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