Love it Or List It: The Truth and Not So Truth

HGTV’s Love It or List It launched in 2008, and is one of the go-to shows that people choose when it cones to home renovation. Viewers started to crave watching “design maven” Hilary Farr and “real estate expert” David Visentin help homeowners figure stuff out with their current house situation.

David Visentin and a couple / David Visentin and Hilary Farr / Hilary Farr and David Visentin / Hilary Farr and a couple
Source: HGTV

Of course, along the way the duo need to make it interesting. So they bicker and banter. “It’s the perfect relationship,” Visentin told the Los Angeles Times. Here’s everything there is to know about Love It or List It.

Is the Show Fake?

By 2016, the word on the street was that Love It or List It was fake. But is it? Well, first of all, it’s safe to9 say that nearly all reality shows aren’t as real as they seem. With decades now of reality show experience, viewers have come to expect a little smoke behind the screens.

Hilary Farr and David Visentin talk in front of a home.
Source: HGTV

So why would this show be any different, right? The question is, what exactly is real and what’s fake about Love It or List It? a Reddit chat popped up with that very question, and one user responded with a surprising response…

They Never Even Listed the House

“My aunt and uncle were on “Love It or List It” and they had them record both endings and the network chose which one they thought was best. They are still in the house and they love it, but the show says they listed it.” According to this post, the whole outcome of the show might be fake.

Hilary Farr shows off a home to a couple.
Source: HGTV

Half the fun of watching the show is to see the competition between designer Hilary and real estate agent David. The other half is seeing the outcome. So, what gives? There was another user who wrote into the chat…

They Just Wanted the Discounted Renovation

This user was saying that a friend was the show in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Many homeowners chose to participate just to get a discounted remodel, not because they’re considering selling their homes,” the Reddit user wrote.

Hilary Farr is decorating a home.
Source: HGTV

According to this friend, “nobody wants to list their house; they just want a free renovation and to be on TV. However… the show only pays for 50% of the work they do on your house, and the producers do what they want for TV and don’t really respect the homeowners’ wishes.”

Living In an Unfinished Home

There’s more: he said they shoot a bunch of episodes in one market at a time, meaning they use one set of contractors for all the homes. If they fall behind on the work on one home, they pretend the work is done in order to wrap up on the episode. Then they can take the crew with them to the next house.

Hilary Farr and David Visentin sit in a playroom.
Source: HGTV

The homeowners then have to live in an unfinished renovation until all episodes are done filming and the crew can come back to their home. This can take months.

The Lawsuit

In 2016, CBS News revealed that Raleigh couple Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan took the producers of Love It or List It to court after they were displeased with their home renovation. They had paid $140,00 for the project but what did they get?

Hilary Farr, David Visentin, Deena Murphy, and Timothy Sullivan pose together.
Source: HGTV

Hilary and her design team literally painted shut windows and installed “low-grade industrial carpeting.” They supposedly damaged the home, too. The couple said that the hosts are “actors or television personalities playing a role … In this case, none of them played more than a casual role in the actual renovation process.”

Some Couples Are Actually Happy With Their Experience

If you ask that couple, all they got from the show was “shoddy work and unfair trade practices.” But there have been some positive experiences by homeowners who were on the show. Julia Sweeten, owner the real estate blog Hooked on Houses, interviewed another homeowner who was on the show.

David Visentin shows off a home to a young couple.
Source: HGTV

Marci, a North Carolina homeowner, had a positive experience on Love It or List It. She and her husband, Matt sought help from the show after realizing they didn’t have enough money to do all the remodeling by themselves on their cottage.

Their Reactions Were Genuine

Their makeover lasted seven weeks. “Meeting David and Hilary was a thrill and they have every bit of that back and forth repartee as you would expect having watched the show,” Marci told Julia. “They were both truly quite fun to work with.”

Hilary and David looked shocked.
Source: HGTV

The final reveal truly surprised the couple and their reactions were completely real. They did decide to sell their house in the end, but not until after their episode already aired. Sweeten said that her “spy” reported back to her on a neighbor’s house on the Marci and Matt episode…

The (Not for Sale) Neighbor’s House Was One of the Three Options

This neighbor’s house was chosen as one of the couple’s three options to buy, and the crew spent an entire day shooting in it. It looks like the show sometimes stages homes that aren’t even for sale. “You really do have to take the information on these shows with a grain of salt,” Sweeten added.

