Is HGTV’s “Love It or List It” Fake?

Love-It-or-List-It hosts David and Hilary HGTVThis is one of the top searches that brings people to my blog for answers each day: “Is Love It or List It fake?” Apparently there are a lot of people out there who 1) watch the popular show on HGTV and 2) aren’t buying that all the drama in the episodes is real.

Other common searches that bring people here: “Are Hilary and David married in real life?” “Why were David and Hilary replaced by new hosts?” And more recently, “What happened to Desta and the regular crew and who’s that new contractor guy?”

Well, here’s what I know…

David Visentin on Love It or List It

#1. Is Love It or List It fake?

Let’s put it this way: these kinds of shows are entertainment. They are not documentaries.

And 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.

I’ve heard rumors that two endings are always filmed, with the homeowners saying both “We’re going to love it!” and “We’re going to list it!” Then the producers choose which one to air during the final edit.

So…if that’s true (and I don’t know for sure), then the outcome has nothing to do with what happened in real life. At least not all the time.

A reader named Jen wrote me about this, saying:

Many people that appear on the show have no intentions of actually moving, but signed up for the show so they could get their renovations done at a discount. I’m not sure what the actual discount is, perhaps lower labour costs, but it’s cheaper than if they had hired an independent contractor to do the work.

If she’s right, then it would make sense for the producers to choose how each episode ends. Otherwise most homeowners would end up loving their newly remodeled houses and staying put, and poor David would never get to “win.”


Another reader told me:

I live in the area and know a couple who were on the show. What we don’t see is that some of the houses the couple are looking at are not actually for sale.

As well, the “after” shots of the rooms are not actually finished sometimes. My friend’s room was only half finished as they ran into more problems during the renos, so they took the shot to look as though the rooms are complete. Actually, they even did not finish sewing some of the cushions for the couches and just wrapped the fabric and placed it just so to look as though it was.

I’ve heard similar stories from people who were on House Hunters and Designed to Sell shoots.

Hilary Farr publicity photo Love It or List It

I always assumed that the constantly complaining homeowners were being “encouraged” by producers to act up a bit. But the designer on the show Hilary Farr insisted in an interview that the tension is all real:

“The show is not at all scripted and the reactions of the homeowners to renovation realities and bad news is very real. We see a one-hour rendition of a three-week process. It’s a lot for the home owners to process and the anxiety is apparent.”

In the end I’m not sure how much it matters if the show’s drama is “faked” a bit for TV. We get to do a little house hunting with the couple (even if they’re not always serious about moving) and it’s fun seeing how the renos turn out.

Hilary Farr and David Visentin Love Ir or List It

#2. Are Hilary and David married in real life?

Ummm…no. I’m not sure why so many people think they might be. Maybe because they bicker like an old married couple on the show?

However, Hilary says of her relationship with her costar, whom she met after they were cast together for the show, “There’s a genuine deep affection between us and a really good, genuine, healthy competition. What you see is what you get. We do bicker. We are exact opposites. We adore each other. We make each other laugh a lot.”

Love It or List It Too hosts Jillian and Todd

#3. Why were Hilary and David replaced by that young couple?

This month a new version of the show premiered in the States (it was already airing in Canada) called Love It or List It Too. Designer Jillian Harris (remember her as The Bachelorette?) and real estate agent Todd Talbot are the hosts of this one, which takes place in Vancouver instead of Toronto.

This seems to have caused a lot of viewer confusion and angst. A lot of people think this means David and Hilary got the boot. Some have told me they’re boycotting the show until the original hosts return or are calling for petitions to get them back.

But hold on–they haven’t gone anywhere. HGTV’s general manager Kathleen Fince explains:

“One of our biggest hits is Love It or List Itso we’re adding a companion spin-off series and welcoming two new talents to the HGTV family with Love It or List It Too.”

In other words, the original is getting great ratings but there are only so many episodes of it they can air…so now they have a second team creating more original programming with the same concept. Will you be watching?

Julia signature 2

*2015 Update: The Show Moves to North Carolina*

Wondering where the old team of Desta, Eddie and Fergus has gone? Or why they’re no longer taping the show in Toronto? Here’s the scoop: New Season, New Country, New Crew

P.S. Visit my HGTV page for more scoop, including…

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  1. says

    I have to give Hillary credit. Not only are her and her team’s designs amazing, but she always makes the effort to correct issues with the house the homeowners have no clue about. So many people have no education about the homes they buy and are simply ripped off. Subsequently they need the proper help to get the house up to today’s standards both for safety and beauty. I believe Hillary does it well, every time, even when she has to deal with owner’s ignorance. Kudos Hillary.

