Will buyers show their hands for The Block’s Brad & Lara?
Reality renovators Brad Cranfield and Lara Welham thought it all looked pretty easy.
The Maitland couple were helping renovate Brad’s parents house last year as the 2011 season of The Block went to air.
“We thought, ‘how hard could it be’?” Welham says, with a rueful laugh.
“We were saying ‘oh, they make it look so hard, and look at the help they get and surely the time restraints can’t be that bad, we can do all that, surely’.”
But after four months of dust, jackhammers, blues with builders, tight budgets and snatched hours of sleep, The Block’s most popular couple says they’ve learned a lot more about renovation – and way too much about sleep deprivation.
“We were those silly people. We thought it would be easy,” Welham says of the program.
“There were no easy days, no quiet weeks – but we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.”
Tonight the pair, whose laid-back style has made them the viewer favourites face off one last time with their rivals: best mates on The Block, Dale and Sophie; brotherly building duo Mike and Andrew and the team viewers love to hate – long-suffering Dan and acid-tongued Dani – to see if it’s all been worth it.
In a two-hour finale the winner will be revealed – auctions were held last night under a veil of secrecy that producers hope will stay lowered until tonight’s finale. In a bid to keep the results secret, only registered, serious bidders were allowed to attend the auction, confidentiality agreements were exchanged and the four Block couples were put into lockdown until tonight’s finale is broadcast.
The Block couples were just hoping their properties sell – last year only one house cleared at auction in a flat market. The other three sold privately the next week.
Block tradition dictates that each couple takes the profit on their houses, and the winner – the couple whose property makes the most money over its reserve price – receives an extra $100,000. Cranfield and Welham may have the biggest house on The Block, but Welham warns this could make winning more difficult.
“We are going to have the biggest reserve, and it’s the difference between the reserve and what the house actually brings that will win it – so I think we have the biggest challenge,” she says.
“Hopefully someone wants the biggest house and will spend a little bit more.”
Last year’s finale was a ratings blockbuster and signs this year point to The Block doing it all again.
What began as the dilapidated shells of four South Melbourne cottages
We were those silly people. We thought it would be easy
became a hit show as Channel Nine again found an appetite for reality renovation on TV.
While The Voice has been reality’s glamorous huge rating star this year, The Block has been its hardworking cousin with regular one million-plus ratings, five days a week.
The actual renovations were finished well before the show went to air, which Welham says has meant living the experience twice over.
“We did all the work, then we’ve watched it play out on television,” she says.
“When we were actually there it all became a bit of a blur, so watching it go to air has been ... there have been a few cringe moments for me usually when I cried, but that’s just me.
“We’re happy with how we’ve been portrayed.”
The couple’s lasting legacy is the close friendship they have built up with fellow “Blockheads”, Dale and Sophie.
They may have been up against each other in the race to renovate, but the four have become extremely close.
“We’re solid; whenever we go to Melbourne we all catch up,” says Welham, as she jokes about Dale and Brad’s “bromance”.
Cranfield and Welham are a little humbled by their popularity with the viewers.
“We certainly didn’t expect that.” she says.
“We are just average, normal people, maybe that’s why people like us.”
And that certainly hasn’t changed because of a reality show – despite a flurry of promotional appearances which has taken them across Australia in recent weeks, both head home to Maitland – and their day jobs – whenever they can.
“I went back for about seven weeks ( Lara is a PE teacher) and Brad ( a fitter and machinist) goes back for a couple of days whenever he’s in town,” Welham says.
“Brad is full-time. He just has a very understanding boss who knows he’ll be back when the dust settles.”
Four months on, The Block has not at all dimmed the duo’s appetite for home renovation.
They’re planning to do it all again – without the cameras – to build their dream home in the Hunter Valley.
“We’ve already got the house – it’s just that it’s in three pieces,” Cranfield laughs.
The pair is relocating a federation home – currently in “storage” on a vacant site – “as soon as we find the land”.
“The dream is 20 or 50 acres to put it on,” Welham says.
“We want to stay quite close to Maitland and that’s the problem because it’s quite expensive, so a win on The Block would be a nice help.
“It was organised before we got accepted onto the show, so it’s kind of been on hold.
“One thing’s sure; I won’t be being Brad’s apprentice again,” she laughs.