Contestants on reality mega-hit The Block All Stars had their take-home earnings halved on the 2012 prize pool. And ratings were down for the Nine Network.

Phil and Amity won, with their Bondi cottage — with its telling third bedroom — selling for $1.67 million. It was $295,000 over its conservative reserve price, highlighting Sydney’s autumn auction strength — clearance rates have been at 70% or above for the past four weeks.

Contestants racked up $815,000 in profit, compared with the 2012 South Melbourne-based season, where they made a combined $1.7 million in profit. The ratings of the winner’s finale last night were also down at 2.1 million, compared with the 2.4 million viewers on metropolitan televisions last year.

While Sydney clearance rates have been strong — and 100% on the Tasman Street strip — prices actually ranged from ordinary to exuberant. The conservative reserve prices were well below cost, following a pragmatic decision implemented after the show’s disastrous 2011 Richmond three-out-of-four-fail-to-sell auction experience, to align with the viewing public’s expectations of a drama-packed series finale.

With agents understanding that getting prices that match outlay has been a problem for many reno-happy vendors across Sydney since the global financial crisis, their initial auction price estimates started at a cautious $1.4 million plus, with $1.5 million plus being suggested as marketing got underway.

There was a neighbouring mostly unrenovated cottage that fetched $1.32 million in late 2011, and another totally unrenovated for $1.29 million, giving the buying public some insight into the value of the similar cottages requiring the costly ambitious renovations the contestants undertook.

No sooner than auctioneer Damien Cooley brought down the hammer, there was confirmation from Nine of a seventh series. The show will return to South Melbourne, with contestants tackling the conversion of a recently closed 41-room motel at the north-east corner of Park Street and Eastern Road.

Local agents say it will be a challenge finding the right buying mix. But the show’s producer, Watercress, was keen to shake up the tried-and-tested formula by buying the entire six-storey apartment tower in South Melbourne to renovate.

Watercress will keep the ground floor, so all contestants (who’ve already been onsite) will face similiar circumstances in transforming a drab motel into a luxury apartment tower.

It’s understood the initial filming scheduling was amended after the free-spirited Fairfax Media property journalist Chris Vedelago revealed the secret Park Street location before filming had commenced. Most journalists play the secrecy script as desired by the television station. Vedelago reported property records showed the production company spent $6.71 million for the four-star bizMOTEL, which was formerly the Kingsway Motel.

*This article was originally published at Property Observer