The Hidden Secret of House Four - a Block NZ mystery revealed

Christchurch's Mitch and Brooke are renovating House Four. But they have yet to discover its "distinct advantage."
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Christchurch's Mitch and Brooke are renovating House Four. But they have yet to discover its "distinct advantage."

They're hyping it harder than a ramset gun hitting a cinder block. And why not? In Auckland, nothing is more mysterious than the rise and rise of the average house price.

But on this season of reality television home renovation show The Block NZ, it's even more mysterious than usual. While four teams fight it out for the honour of winning "Villa Wars",  one couple already has what host Mark Richardson is calling "a distinct advantage" on auction day.

According to the show's promotional material, the "hidden secret of house four" (repeat ad nauseam) won't be revealed for weeks. Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon and the Famous Five wouldn't wait that long, and obviously, neither can we. Here then, our best theories . . .

The Guitar Player, a 1672 painting by Johannes Vermeer: House Four's hidden secret?
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The Guitar Player, a 1672 painting by Johannes Vermeer: House Four's hidden secret?

That's an actual Vermeer

In episode one, viewers were treated to a camera shot of a creepy painting hanging wonkily on a House Four wall. Stuff can now reveal the featured artwork was not left over from a bad season three challenge. It is, in fact The Guitar Player, a 1672 painting by Jan Vermeer. Yep, that guy. The Dutch guy who painted Girl With The Pearl Earring, well before it starred in a self-titled movie.

We digress. According to Wikipedia, back in 1974 Vermeer's Guitar Player was stolen and held for ransom for more than $1m in food to be distributed on the Caribbean Island of Grenada. It was, eventually, recovered by Scotland Yard detectives in a damp, but otherwise undamaged state from a cemetery in London's financial district. But was it really?

There's a secret room. Or a secret basement

Both of these theories have made it to social media. Unfortunately, this is a reality television show, not a CS Lewis novel. While an hitherto undisclosed room containing, say, a wardrobe, containing, say, a talking lion, would be infinitely more interesting than watching wood moisture levels dry, we're discounting this as a possibility. Also, as anyone with an interest in grisly, real-life secret basement stories knows, secret basements are only a selling point for a certain kind of psychopath.

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It's in Auckland!

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Unfortunately, so are Houses One, Two and Three. While its general setting in a city where former state houses routinely sell for more than $1 million is a bonus, there's more to Auckland house prices than, well, Auckland. Consideration must be given to distance between decent lattes, proximity to puppy walking services, etc.

The devil is always in the detail. And that's where House Four gets interesting. Because The Block's villa renovations straddle a corner section. Three of the houses are on a street that is, technically, in the suburb of Three Kings. Only one, House Four, has Sandringham in its postcode.  Which brings us to . . .

School zones

Yep, House Four is the only one zoned for Mt Albert Grammar, the high school with a heady mix of political (Sir Robert Muldoon), athletic (Arthur Lydiard) and artistic (Sir Peter Siddell) alumni. The internet has been talking up this theory for a few days, and a little Google mapping supports it. What does this mean? In January, figures released by Bayleys and the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand showed properties in the Mt Albert Grammar zone were selling for an average  $127,400 more than their neighbours.

That is, indeed, a distinct advantage for Brooke and Mitch who claimed House Four at the beginning of the competition's second week. That would be the Brooke who declared war on Sarah and Minnane, the pint-sized sisters who weigh just 90kg total, but were, according to Brooke, "screaming to be punched in the face". Frankly, we're not sure any school zone condones that kind of behaviour.

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