    • Chloe says

      Kind of agree with you to an extent. ANYONE who buys a house should always insist on a home inspection, whether the sellers pay for it or the buyer. If a house is over 50 years old, that should be a MUST regardless of cost. A lot of the homes Hillary works on are old homes and the people who want to do renos seem to have “no clue” but my guess they do. No home owner is that stupid. If you live in a house that was built in 1900 – do you really think the house is still in good shape? And act surprised when the contractor tells you your plumbing is rotted away? Or your foundation? If they are that stupid – they have no business owning a home.

      On a positive note: I do like Desta (designer) better than the airhead that is on the “Too” shows. That one always looks clueless, where as Desta works well with Hillary and comes up with her own great ideas.

    • J Carr says

      I totally agree! She is the best designer I have seen, and I have toured a lot of model homes. She does awesome work.

    • scotnovel says

      I have to disagree somewhat. I like what she does as a designer. However, she makes all these plans and assumptions – take a wall down here – move that plumbing there – without checking with her contractors first. If I hired someone and they gave me a plan that included moving walls and then came back to me a few days later saying well that is a load bearing wall so it can’t be moved, I would fire them. If you don’t know that kind of basic and you don’t find out before you present a plan you are not doing a good job.

      • Donna says

        I’m sure that Hilary knows what going on, but they edit everything to fit the same script. I find that the most annoying aspect. I know they want to ramp up the drama, but do they have to do everything the same way every time?

  2. deedee says

    after being in the construction industry for 20 yrs, running the onsite office for commercial construction, I am now an interior design major. After watching this show I definitely know I will try to stay out of residential design! I would have to beat some of those people with a chair rail after listening to their rants and crazy demands!

    • Chloe says

      LOLOLOL I think the problem is many of these people, especially the younger ones (and no offense to anyone), they have champagne tastes on a beer budget!!! They want the $300,000 home but only have a $150,000 budget! They want all the upscale appliances, designs, etc. and they just can’t afford them!! If you DO decide to do residential design, i’m sure you know you’ll have to do your due diligence and see what types of budgets these people REALLY have. That sounds simple but as you can guess, it’s not. First clue would be to see what they already have. You can basically figure out if they have the means for the upscale stuff, or are just dreaming. Some things should not be scrimped on, such as floors because those have to last and any structural things such as plumbing, electrical, but there are plenty of nice appliances out there that do not cost an arm, a leg and your first born to have!! How many people REALLY need a 6 burner stove?? (IMO – just more to clean!) One of the things I like about the Property Brothers, they are not afraid when they take their clients shopping, suggesting less costly things. And they look just as nice.

  3. says

    If the people would just clean up their messes, they wouldn’t need remodeling!!!
    That must be something they do before the show, pull everything out into the middle of the room so it looks as if they have no storage.

    • Chloe says

      That could be true, but any family with kids, small ones at that, the house will always look cluttered and messy, storage or no storage. Some of these families DO live in too small of a house to make it look nice and orderly.

  4. Wiredog says

    I came across this article when I was searching to find out the veracity of the show based on how Hilary treats the “homeowners” and “contractors.” Her “assistant, Desta, seems to do most of the actual design work and she just storms around with an attitude. If I were renovating my home I would expect the designer to come to me to decide which projects to keep and which to cut in a case of funding shortfall. She just wholesale makes decisions and then informs the homeowner of what she has determined is best for them. One one recent episode she even appears to get extra money from the husband to add another project while attempting to hide the transaction from the wife. If she really is a designer, I would NEVER hire her or her firm based on her TV persona.
    Also, David seems to be trying to convince the homeowners to either pay more than they are comfortable paying for a new home or move an excessive distance from where they either live or work. That is defiantly not how a real Realtor does their work. If one does, they do not stay in the business very long.
    I understand that for TV purposes HGTV and parent company, Scripps Networks, think they need tension. I would venture they might get more viewers if they spent a bit more on the “how-to” of renovating design and/or house-hunting than the manufactured drama, more like Property Brothers and Property Virgins.