Hilary explains things to a new couple while filming.
Source: HGTV

So, although there are couples who like or dislike how the show treated their homes, at the end of the day, you can only take what you see on the screen at face value.

Ssshh! The Show is Secretly Canadian

It doesn’t really go advertised, but Love It or List It originated in Canada. Visentin and Farr are, like the original, Canadian, and production takes place in Toronto. The Toronto Star pointed out how the show became “one of the most successful franchises in Canadian history.”

Hilary Farr and David Visentin have fun together.
Source: HGTV

Not only did it make a hit in America, but it can also be seen in 150 markets throughout the world. Big Coat Media’s Maria Armstrong came up with the show’s concept. Her producing partner, Catherine Fogarty, pointed out, “As Canadians, we’re typically low profile and we don’t toot our horns as much.”

The Hosts Met in the Auditions

The way Visentin and Farr display bicker in their own “loving” way makes many viewers think the pair must be married. But they’re not. They are, great friends in real life, though. You might then think that they’ve been friends before the show. But that’s not true either.

David Visentin and Hilary Farr share a laugh.
Source: Instagram/@_loveitorlistit

Visentin revealed in an interview with Monsters & Critics that he only met Farr when he was auditioning for the show. 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.”

From Toronto To North Carolina

In 2015, Love It or List It made a change of scenery and they started filming in North Carolina, specifically within the Raleigh-Durham region. Executive producer Maria Armstrong said no other US cities were considered as potential filming locations.

Hilary and David are walking and filming in the street.
Source: Twitter

They simply “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.”

The West Coast Spinoff

Remember Jillian Harris from the fifth season of The Bachelorette? (She was the first Canadian to be cast in that role). Turns out that wasn’t her only reality TV gig. An interior designer by trade, she starred alongside realtor/actor Todd Talbot in a Love It or List it spinoff in 2012 set in Vancouver.

Todd Talbot and Jillian Harris arm wrestle.
Source: HGTV

Love It or List It: Vancouver aired in 2013 and it eventually made its way to American viewers on HGTV. The spinoff was popular enough to warrant another version into the franchise, with a third show, Love It or List It Vacation Homes.

One of Hillary Clinton’s Favourite Shows

When asked about her favorite television shows, Hilary Clinton said she singled out Love It or List It. “I find it very calming.” Vibika Bianchi of Corus (the Canadian media company behind W Network and HGTV Canada) said she was “floored.”

Hilary and David hold up signs.
Source: Instagram/@_loveitorlistit

“In the end she’s just like all women. We like a little light programming in this heavy world.” Farr herself added, “From a Hilary to a Hillary, I understand the need for anything calming. I’ve always been a huge fan of Hillary Clinton’s and I’m very flattered that she is a fan of the show!”

Hilary Farr Gets Upset When a Client Lists a Home

Fans know that homeowners usually choose to “love it” and continue to live in their existing home after it’s been redesigned by Farr and her team. But when those choose to follow Visentin’s lead and sell the place, Farr does everything she can to hide her irritation.

Hilary on the set of Love It or List It.
Source: HGTV

The designer told Meaww that she tries to keep it to herself as much as possible, although she confessed to feeling that sting of rejection. “I really am upset [when a couple lists the house] but would never give David the satisfaction of showing it,” she said.

She Gets Personally Attached

Farr was asked if she gets personally attached to the homes she works on when on the show, to which 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.”

Hilary Farr poses in a remodeled kitchen.
Source: HGTV

Whether or not homeowners love or list, Farr insists that whatever goes on, she’s never deterred from her “great mission in life,” which “is to poke fun at David at every possible moment of every day!”

They’re “Kind of Like Therapists”

While the vast majority choose to stay and enjoy the results, let’s not underestimate 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.”

Hilary is talking to a couple in a new home.
Source: HGTV

He believes that he and Farr “are kind of like therapists,” as he put it. “Usually, you have two people that don’t really agree, and they have to come together as a couple and make a decision.”

She Was in the Rocky Horror Picture Show

Fans may not know that Farr’s first love was actually show business. She told the Greensboro News & Record that she started her career as an actress. She went by the name Hilary Labow and holds screen credits including the 1979 miniseries A Man Called Intrepid.

Hilary Farr in a still from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Source: RKO

She also had a small part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the bride in the wedding scene that opens the film. “I don’t know if I even got paid, but it was great fun,” she said.

