Here’s The Truth About HGTV’s Love It Or List It

Here’s The Truth About HGTV’s Love It Or List It

December 10, 2020

Launched in 2008, HGTV’s Love It or List It continues to bring a unique aspect of competition to the venerable home-renovation genre on television. The premise, as Discovery put it in a press release, follows “design maven” Hilary Farr and “real estate expert” David Visentin as they help homeowners dissatisfied with their current houses. Farr uses all her design savvy to lead a renovation addressing the family’s issues in order to convince them to “love it” and stay put. Visentin, on the other hand, takes the homeowners on a tour of some on-the-market properties he thinks will be a perfect fit, using all his sales skills to persuade them to “list it” and move to a new one.

Throughout it all, the fiercely competitive duo hilariously bicker and banter. “It’s the perfect relationship,” Visentin told the Los Angeles Times of his onscreen partnership with Farr. “We allow each other to say exactly what the other one feels even if it’s irrational. And then we get over it and move on.”

Even though Love It or List It has been on the air for more than a decade, there’s so much about the show that isn’t shown onscreen. Here’s the truth about HGTV’s Love It or List It.

Love It or List it is secretly Canadian

Love It or List It has been a part of the HGTV lineup for so long it’s worth pointing out that the show actually got its start north of the border, originating in Canada. Stars David Visentin and Hilary Farr are, like the show, Canadian, while production takes place in Toronto. 

Love It or List It originates from Toronto-based production company Big Coat Media, and there’s no denying the show was and remains a massive hit. As the Toronto Star pointed out, Love It or List It has become “one of the most successful franchises in Canadian history;” not only is it a hit in America, the show can also be seen in 150 television markets throughout the world.

“People can relate to it, because not one homeowner out there has not sat down and had this question on their minds. Should I renovate my house, or move out and buy something else?” said Big Coat Media’s Maria Armstrong — who came up with the show’s concept — of the show’s enduring appeal. Added Armstrong’s producing partner Catherine Fogarty, “As Canadians, we’re typically low profile and we don’t toot our horns as much.”

The Love It or List it hosts met during the audition process

The bickering, lovingly contentious relationship that realtor David Visentin and designer Hilary Farr display on Love It or List It has left many viewers assuming the pair must be married (they’re not). They are, however, great friends in real life, and the dynamic that viewers see onscreen reflects that.

That tight friendship, however, does not predate the show. As Visentin revealed in an interview with Monsters & Critics, the first time he met his Love It or List It partner was when he was auditioning for the series, and their chemistry was immediate. “We kind of hit it off,” he said. “Although, if you were talking to her, she says that she doesn’t remember me at all. She only remembered the tall, dark and handsome guy. I’m like, ‘Well, he’s not here. So, clearly he wasn’t good enough!'”

Regardless of Farr’s memory, that first meeting was enough to impress the powers that be that they’d found their onscreen duo. As Visentin recalled, about a week after that audition, he received a call telling him, “Hey, you’re shooting the pilot in a week.”

Love It or List It expanded from Toronto to South Carolina

In 2015, producers of Love It or List It decided to broaden its geographical horizons beyond Toronto. For a change of pace, filming took place in North Carolina, specifically within the Raleigh-Durham region. Speaking with Triangle Business Journal, executive producer Maria Armstrong revealed that the show’s production company, Big Coat Media, was shooting 26 episodes there — two full seasons, given that each Love It Or List It season is comprised of 13 episodes.

At that time, Armstrong said there were no other U.S. cities being considered as potential filming locations, because “we love our current location and would like to stay here for awhile. The Raleigh-Durham area is a growing real estate market, which continues to perfectly showcase classic and contemporary homes that also reflect a range of incomes and architectural styles.”

While the show’s primary contractor, Staten Island native Eric Eremita, continued to oversee each renovation project, the show turned to local tradespeople to get the actual work done. “We also use numerous local suppliers, trades and contractors,” said Armstrong, adding that they “couldn’t do the show without them.”

There's a West Coast spinoff starring a former Bachelorette

When Jillian Harris was selected to be the lead on the fifth season of The Bachelorette, she was the first Canadian to be cast in that role. This would not be her only major reality TV gig. In 2012, an announcement revealed that Harris — an interior designer by trade — would be starring alongside realtor/actor Todd Talbot in a Love It or List it spinoff set in the Canadian city of Vancouver. The aptly named Love It or List It: Vancouver made its television debut in 2013. Eventually, it made its way to American viewers via HGTV, where it was renamed with the less-specific title of Love It or List It, Too.  