    • CityDiva says

      The funny thing is Hilary IS a designer and has some well-known clients!! What makes the show fake is how Hillary goes about “designing” the rehabs!! She seems to pick things that are going to be unreasonably over priced for the budget she gets and then has a hissy fit when one of the guys tells her there are problems and she has to give up half of what the homeowners wanted to have done.

      • Wiredog says

        Exactly, she raises the homeowners expectations through the roof then when the inevitable problems arise she cancels one or more things, has fits, and treats contractors and homeowners like children. HGTV used to have good shows that actually taught people how to do various projects, now it seems to only try to make people feel bad about what they can’t afford, like the old Fine Living Network was known for. That channel ended up never making money and has been recast as the Cooking Channel since Scripps has so many game shows on Food Network now. I know a lot of the better programming has been shoved over to DIY, but that channel is not available without buying another tier of programing where I live. (Hmm, come to think of it Cooking is on that tier, too…maybe trying to force purchase of extra packages was Scripps plan all along.)

    • says

      Good comments. I agree with everything you said. The negative drama diverts attention to what otherwise might be a really good show.

  5. Stephanie Grijalva says

    I’ve noticed HOUSE HUNTERS has slowly but surely been squeezed thin by other
    Spinoffs. PLEASE STOP THIS!!!!
    Bring back our favorite House Hunters shown frequently!!

    • Kathy says

      Remember when HGTV had REAL decorating shows? Room by Room, Lynn Jennings, Design on a Dime, etc. Now it’s just people whining because they want the best house right now. Hey, you’re only 20-something, and , that white appliance works just as well as a stainless one!!!

      • CityDiva says

        LOLOLOL You are so right!!! Love it when these young kids buying a house want it ALL but on a beer budget!!! Spoiled brats!!! They want the huge houses their parents have not thinking the parents worked hard for that huge house and did things gradually and didn’t expect everything in their first home.

      • Zahra says

        I don’t see that happening. What I see is a lot more emphasis on large scale, over priced construction designs and not low scale budget renovations that most of us can afford. 20-somethings have nothing to do with this but the channel catering to an older audience that is financially able to spend this money.

        • Pamela says

          I am part of the “older audience” and although I am financially stable, there is no way I would buy such a large home nor do I need one. Bring back the sensible how to shows! Please.

        • CityDiva says

          Zahra: I disagree about the “older audience”. That older audience knows better and can do renovations within a budget. They are more realistic. Things get done on a more gradual basis instead of “slam bam I want that $50K kitchen and $25K master bath NOW” Also, an older audience is smart enough to take the basic knowledge that is presented on these shows and work with it; again, they are more realistic.

          • Ada says

            Except: what is the average age of HGTV viewers? I assume it skews older, so “real life” behaviours are irrelevant. And anyway, smug ageism is always ugly.

      • Jane says

        Please produce more House Hunters . I don’t care for House Hunters International at all. It’s just not as relevant to us in the U.S.

        remember Room by Room? Would love to see an updated version of that or another show with Shari and Matt!

        • lukebandit says

          I remember that show. I loved it. Shari and Matt were so good. I miss Sell This House! also. Tonya and Roger were the best! On Design on a Dime the 3 original people, I think his name is Lee? he went nuts and left and started making movies in the p*rn business. I emailed him and told him I was praying for him. Please pray for him to have the strength to leave that business. He is super talented before DOAD, he worked at Disney in creations.

  6. vanny nhean says


    My wife always watch your show and sometime I join in just because I can’t change the channel. In any case, the more I watch with her the more I get into it as well.

    Now the truth about my writing here is because I want to know if you can help me as well. I have a house with 3600 square foot of living space and un-finish basement of 1500 foot. The house have 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bath, an office room and huge room above the 3 car garage. It was built by US Home and it was called the cresendo model.

    Now my wife wants a new house, a ranch style home. I also wanted too, but it’s smaller and more expensive than the one we have now. I’m wondering if you can help me with the decision to buy the new home or not. Perhaps, the house just need decoration and a finish basement for entertainment. Any response or help here would be appreciated.


