Phil’s Kiwi love af­fair

Prop­erty ex­pert Phil Spencer re­veals how a hitch­hik­ing tour of New Zealand left him with a strong at­trac­tion to the coun­try, while Kirstie All­sopp talks about her pas­sion for ren­o­va­tion. James Ramp­ton re­ports.


Prop­erty ex­pert Phil Spencer has a deep and abid­ing love for New Zealand. He first came here as a stu­dent three decades ago and hitch­hiked around the coun­try. Speak­ing to the TV Guide in the UK, he re­calls that, “I spent three very happy weeks there. I hitch­hiked all over and my aver­age wait­ing time was just 10 min­utes. “Quite of­ten, sev­eral cars stopped for me at the same time – that wouldn’t hap­pen any­where else in the world. I’ll never for­get that. “New Zealan­ders are the kind­est and the fun­ni­est peo­ple, and it is the most beau­ti­ful coun­try.” Be­cause he has such a strong con­nec­tion with this coun­try, Spencer says he is, “Hugely pleased that our shows are so pop­u­lar in New Zealand. It’s great to know that peo­ple are en­joy­ing them there.” Forty-eight-year-old Spencer’s lat­est of­fer­ing is Love It Or List It, which he hosts with his long-term pro­fes­sional part­ner Kirstie All­sopp. The show’s premise is sim­ple: All­sopp and Spencer visit a cou­ple who are un­sure about whether to re­main in their home and do it up or sell it and move on. It’s a case of, “Should I stay or should I go?” All­sopp and Spencer then com­pete. She rec­om­mends that the cou­ple “Love It” and re­fur­bish the home, while Spencer ad­vises them to “List It” and sell up. Spencer, who since 2000 has also fronted the

series Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion with All­sopp, de­tails the aim of Love It Or List It.

“This show ex­plores all the op­tions. It’s a very nat­u­ral de­bate to have within a fam­ily: is it the time to stay and in­vest fur­ther money in our house or go?

“Yes, the costs of mov­ing are ex­treme – taxes, agency fees, mov­ing costs. It is stress­ful and ex­pen­sive and ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, but some­times it is still ab­so­lutely the right thing to do. You need to bite the bul­let from time to time. The only way to make a con­fi­dent de­ci­sion is to fully re­search both op­tions. It’s sort­ing out real prob­lems. We love it.”

Kirstie, 46, is equally pos­i­tive about Love It Or List It.

“It’s a lovely show to make. With Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion we don’t get to see what they do with the houses. What’s lovely about this is that we see the re­sults of our sug­ges­tions.”

She is par­tic­u­larly pas­sion­ate about the joys of in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing.

“I don’t have for­mal train­ing but I’m pretty con­fi­dent in my in­stincts.

“When I say, ‘You should knock down this wall’, I’m usu­ally right.”

All­sopp con­tin­ues that, “I’m fas­ci­nated by ‘flow’ and by how a house helps make peo­ple’s lives work. There’s no point if a house is rul­ing you.

“Your home is meant to be the place that gives you shel­ter and gives you time with your loved ones. It should never cause you worry or make things harder. If you spend half your time tidy­ing it up, then some­thing is wrong. That’s what riv­ets me about Love It Or List It.”

The show is es­pe­cially grip­ping be­cause it pro­vokes such in­tense de­bate be­tween the cou­ples.

“It gets heated, it re­ally does,” All­sopp says. “I’m of­ten sur­prised some cou­ples have been able to func­tion like that for so long. If I had a fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ment with my other half about the lay­out of the home, I’d strug­gle.”

All­sopp and Spencer have been fix­tures on TV now for nearly two decades. Spencer assesses why their part­ner­ship works so well.

“Au­di­ences have watched us be­come firm friends over the years. There is noth­ing forced about our re­la­tion­ship. View­ers have seen it hap­pen­ing over the last 18 years.

“We nig­gle each other and we wind each other up and we have a laugh. We are very com­fort­able with each other. Peo­ple re­ally en­joy watch­ing the con­nec­tion we have.”

All­sopp be­lieves she knows why Love It Or List It has proved such a pop­u­lar for­mat.

“It’s all about cou­ples. It ex­plores why one part­ner wants this and the other wants that. It fo­cuses on the ques­tions ev­ery­one is con­cerned with. How can we find a home that we both love? How can we find a home in the school catch­ment area?

“Even if you are not in­ter­ested in prop­erty,” she says, “you will watch Love It Or List It. It’s not about prop­erty. It’s about re­la­tion­ships.”

“It’s not about prop­erty. It’s about re­la­tion­ships.”

– Kirstie All­sopp

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