Auction day on The Block, Scott Cam admits, is the one day he wakes up worried. All the building is done, all the challenges have been faced: the only thing left to do is sit on the couch with the nervous contestants and hope the houses sell.
And for the carpenter-turned-TV host, that's the scariest part.
"It's the only morning of my year I wake up feeling a bit sick in the stomach and a bit nervous – actually, a lot nervous!" Scott 57, tells TV WEEK.
But if Cam thinks he has butterflies on the big day, it's nothing compared to what the contestants are feeling.
After COVID-19 stopped the entire build for five weeks, and with Australia in the middle of a real estate slump, the 2020 Blockheads are worried all their hard work might come to nothing.
"We're fully aware we could go through the whole competition winning what we've won, but then at auction time not win a thing," Queensland Blockhead Jimmy, 34, says. "We are fully aware that's a possibility!"
For South Australians Daniel and Jade, who went into the competition hoping to build up a bank balance devastated by drought and bushfires on their farm, it's a make-or-break moment.
"If I don't get some good money out of this after having more than three months off work, I'll be looking for my fourth job, not just my third job," Daniel, 35, says.
"I'm hoping to get a buffer in place so I can spend more time with the family."
The whole The Block experience has driven that home, Jade, 35, adds, with the weeks away from her family reinforcing the need for an auction-day windfall to give them all more time together.
"Daniel's never home at the moment," she says. "With harvest, the kids don't see him for days, nights. To have that bit of pressure taken off would be lovely.
"Let's hope I can't walk out on auction day because my pockets are bulging!"
But houses not selling on auction day has happened before, Melbourne contestant Harry points out.
"At Elsternwick [in 2010] one of the four houses was passed in," Harry, 57, says. "And then in Richmond [in 2011], three of the four didn't sell, so we know it can happen.
"It's not a sure thing... and there's still the chance that one or two – or maybe all of them – don't sell!"
As terrifying as that is for the contestants, it's a very real possibility, Dr Nicola Powell, senior research analyst with real estate website Domain, admits.
"The Block auctions, no matter what's happening in terms of the market dynamic, is always a challenge," Nicola tells TV WEEK. "Because, ultimately, they're aiming for a 100 per cent clearance rate – they want all of them to sell and that's very rare."
Throw in the current COVID-19 restrictions, which mean fewer people can gather, and the usual highly charged atmosphere of the sales will be defused. And it gets even tougher.
"If you base it on current clearance rates in Melbourne, that suggests that only three, maybe four, of them will sell," she says. "It's a big ask to get all five sold on the day."
It's all adding up to a stress-filled auction, made worse by the fact that this will be the first time since the build ended that the contestants will be in each other's company again.
And after months of watching what the other teams been saying and doing behind each other's backs, that's going to be interesting, Jimmy declares.
"It is what it is," he says, adding that the teams have stayed in contact throughout the series and understand that most on-site incidents were just flare-ups in the heat of the moment.
"I think everyone understands we were all under immense pressure throughout the build," he says.
But Daniel says some have definitely been exposed as playing the game much harder than they ever let on. He says one team, which he won't name, is almost unrecognisable on screen compared to what they were in person.
"Let me just say there's one couple I can't wait to meet, because I've never met them before!" he says.
"I can't wait to shake their hands and say, 'Oh, I'm glad to meet you guys, because I've watched you on TV and you were totally different in real life!'"
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