    • CityDiva says

      LOLOLOL Well, about selling the larger home – you don’t mention the age you and your wife are. IF you are older, let’s say coming close to 40, do think about a ranch style home, mostly for the future especially if you intend to live there for a long time. Actually, think about the future period, regardless of age. I read in the Real Estate section of our newspaper just a couple of weeks ago that ranch homes are making a comeback for various reasons, mainly because of the aging population and yeah – everyone gets older after awhile and stairs are VERY hard to handle not only for the homeowners but other family members. You also don’t mention of you have kids still at home. so that 3600 sq ft home is good, but if not – who really wants to keep up a house that size? No one can make this decision but you and your wife. Maybe you can go look at some ranch homes. You may change your mind!!!

  7. Jean says

    Our home was featured on an HGTV program about ten years ago before the channel was dumbed down. The shows produced then were very interesting and had much higher production standards. The show we were on focused on a particular city in each episode and what homes sold for in a certain dollar range. All were filmed on site and homeowners were interviewed about their design style and what they loved about living in their city. Their was nothing fake or gimmicky about the experience. A very nice crew did the filming and interviewing, nothing contrived or coached. These days, never bother with watching the channel.

  8. Sh says

    I hate all the arguing. If I watch it at all I watch it with sound off…especially how rude the man is…if it was real estate in the real world he would be fired.

  9. barb stafford says

    You are all wrong about the show. My parents house is being shown sometime in Feb. The show uis run by Remax. The REAL idea is to get the home owner to SELL their home. That is why Hilary always finds a problem with the MAIN thing the homeowners need to stay.! At the end of the show the owners have not got what they need to stay, BUT the house has been decorated ready to put on the market!!!!! My mum’s house was filmed 8 weeks ago, and is not going on T.V.until Feb.(5 months later). House will be sold by then. Also, note the homes shown ALWAYS have the listing on front lawn covered up so that interested buyers watching the show cannot contact listing agents ! So, if you do agree to let your house be televised for great exposure which they offer! You get none because they don’t tell you where the house is either. Totally phoney

    • Chloe says

      @barb: There have been times when the homeowners DID decide to stay because Hillary hit a home run. I keep seeing current LIOLI commercials on HGTV. It’s all an act with the friction between Hillary and David. They actually do admit they like working together.

      • Sarah says

        i agree i think that they see that things are starting to heat up between them.


  10. LScantland says

    The problem with this show is that DAVID never gets a place in the desired neighborhood or within the budget… and when people choose to leave they are always spending more money and moving further away… and if they just gave a few more dollars… instead of paying a higher mortgage… then it would be done right and great…

  11. joe says

    This has to be staged. Some of these people are totally clueless. Example, their home appraises for $800K and they give Hillary $50K and expect perfection……wake up! this is not reality!!!! my house appraises for $275K and my bathroom renovations alone cost $35K…..

    • CityDiva says

      @Joe: I notice that, too! The homeowners want perfection but $50k these days gets you very nice kitchen and that’s all. Hillary goes for the “big bucks” in all her designs. If she was more realistic, the homeowners could probably get most of what they want. On The Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew DO take budgets into account and give the homeowners options that aren’t that expensive but still nice. Kinda like in the real world!!!

  12. Sarah says

    I think that there relationship should change. They should realize that there arguing shouldn’t be enough. They should do something romantic on the show.

    I would love to hear from all you guys who agree with me!

    • CityDiva says

      @Sarah: I don’t think David’s wife would be too happy if anything romantic develops!! LOLOL What they DO have is a good working relationship and it should be shown more instead of the bickering. But then the show would get boring.

  13. Carla delbaum says

    Love your program-Love Hilary and David. However, Hilary gets the raw end if the deal. I think your clients should be made well aware that unforseen costs may come up in a Reno and a contingency budget of 5 or 10 percent should be included for electrical,plumbing and other major issues that may occur..This makes for an even playing field and a fairer competition between Hilary and David. Thanks, carla

  14. LMK says

    The thing that drives me crazy about all these design shows (even though I do enjoy them on a certain level)) is that all the homeowners want the exact same thing. Does EVERYBODY in the world really want stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, hard wood floors and open-concept EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME? Does everyone really want to see their messy kitchen from everywhere else in the house? I know I don’t. I raised two kids and I never felt any distress over not being able to see them every minute while I was cooking. I just think some if the ‘issues’ people have are drummed up a little for the drama value. That said, it is great fun to see the before-and-afters and the new designs are always lovely, if predictable.

