Hosted by Hilary Farr and David Visentin, "Love It Or List It" is one of North America's leading home-improvement and home-design shows. It airs in the US on HGTV and in Canada on the W Network and puts the spotlight on homeowners who have an important-and difficult-decision to make: love it, or list it.
Farr was born in Toronto and has lived in Australia, England, California and New York. She's known for her design savvy and knack for renovating with sophisticated flair. Visentin, who has practiced real estate since 1987, is a top agent in Southern Ontario and is known for finding out what his clients really need.
Columbus Monthly's Home & Garden magazine sat down with the co-hosts to talk about the upcoming Ohio Mulch presents The Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show and get their take on the exciting world of renovations and listings.
On "Love It or List It," you help homeowners make a pretty serious decision about where-and how-they're going to live, whether that's a move or a big renovation. What's your primary advice for individuals or couples who are working through this decision out in the real world?
Hilary: Focus on what is positive about the home, and what the potential is. Try to be a realist! Can your house accommodate your hopes and dreams, and can you change up your lifestyle a little here and there to accommodate the house? I used to flip homes and I learned from my buyers that the decision was made within minutes of walking in the front door-emotion is so often the driving force of purchase. But inevitably, reality sets in and you'll see deficiencies that need to be fixed to make the home work. My advice is to think about what makes your family most comfortable, beyond the four walls. Neighborhood is key, in terms of value; is [the neighborhood] already good and getting better? Was it a little sketchy but now trendy? Either case indicates a good investment, so your equity is strong. Those are elements that help determine the value, in monetary terms. But on the emotion side, I believe being close to friends, being at a good school where [kids] can thrive … that's a big part of the equation to stay in the home. And yes, change is good, and memories can be made anywhere, but there is a real, non-quantifiable value to having happy memories of growing up in your home. If any of this applies to you, then try to make the house work.
David: Do your research before undergoing any type of move or major renovation to an existing home. When you're dealing with what is probably the biggest investment you'll make, it's important to do it right. If you're making a move, then make sure you can afford where you're moving. If you're considering a major renovation, make sure the area you live in can support that renovation and that you are spending your money wisely-if in the end you still decide to make a move, you can get out what you spent [through the home's higher selling price].
Why do you think we so often end up living in homes that "no longer feel like home?" How can this be avoided from the get-go?
Hilary: Families change, and without making sure your house changes with you along the way, you are going to start arguing! It's like any relationship-it takes work and communication. Be flexible and understand you can't have everything in a space that is finite; figure out what you are willing to give up and what is essential and start planning solutions to make the house work. Try to identify problems and fix them along the way instead of waiting until you reach critical mass of kids' toys in every square inch or having an office in the middle of a living space. If you know you need a home office, plan that space at the start. If it becomes an unexpected requirement, think it through before you make it on the dining room table-this isn't a solution if you want your house to work. Storage solutions will help if you plan them well, and anticipate what you need. But, no matter what the problem you encounter, you have to adapt your expectations along the way, too. If you start to expand your family in a house that cannot expand its space, it may just be time to make the move. But before you do-and instead of blaming the house for just not working anymore-think about solutions, together.
David: I am not sure you can totally avoid it from the get-go. I have heard of people who bought their home, had kids and, 25 years later, are still living there without major renovations. But more often than not, the life changes we go through require something that we didn't prepare for or that we didn't even know we would want … and how can you prepare for that? You can't.
What's it like, competing with one another on the show?
Hilary: Really annoying, invigorating and loads of fun!
David: It is what makes the show a never-ending enjoyment for me. I look forward to the challenge and the mayhem that ensues going up against a very talented rival. We are both very competitive, and I will fully admit that it sometimes brings out the five-year-old in me … and quite often we end up laughing hysterically over it.
When you're revamping a home for the show, what are your priorities? What are your must-dos and your don'ts?
Hilary: My priorities change along the way depending on the house. But always my focus is on making the house function better to suit the families' needs … and to create a look that make their hearts flip when they walk in to see the reveal. I do design in a way that will appeal to them, not enforcing my own design aesthetic on them. I don't always listen to their demands, because I know my understanding of the process is better than theirs.
What are the advantages of looking for a new home, as opposed to renovating?
David: One advantage is not having to live through a major renovation. It happens very seamlessly and in about three to four weeks on the show. But in the real world you are living through almost every minute of [the renovation]. It can take three to six months for a major renovation. This, to me, is a big plus. Another advantage is that there are plentiful options available on the market in terms of size, shape and location. When dealing with your own home there are going to be restrictions in terms of what you can and cannot do based on city laws, your location and your proximity to neighbors. Buying a new home also allows you to see your dreams realized in a simple viewing; as opposed to waiting months to see if what you thought would be a dream renovation is really is a dream.
Why do you think the show has been such a big success? What about it do you think resonates with viewers?
Hilary: I think the premise resonates across the board … it's a common dilemma. People love to see what can be done with what is, in theory, an impossible problem. They love the competition and they love to see me and David duke it out, gloves off, but with obvious affection for each other and humor.
David: "Love It Or List It" was a great concept for a show, and one of the first of its kind in terms of how it mixed real estate and design. And that has played a part in the success of it. I think it resonates with viewers because if you have owned a home for any period of time, then the likelihood of finding yourself in this position is high. And, therefore, it becomes more interesting. Plus, I think people like the competitive nature of the show and the chemistry that Hilary and I have. We have a lot of fun and it seems to make for good TV.
What are you most looking forward to when Ohio Mulch presents The Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show?
Hilary: I always like the chance to connect with fans or critics of the show and hear what they have to say. I am looking forward to seeing the building and design ideas and showcased products at the show and of course, what a treat to spend all that time with David!
David: I love talking real estate and finding out what people are up to in their homes-and the show is the perfect venue for that. It is also my first visit to the Columbus area, and I can't wait to hear those great accents and see how life is lived in that neck of the woods! Hopefully we can have a lot of fun and all learn some new things.