The spinoff proved to be popular enough to warrant another entry into the Love It or List It franchise, with a 2015 announcement from W Network (where the shows initially aired in Canada) that a third show was on the way, Love It or List It Vacation Homes. Other than the focus on vacation homes instead of homeowners’ primary residences, the format remained identical to the other shows, with designer Dan Vickery (runner-up of the fourth season of HGTV’s Design Star) and realtor Elisa Goldhawke tapped as hosts.

Love It or List It is one of Hillary Clinton's favourite TV shows

Love It or List It made big headlines in 2012 thanks to an interview that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave to The New York Times. Asked about her favorite television shows, she singled out Love It or List It. “I find it very calming,” said Clinton of the show.

“I was floored,” Vibika Bianchi of Corus (the Canadian media company behind W Network and HGTV Canada) told Canada’s National Post. “In the end she’s just like all women. We like a little light programming in this heavy world.” Also thrilled by the mention was Love It or List It designer Hilary Farr. “From a Hilary to a Hillary, I understand the need for anything calming,” she said. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Hillary Clinton’s and I’m very flattered that she is a fan of the show!”

Another big celebrity Love It or List It fan is Hoda Kotb, who was downright starstruck when Farr and co-star David Visentin visited Today. “I watched and rewatched all of your episodes,” Kotb told the duo, admitting she was addicted to the show. “It’s like crack! You can’t stop!”

Hilary Farr gets legit 'upset' when a client lists it

As anyone who’s ever hunkered down and watched a Love It or List It marathon will attest, homeowners usually choose to “love it” and stay with their existing home after it’s been extensively redesigned by Hilary Farr and her team. 

On those occasions when homeowners follow David Visentin’s lead and decide to move, Farr does everything she can to keep her annoyance under wraps. As the designer told Meaww, she tries to keep her displeasure to herself as much as possible, although she admits she feels stung by the rejection. “I really am upset [when a couple lists the house] but would never give David the satisfaction of showing it,” she said. Asked if she finds herself getting personally attached to the properties she works on, she replied, “Yes, all the time, although I love to know they end up in the right house for them even when they list it.” 

Regardless of whether homeowners love or list, Farr insisted that whatever takes place on the show never deters her from her “great mission in life,” which “is to poke fun at David at every possible moment of every day!”

Love It or List It has been hit with some lawsuits

Out of all of the episodes of Love It or List It that have been produced since the series’ 2008 launch, there are a small minority of homeowners who have come away less than satisfied from the experience. When this happens, sometimes those homeowners go to court.

According to CTV News, this was the case for Vancouver couple Norman Waine and Jeanine Almeida, who filed a lawsuit alleging the 2016 renovation featured on the show contained “numerous defects and deficiencies,” partly because the contractor who oversaw the project was an actor with “little to no experience.” As CBC News reported, the production company behind the show, Big Coat Media, denied the couple “suffered any loss, damage or expense, as alleged or at all,” and asked that the case be dismissed.  

In addition, a North Carolina couple likewise filed suit. As The Charlotte Observer reported, Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan alleged “shoddy work” and accused the so-called reality show of being “scripted, with ‘roles’ and reactions assigned to the various performers and participants, including the homeowners.” This lawsuit, reported The State, was subsequently settled; neither party was willing to comment on the terms of the settlement. 

Why David Visentin says he and Hilary Farr are 'kind of like therapists'

While the vast majority of homeowners whose abodes are renovated on Love It or List It choose to stay put and enjoy the work of designer Hilary Farr, that shouldn’t reflect poorly on real estate agent David Visentin’s powers of persuasion. “It depends on the homeowners,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There are certain things they drool over, and it’s sometimes not what you think. We had a homeowner who left because of a garage.”

When it’s all boiled down, Visentin believes that he and Farr “are kind of like therapists. Usually you have two people that don’t really agree, and they have to come together as a couple and make a decision.” As he pointed out to the Los Angeles Times, it’s natural that families become “very invested in their homes, and not just in what works but mostly what doesn’t work.”

Sometimes, he admitted, the decision of whether to remain in the home or move to a new one is simply a matter of timing. “I’ve actually bumped into some people who loved it and then listed it a year and a half later,” he added.

Before Love It or List It, Hilary Farr acted alongside Richard Gere

Fans of Love It or List It know Hilary Farr for her work as a designer, but probably don’t realize that her first love was show business. As she revealed in an interview with the Greensboro News & Record, she began her career as an actress. According to her IMDb page, Farr — who then went by Hilary Labow — boasts screen credits including the 1979 miniseries A Man Called Intrepid and a small part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (she played the bride in the wedding scene that opens the film). She landed that role, she revealed, thanks to the film’s star, Tim Curry, who was a friend and neighbor when she lived in London. “I don’t know if I even got paid, but it was great fun,” she said.