Starring Next to Richard Gere

She landed that role thanks to Tim Curry, who was a friend and neighbor of hers when she lived in London. She also told Meaww in 2020 how she co-starred onstage with a young Richard Gere. “Richard Gere was playing Danny Zuko in the first London production of Grease. I played Marty,” she said.

Peter Armitage, Doug Fisher, Hilary Labow, Stephen Bent, and Claire Faulconbridge of the set of Greese.
Photo by Michael Webb/Keystone/Getty Images

“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!”

Pandemic-Related Adjustments

When Covid slammed the brakes on production in March 2020, all shows were affected. Love It or List It eventually resumed later that year, but some changes in how the show was produced needed to be made.

David Visentin is walking and filming with his camera crew.
Source: HGTV

One big change reflected the new normal in real estate. Visentin would usually drive with the homeowners to get a look at the homes he was pitching them, but now they had to arrive at the homes solo. Visentin had to also guide them through video chat from another location.

Other Designers Are Fans

So, what do interior designers think of the show? Insider asked several designers to name the shows they think are worth watching, as well as those they think should be avoided. Suzan Wemlinger, of Suzan J Designs, highly praised Love It or List It.

Suzan Wemlinger and Hilary Farr attend an event.
Source: Twitter

“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. Wemlinger also pointed out that there’s nothing “cookie-cutter” about the designs on the show.

When Producers Intervene

The truth is the show is more orchestrated than viewers realize. According to CheatSheet, producers have been encouraging homeowners and potential buyers to pick opposing sides. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the same side, they’ll choose opposite things just for the dramatic effect.

David and Hilary share laughs with the crew.
Source: Reddit

Hooked on Houses’ blogger noted, “If you really believe that the same basic pattern plays out naturally in every episode (the homeowners don’t trust Hilary’s plan, they hate the first house David shows them, Hilary runs into a major construction/financial problem that requires eliminating one of the projects she promised the homeowners she’d do, and then David finds them their dream house), well, I have a bridge to sell you.”

Episode 201

Love It or List It aired its 200th episode in December 2019, but it was the 201st episode that was really a cause for celebration. The Wrap reported that it “set a new series high in ratings.” HGTV’s press release said it “earned a 0.92 rating among adults 25-54.”

Hilary and David talk on set.
Source: HGTV

That particular episode earned ratings that were 61 percent higher “than what the time period earned, on average, across the prior six weeks.” Not only that; episode No. 201 saw 3.4 million viewers. Not too shabby.

Homeowners Hardly See the Hosts

The show makes it seem like the homeowners see Farr and Visentin multiple times during the renovation process. But that’s not really the case. They rarely meet with the homeowners when filming an episode.

David and Hilary talk to a couple.
Source: HGTV

And when they do meet and discuss the home or other properties, the scenes are short and rehearsed. Again, that’s the reality of reality TV, folks. Other shows, like Fixer Upper, Windy City Rehab, Curb Appeal: The Block, the hosts rarely interact with the homeowners. So, it’s better than nothing.

It’s Somewhat Scripted

Love It or List It follows a formula. As you know, each episode has the same premise: a couple meets Farr to renovate their home, while Visentin shows them houses on the market. One partner usually wants to stay at home, while the other wants to move.

David and Hilary talk while on the couch.
Source: HGTV

Some participants revealed that the show’s script goes beyond the premise; that they’re told what to say, too. Farr, however, has denied these remarks. “The show is not at all scripted and the reactions of the homeowners to renovation realities and bad news is very real,” said Farr.

Two Different Endings

Another potentially disappointing fact is that the endings of the show are usually scripted for the camera. Producers get everyone to film two different endings: one where the homeowners choose to “love” it, and another where they opt to “list” it.

Hilary shows off the kitchen to a couple of women.
Source: HGTV

Then, all the magic is done during the post-production process, when producers decide which ending works best for that particular episode. So, even if they seem to list it (or love it), it might not actually be true. It’s all about ratings in the end…

Jobs Get Left Undone

Many former participants have pointed out that Farr’s renovation team leaves many of their jobs unfinished. On more than one occasion, the crew has started a project only to leave it half-way. There are some rooms that are “professionally finished,” to look presentable for the cameras.

Hilary shows off the bathroom to a couple.
Source: HGTV

Hooked on Houses noted that after the episode is filmed, furniture and other renovation designs are removed from the house. Due to tight budgets and time constraints, Farr and her team would have a tough time renovating the entire house. With the job only being “half” done, viewers should rethink signing on to the show.

