beer coaster calculations show John and Neisha were still the “winners” having only lost $60,000 on their reno. Jake and Erin and Mark and Duncan each would have lost $66,000 and, still last, Brendan and Chez’s reno lost $67,000. Perhaps Channel 9 should deduct John and Neisha’s loss from the winners’ prize of $100,000 and present them with a cheque for the $40,000 difference.
More revealing than the illusion that this was a profitable business from a renovators point of view is that the total reserve price was $3.55m. Now I’d expect the total reserve to at least equal the break-even cost of the apartments, or $4.15m. In fact it was $600,000 below the actual cost of buying, renovating and selling The Block. If in a very public show like this, with 1.2m viewers, the agents can so blatantly quote below the break-even reserve then what hope for the tens of thousands of buyers in suburbia struggling to match house ads with reality? It’s enough to do your block in.