When chatting with Meaww in 2020, she recalled co-starring onstage with a young Richard Gere. “Richard Gere was playing Danny Zuko in the first London production of Grease. I played Marty,” she explained. “He was the consummate professional but also quite the wild ‘bad’ boy in those days. English women went weak at the knees when he was around them. Fun times!”

There are several international versions of Love It or List It

Being a covertly Canadian show that airs in the U.S. is hardly the full extent of Love It or List It‘s international reach. As Distractify noted, the show can also be seen in numerous countries throughout the world, including the U.K., Australia, Spain, Brazil, Latin America, Norway, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, and Northern Ireland. 

Meanwhile, there are also standalone international versions. For viewers in the United Kingdom, there’s Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It, featuring Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp making like a British version of David Visentin and Hilary Farr. There’s also a Down Under version, Love It or List It Australia, featuring property expert Andrew Winter and designer/”lifestyle guru” Neale Whitaker (pictured). 

In addition, there’s even a special French-language version produced specifically for viewers in the Canadian province of Quebec, where French is predominantly spoken. Titled Vendre ou rénover (which translates to “sell or renovate”), this version features real-estate broker Maïka Desnoyers and designer Daniel Corbin.

A Love It or List It couple revealed the show's behind-the-scenes secrets

When watching so-called reality television, it’s natural to wonder how much of what appears onscreen is real and how much is played up for the cameras, if not outright fakery. When it comes to Love It or List It, however, a couple who appeared on the show attested that what viewers see on TV is a pretty accurate depiction of what actually takes place. 

Marci and Matt Lew spoke with Delish about their experiences on the show when they appeared in 2015. While the couple wouldn’t address the longstanding rumors that two endings are filmed, with editors then picking the one that works best, they confirmed that the first time they saw their renovated home was when the cameras were rolling. They also admitted they had no say in what those renovations would be. 

One big positive of having one’s home renovated for an HGTV show is that, unlike a real-life, non-TV reno, the contractor stays within the budget and completes the project on time. “They cared more about the timing than we did!” said Marci.

Love It or List it had to make some pandemic-related adjustments

When the pandemic slammed the brakes on film and television production in March 2020, both scripted and unscripted TV series were affected. When production on HGTV’s Love It or List It eventually resumed later that year, some pandemic-related changes in how the show was being produced needed to be made.

When the first socially distanced episode aired in November of that year, CinemaBlend ran down some of the differences in the show compared with the pre-pandemic version. One big change, reported the outlet, reflected the new reality in real estate. Whereas realtor David Visentin would typically drive with the homeowners to get a firsthand look at the homes he was pitching them, this time out they arrived at the homes solo. Instead of receiving an in-person tour, Visentin instead guided them through the home via video chat from another location. 

Despite tours involving “a phone attached to a selfie stick” and other differences, CinemaBlend‘s writer admitted finding the new episode and its newly tweaked format to be “just as satisfying as ever.”

The 201st episode of Love It or List It was major

Originally launched in 2008, HGTV’s Love It or List It had been on the air for more than a decade when the show hit a milestone, airing its 200th episode in December 2019. While hitting 200 episodes is a rare achievement for any television show, it was the 201st episode that really brought cause for celebration. 

As The Wrap reported, that episode, which aired on December 30, 2019, “set a new series high in ratings.” According to an HGTV press release, it “earned a 0.92 rating among adults 25-54,” with that number including “three days of delayed viewing.” In fact, that particular episode raked in ratings that were 61 percent higher “than what the time period earned, on average, across the prior six weeks.”

Even better, episode No. 201 brought in a whopping 3.4 million viewers — a huge number for a show on basic cable — and wound up ranking as the No. 2 show overall in the 25-54 demographic. Meanwhile, the release also pointed out that season, which premiered in November 2019, had so far delivered more than 11.9 million total viewers, and was the second most-streamed show on HGTV’s streaming service, HGTV Go.

Designers dig Love It or List It

With monster ratings like that, it’s no secret that viewers are in love with HGTV’s Love It or List It — but what do actual interior designers think of the show? Insider provided the answer by asking several designers to highlight the shows they think are worth watching, and those that should be avoided.

Suzan Wemlinger, principal designer at Suzan J Designs, offered high praise to Love It or List It. “Although most of these shows are not realistic when it comes to what it really costs to renovate a home, this one addresses the fact that the homeowner’s wish list usually outweighs their budget,” she explained. “They are told by Hilary [Farr] that they will have to either select which items to take off the list, or add more funds to their investment. That’s real life.”

Wemlinger also pointed out that because the crew works directly with each homeowner to address their individual requirements, there’s nothing “cookie-cutter” about the designs that emerge.

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