Angry viewers of The Block NZ have lashed producer MediaWorks after an upset saw Hamilton dads Andy Murdie and Nate Ross snatching the $100,000 prize at the last second.
The Hamilton pair's house failed to meet its reserve price during the live auction for the show's finale on Sunday night and was passed in, opening it up to sale negotiations.
Contestants Stacey Cottrill and Yanita McLeay's house sold for $1,271,000, making them $20,000 in profit - which would have seen them taking home the $100,000 prize money.
But at the last second the floor was opened up again as Andy and Nate's house returned to auction, stunning viewers and contestants.
It sold for $1,250,000, netting them $30,000 profit and making them the winners of season 6.
The auction finale drew nearly half of the TV audience in the key age 25-54 demographic, claiming 44.5 per cent share.
The contestants and show hosts looked shellshocked as the result was announced, while fans of the show vented their outrage online.
"Shame on you, changing the rules through the auction," Michelle Bowater wrote.
"Those girls won deservedly and changing the rules at the end was disgusting ... you have lost a seasoned viewer I am sad to say!"
But Real Estate Agents Authority spokeswoman Lucy Corry said there were "no issues" with a property being passed in at auction and then auctioned a second time. "Similarly, it is fine for an auction to be 'paused' while the seller negotiates with a bidder, if the property has not yet met reserve," she said.
The excruciatingly slow auction was touted as a sign of the slowdown in the Auckland housing market.
The four townhouses in Potter Ave, Northcote, had been tipped to sell for more than $1.3 million but most struggled to reach reserve.
Total profits stood at $65,000 compared with $981,000 last year, leaving the reality show's contestants with little to show for their 12-week renovation slog.
Fans set up Givealittle fundraising pages for hard-done-by contestants, with $12,000 pouring in to help brothers "Ling" and "Zing" Inglis, who made a paltry $1000 profit.
But industry chief Bindi Norwell said she was not surprised by the sale prices. The Real Estate Institute of NZ chief executive said it was "typical of what's happening and reflective of the market which has been stabilising for a while".
Meanwhile claims that an actor in the audience was paid to be a bogus bidder have been shot down.
Auckland-based Matthew Haines made early bids on several properties, leading to suggestions he was a vendors' plant to get the bidding moving. Haines told the Herald he was an actor but said he was not there in a professional capacity.
"I was simply there as a member of the public bidding on behalf of some friends that live out of town."