Hilary Farr Opens Her Home to the Show

In September 2022, Farr started a new project on the show – renovating her own home. The 71-year-old took viewers inside her own home renovation, which was a major departure from the show’s formula. The episode was called “Hilary Loves It or Lists It,” and both she and Visentin look into the “gutted” home.

Hilary Farr poses at home.
Source: Twitter

Farr explained that she’s turning the home into a two-bedroom with space for an office that could also be used as a guest bedroom. “It would be really nice to do this little gem of a house just for me,” she said.

The Typical Banter

“When my son and his family come to visit, I can just put them up in a hotel,” she told Visentin, who doubtfully mumbled, “That’s not a great idea.” Visentin tried to convince her to look at some other houses.

Hilary Farr and David Visentin look at a kitchen.
Source: HGTV

“You might find something a little bit bigger, even if it needs to be renovated, that has more potential,” he mentioned. The co-hosts then engaged in their typical witty banter about design and real estate, with Farr finally agreeing to see other houses.

Her Brush With Death

Farr opened up in 2021 about a life-threatening health crisis that she kept a secret while filming the long-running show. It was back in 2012 when she went in for a routine mammogram and doctors found a suspicious lump.

A portrait of Hilary Farr.
Source: Facebook

She was sent for immediate surgery. The results confirmed that the tumor was precancerous, but not malignant. “I felt so much relief,” she told People. “I moved on.” But it turned out to be only the beginning of her ordeal. Two years later, a diagnosis was about to be made.

Getting the Diagnosis

In late 2014, while filming the show in Raleigh, another mammogram provided a more serious diagnosis: breast cancer. The tumor had spread into the surrounding breast tissue. So, she had to undergo a second lumpectomy.

Hilary Farr poses in a chair.
Source: Facebook

After that procedure, “I was signed off by the medical oncologist saying, ‘You’re done. You’re fine. Off you go,'” she recalled. But doctors can be wrong. Within two months, Farr learned that she was supposed to get radiation as a part of her treatment, yet she was incorrectly told by the medical oncologist that it wasn’t necessary.

From Fear to Anger

For those who don’t know, radiation therapy is usually given after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells, which can reduce the risk of recurrence. “I was terrified, because I knew I had a very small window,” she says.

David and Hilary take part in an interview.
Source: HGTV

Farr’s fear turned to anger quickly. “I felt absolute fury that someone could be so flippantly wrong. I could have been dead.” Farr didn’t name the facility nor the doctor involved, but she did file a complaint and the same oncologist retired the next year.

She’s Now in Remission

In spring of 2015, she began a 28-day course of radiation, and seven months later, doctors discovered yet another suspicious growth in her breast. She now had to go through a third lumpectomy, and the tumor was considered precancerous.

David and Hilary pose on set.
Source: HGTV

Now, Farr is said to be in remission. Unfortunately, however, you can never be in the clear with cancer. “Fear of breast cancer stops a lot of women from getting checked. But as terrifying as it is, you face it,” Farr noted.

He Wanted To Go To Theater School

Here’s a fun fact: Visentin’s original dream was to be in the theater. At one time, he seriously considered acting. In an interview with Realtor, he revealed that he “got into real estate because that’s what my father did, and still does.”

A portrait of David Visentin.
Source: Twitter

As for him, he came out of high school and was planning on going to theater school. But his dad told him, “Well, Dave, you’re not going to make any money doing that. Get your real estate license. Then if you want, you can go back to school.”

David Visentin Has Some TV Experience

Visentin, like Farr, has been on TV before Love It or List It ever popped up on your screens. He’s been on several other shows, like Brother vs. Brother for instance, where he was a judge from 2013 to 2015. But the realtor is one for much publicity.

David Visentin poses in the kitchen.
Source: HGTV

He tends to enjoy his privacy, despite being a public figure. He’s managed to keep his private life under wraps for years. But here’s what we do know. For one, we know that he’s been working in real estate for over three decades now.

A Family Man

The 57-year-old began his real estate career in the late 1980s and is one of the most successful real estate agents in Toronto. We also know that he’s something of a family man. Although he keeps the details to himself, we know that he puts his family first.

David Visentin and Hilary Farr relax on the front porch.
Source: HGTV

He is said to be happily married, has close relationships with his brother and sister, and is a dad to one child. Aside from his family, Visentin enjoys interacting with fans of the show. He takes the time to meet with fans in person or through social media.