We do a fair amount of fangirling over celebrities, HGTV hosts included. With their salacious divorces, adorable children, and over-the-top proposals broadcast to the world, we feel a certain kinship with them — even if it’s not reciprocated. But for all we know about the hosts, the shows themselves remain fairly mysterious. There’s a lot of speculation over what actually happens behind the scenes, speculation that we’re too weary to accept. So, we knocked on the door — well, Gmail’s proverbial door — of a homeowner who’s been there.
Marci Lew and her husband Matt had their tiny, Durham, NC, home renovated on Love It Or List It in 2015. Two years later, the couple’s in a new home. They listed, but won’t reveal whether it’s one of the houses they saw on the show. We caught up with Marci on the phone to chat about everything that happened when the cameras weren’t rolling.
The show found them.
This being Love It Or List It‘s first foray outside of Canada, show producers were seeking willing candidates in what Carolina locals call The Traingle, a three-city stretch of central North Carolina. Marci and Matt had just given up on renovating their home after receiving an expensive estimate for the work. “Shortly after, I saw an email on our neighborhood list-serv that a home renovation show was looking for households to feature,” Marci said. She and Matt weren’t told which show was searching before they sent in their application. “We finally found out it was Love It Or List It — which is actually a show we both knew of and enjoyed — when the casting department emailed back,” Marci revealed.
You’ll have more respect for the show’s video editors after submitting an application.
Along with answering a slew of practical questions about their home (when it was built, the square footage, and any need-to-know impediments, like the fact that Marci and Matt’s house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the couple was tasked with creating a five-minute video that led viewers through their home and introduced all the problems with it. “Trying to do the house tour and talk in under five minutes was pretty impossible and funny,” Marci laughed, since the show manages to squeeze an entire reno into a 30-minute segment. She and Matt had friends over for dinner in exchange for filming their video. “It was definitely not professionally produced!”
Homeowners are barely involved in the renovations.
Matt’s biggest concern was the kitchen. As is the case with most older homes, it was tight on space and low on function. “We mentioned a few things that we liked and didn’t like, but in the end, they’ve got great designers who make the final choices,” Marci said. They ended up with the island they asked for and some unexpected bells and whistles like under-cabinet lighting, but having little say meant they also wound up with things they would have done differently. “The white quartz counters were stunning, but Matt and I probably would have chosen a darker, more practical color,” Marci admitted. And she would have liked a different fridge and freezer set up: “The drawer freezers they installed didn’t have the space we needed.”
There are pros to having your home redesigned on television.
If you’ve heard someone complain about a home renovation, it’s probably been about one of two things: time or money. Contractors tend to exceed the budget for both. But when you’re filming everything for a TV show, there’s not as much wiggle room. “They cared more about the timing than we did!” Marci said. Her home was done in seven weeks, about two weeks longer than the show’s usual timeline since contractors had to adhere to certain restrictions caused by the home’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The reveals are a complete surprise.
Any regular viewers know Love It Or List typically ends with homeowners “loving” their renovated home. There are rumors that producers film both endings and choose one later — Marci chose not to comment on that — but regardless of what they decide, homeowners see their renovated houses for the first time while filming the reveal. “Hilary let us check on the house twice, once just to see the outside and another time to see the start of built-in cabinetry upstairs,” Marci said. Other than that, she and Matt had no clue what they’d find. “We had to figure out what to do right then,” she added.
Hilary and David aren’t acting for the cameras.
She’s a designer, he’s a realtor — they’re bound to argue when pit against each other, but Marci insists it was all in good fun. “They actually do love to rib each other!” she laughed. “It was fun to witness that up close.”