IT’S been a whirlwind year for The Block television show fan favourites Jess Eva and Norm Hogan.
The Sunshine Coast couple and former Bendigo residents took home $209,000 in Sunday night’s finale of the show after their St Kilda penthouse apartment sold at auction for $2,859,000.
The prize money total meant they technically came in last against their The Block rivals (winners Hayden and Sara pocketed a cool $645,000), but Jess and Norm couldn’t be happier.
The couple first crossed paths in Bendigo more than a decade ago – Norm lived in the city from 2004 to 2006, and Jess from 2006 to 2009.
Norm’s brother Mick and his wife still live in the city. Mick is a carpenter and helped out during the former Gatwick apartment renovation.
“Bendigo’s got a lot more ties to The Block than people might realise,” Jess said.
She said the couple was thrilled to return to the city during a challenge for The Block.
“Mate, you just had to see my face,” she said.
“My kids lived in Bendigo when we were away. We thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”
The parents got to spend an hour with their children Freddie, 4, and Matilda, 1 – precious family time during the hectic filming schedule.
Norm said it was difficult for the parents to be away from their children.
But he said the financial reward at the end made it worth it.
Jess said the money would wipe out debt and go towards the mortgage.
“It’s a second chance at financial freedom,” she said.
Watch: Jess and Norm’s apartment goes under auction (story continues below)
Jess and Norm wouldn’t rule out a second chance on The Block if it was to be offered, either.
But they said they wouldn’t change a thing about their first time around, despite coming last.
“We’d still choose the penthouse,” Jess said. “With the skills we’ve got, we couldn’t do better.”
“We’d be smarter – we know the ins and outs of it,” Norm said.
The duo certainly learnt a lot during their three months at The Gatwick.
Norm said he felt like it was 100 per cent guesswork when the couple first started the renovation.
“You pick up little things along the way,’’ he said.
One of those things was planning – a skill the disorganised couple had to master when on the show.
“It’s like planning on steroids,” Jess said.
The skill slipped once the couple returned home, though.
Jess described it as being like a fad diet or boot camp – people have high expectations early on but soon return to old habits.
Now, life on The Block is fast becoming a distant memory.
Both Norm and Jess are back at work and enjoying time with their family.
Jess said there were no renovation plans for any time soon.
She joked she’d rather put up with green laminate benchtops if it meant she had more time to cuddle with her kids.
“The win was amazing for us but not enough to take on a renovation of our own,’’ she said.
“If we renovated our house we’d be in the same financial position but with nicer benchtops.”
Watch: How Norm and Jess plan to spend their winnings (story continues below)
A move back to Bendigo is also unlikely – unless the weather improves.
Norm joked that he’d be back if it was always summer, but the winters were too cold to entice.
However, the annual Bendigo Cup could be a drawcard.
“We love the Bendigo races. I’ve drank many a champagne in those marquees,” Jess said.
Despite living 1700 kilometres away now, the city remains close in the couple’s hearts.
“We’ve lived in a few spots, Bendigo being one of our favourites,” Jess said.
“It’s our second home.”
She thanked central Victorians for their support throughout The Block.