Love It Or List It back on HGTV: Exclusive interview with David Visentin, who hopes you do the latter

David Visentin
David Visentin is half of the dynamic duo of Love It Or List It, where he and designer Hilary work magic for homeowners. Pic credit: HGTV

Love It or List It, starring designer Hilary Farr and real estate expert David Visentin, is back for a new season coming straight out of North Carolina.

The HGTV hit series is a fun interplay of two strong personalities pitted in a duel to win the favor of homeowners who need a new living space.

But with Hilary’s clever redesigns and David’s thoughtful canvassing of the local real estate market…will the owners love their remade old home…or will they list it with David and jump into a fresh new one?

That’s the fun of this series, one of the most popular on the network.

Hilary’s withering gaze and sharp wit play off of David’s fast mind and bonhomie. He’s impervious to her barbs as he takes people on a neighborhood explore, trying to find a better house “fit” for them.

Almost everyone outgrows their space over time, and that lack of living space is one of the most common requests by show participants. Another expressed wish is extra or updated baths or a more useful kitchen.

Co-Host David Visentin auditioned for co-hosting duties for Love It or List It and was eventually signed on by Big Coat Productions as one of the hosts with Farr as his foil.

Visentin’s role in the show is to convince homeowners to leave the old home and list it, while Farr is renovating with her crack team at an agreed budget. But fans of the show there’s always a hiccup and more money is usually needed as the remodel progresses.

Despite this Visentin is kept busy showing these homeowners a series of homes that could persuade them to pull stakes and go.

This under-the-radar, Toronto-produced series has been so popular that it has had spinoffs and made stars of these two Canadians.

HGTV’s hit series Love It or List It, starring designer Hilary Farr and real estate expert David Visentin, is back Monday, Aug. 10, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Monsters & Critics spoke to David Visentin ahead of the premiere Monday and got the lowdown on their relationship, and where to retire and what bargains by the water in Canada still exist in this fragile economy.

Monsters & Critics: How did you first meet Hilary?

David Visentin: How I got onto the show was that my sister used to work for a network and she gave me a call because they were auditioning real estate agents for a new show, and they hadn’t found one yet. She said, ‘Hey, David, you should go down and audition.’
So I said sure, I will go down.

I went down and auditioned, and my first one was with somebody at the network. Then they sent through a bunch of real estate agents [auditions], they may have called three of us back to audition with Hilary.

So, my first meeting with her was at an audition. Which was fun. We kind of hit it off. Although, if you were talking to her, she says that she doesn’t remember me at all. She only remembered the tall, dark and handsome guy. I’m like, ‘Well, he’s not here. So, clearly he wasn’t good enough!’

About a week later, my sister called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re shooting the pilot in a week.’

Then Hilary and I got together and we shot a pilot. And from there on, we’ve done I think 215 episodes.

M&C: The psychology is intense, when people see their home so refreshed and upgraded, you have a large hill to climb to get them to overcome that kind of emotional shock and awe. To sell a better option for this family based on what their needs are. What’s your percentage rate of success as opposed to Hilary?

David Visentin: Very low. By the way, it’s, it’s not a hill, it’s a mountain. It is a large scary mountain with jagged trees coming out of it that I have to get the top of, to have any shot of winning.

I’m usually bloody, bruised and depressed at the end of it. I would say my percentage is probably 65/35. Hilary’s favor.

M&C: Both you and Hilary become exasperated with the people in play at different times, but it seems like Hilary gets more exasperated. I think because she’s got the constraints of a working budget and she’s got labor to manage. Have there been any real dust-ups off-camera that viewers don’t know about?

David Visentin: We’ve done 216 episodes, and to be honest, maybe one or two people weren’t thrilled with what they got. I mean, we’ve had challenging homeowners, but those are the most fun ones, to be honest.

But those who are the most trouble are also interesting and the banter is good. When people are kind of complacent, well… that often doesn’t make for great television.

But Hilary and I have had our dust-ups that have not made it to television. We’ve had several of those, and she accuses me of having a runaway mouth that’s like a train that doesn’t stop. She is the same. And that’s the problem with us sometimes is that we’re both kind of runaway trains, and they collide every once in a while.

M&C: I think Hilary has a nice aesthetic. Do you like her design? Would you trust her with taking over redesigning your home?

David Visentin: I think she’s got a great sense for design, and she’s got a great team working alongside her. I would love to have her do my house, but I just can’t imagine it going swimmingly.