    • Charlene says

      @LMK – I do not want stainless steel appliances – they show every fingerprint!! I don’t mind granite countertops but in 20 years you will know when houses were built because of them. Carpet will make a comeback after awhile just as hardwoods did. Its all what is “in” right now. I don’t like the modern, sleek look that so many of these makeovers have at the end. Especially in a beautiful old house. I do crinch when they paint original woodwork as well. Generations of kids grew up in cramped houses and still are successful adults who remember the houses they lived in fondly. Society dictates what is in demand now and young people especially fall for it. So its all we see right now until the fad changes…………again. Drama could be left at the doorstep so to speak, I just want to see the final result!!

      • CityDiva says

        @Charlene: I agree with you! When the ex and I bought our second house (in 2007) we had part stainless steel and black for our appliances. The fridge we picked out ourselves and it “looked” like stainless but it wasn’t. It was a Whirlpool and VERY easy to keep clean. Our range on the other hand was AWFUL to keep clean. The black showed every single thing and it was extremely hard to clean. Some food spilled by one of the burners and I made the mistake of not wiping it up immediately. It dried and it wouldn’t come off! I tried just about everything I had to clean it, and even tried to use a SOS pad. BIG MISTAKE. It actually made scratches that would not or could not hide. As boring as they look, white appliances are the best.

  15. Jalilnme says

    I love all the drama in the show. It’s good entertainment. But just once I would like to see Hilary or Jillian finish a design with all the items on the homeowners list

  16. kristy says

    Is anybody else getting sick and tired of the love it or list it shows that seems to be the only thing hgtv seems to air anymore :(

    • pattyhaddenham says

      no way!!!! hgtv shows repeats of the same lioli 1&2, and i end up watching them over and over because Hillary is such a delight, beautiful, talented, funny, natural. and very professional. i love her accent too. so i can’t get enough of her. David is soooo handsome, has a quick wit, so professional, natural, extroverted, and a great realtor. i go wow every time i see him. i can’t get enough of him. together they are like magic. they are made for each other. sure there’s drama but for the most part every one of them: fergus, eddie, desta, hillary, and david are being their true selves. the way they go back and forth with the comments and deal with their frustrations is entertaining. lioli 2 i have grown to enjoy and is entertaining. i like the hosts jillian and todd. i surely couldn’t do a better job. i would freeze up on the set. most of all i watch hgtv because it’s clean tv, unlike 99% of tv which is crude,vulgar, violent, rude, selfish, inappropriate…. when children and teens see this, it affects their attitudes, and ultimately them as grown-ups. any one that says this is not true is living in denial. i am single and have no children but i enjoy a tv channell which is moral, and possitive over one that there is alot of negativity including the commercials.

  17. James says

    I was a contractor for over 35 years. I feel it is totally unfair that Hilary is allowed to decorate and David is stuck with either an empty house one decorated by the existing home owners. I also feel Hilary’s kitchen designs waste allot of space and are more what she likes and not what the home owners like. From my experience “interior designers” don’t really care about what the home owner want. They use lines like, ” Trust me, it will be beautiful.” That may be true. But 99 % of the projects I oversaw and worked on in the metro Washington DC area, had to be redone to the home owners taste. They said the designers product was pretty but not for them.

    • CityDiva says

      @James: I don’t like a lot of HIllary’s designs; it could be just me or yes, she does design for herself. Don’t the homeowners have any input on style on what she does? Or do we never see that part of it? I’ve seen her do things that the owners did not want or never addressed. I’ll be darn if I’m going to pay a lot of money for someone to reno my home and NOT have any say in anything!!! Now on Property Brothers, the homeowners are totally involved in the reno and 95% of the time (yeah, Jonathan has been known to say “trust me” to the owners!) pick out their own style of things from the floor to the light fixtures.

      However, I have noticed that Hillary finds some unusual pieces of furniture. One that sticks in my mind was the desk that turns into a bed!!! Loved that! Don’t even know where one can get something like that; but the show IS filmed in Canada so I’m assuming it is only available there.

  18. joan says

    I agree the drama makes me switch channels until the last 5 minutes of LIOLI. I like house hunters international a lot because it shows how adventurous people are to try living in a different country. House hunters in the US is repetitive. I also liked Room by Room and Designed to Sell back in the day.