I have a feeling we’d end up arguing and that would be the end of it. And then [the remodel] would be like half done and she’d be gone. She would say ‘I can’t work with you,’ or ‘I can’t deal with you’ or ‘I can’t work with you get out of here. I’m leaving.’ And she is too busy anyway, so she would never be there.

M&C: Given what’s going on with Americans leaving the country more than ever and exploring Canada, I know that Vancouver and Toronto are very pricey and anywhere near the water is pricey.

What is the hidden real estate gem in Canada that you would recommend for people who are looking to move or buy a retirement home…to get more bang for their Canadian bucks?

David Visentin: The major cities are going to be expensive like all are. I sell real estate for a living, I still do it. I’m doing it while I’m at home. And there are places that you’ve got to go an hour and a half just north of Toronto.

The great thing about where I am in Ontario is the amount of freshwater lakes. If you look at a map, it’s mind-boggling how many there are. And, they’re crystal clear.

There is lakefront north of Toronto, just two hours that is very reasonable. Um, you know, not, not Muskoka, obviously Muskoka and Simcoe are going to be expensive, where it’s going to cost $2 million for a cottage.

But if you venture another hour north, you can retire on water pretty reasonably. Like within $400,000-$500,000, you can get yourself a pretty nice cottage. And just have a nice space.

I just recently bought an investment that’s only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, and it’s a new development. I’m here now. It’s my cottage and it’s 15 minutes from my house. You can get into a place for $450,000.

Right now [as I speak with you] I am looking at beautiful boats and Lake Simcoe is 500 feet away. It’s a huge development. They’re starting to do these types of developments north of Toronto, because people want to get out of the city, they want space.

And with COVID, people are motivated. I sell country properties. That’s what I do. I sell weekend retreats. The people in Toronto and the demand right now is extremely high. People need a place that when something goes wrong, it’s like, ‘where we can just get out of Dodge?’

So I’ve got a pocket full of buyers and only a few great places on the market.

M&C: I’ve noticed the Canadians love Florida. They really do. Florida right now is one of the worst places for COVID. We know Canadians like to get out of the winter, where do you think that that real estate market is going to shift from Florida if it doesn’t get its act together?

David Visentin: They do. Jeez. I think Florida will get their act together eventually. I don’t think Canadians are going to give up their Florida places. I think they are going to hold tight until things go back to normal.

Because I think that you can get stuff priced reasonably there. I think that’s one of the great things about it. And because of everything that’s around in Florida, places like Disney world. Of course, nobody would visit that right now. But I think eventually they will. But in terms of being in the USA, do you mean another spot in the USA?

M&C: Yes. Is there another spot in the USA, or are they going to abandon the US and maybe go to Jamaica, the Caribbean, although it seems pretty pricey down there…

David Visentin: I think the great thing about Florida is how close it is for us. I think we can get there quickly. It doesn’t cost a lot to travel there. Although lots of crap going on, America is still our neighbor.

And we still feel like we can be Canadians there and we’re Canadians and it’s fine, but its sort of like our brother is the US. And I don’t think anything will ever replace that. I have been to Jamaica. I’ve been to lots of places. But you know, a place that’s close to home, I think will always win out.

M&C: For this new season of Love or List It? Where are the areas that you focus your filming and production?

David Visentin: We’re sort of a centralized in sort of North Carolina. I’m in Raleigh, and we’re going for a sort of in-between, Raleigh, North Carolina and Durham, within an hour of Raleigh. We are doing cities like Durham, Wake Forest… all over the place.

We are doing some major renovations, like $200,000, but we’re also doing some smaller ones, like $50-60,000, which are sometimes more challenging …for Hilary anyway, but for me, it’s, it’s a different story.

Then I’m just dealing with smaller budgets for houses. So the challenge for me is always, it’s not going to be budget… what’s on the market is availability, if people want to stay in their neighborhood and there’s nothing for sale in their neighborhood, well, I’m kinda out of luck, right?

M&C: Is there a peculiarity of American real estate or American home design that amuses you a little bit as a Canadian?

David Visentin: It always shocked me…and it is such a huge component to houses here in Canada, is basements! And there is virtually almost no basements in North Carolina and Raleigh.

And, you wonder why they don’t use the garages for cars and that they’re used for storage. It is because they don’t have anywhere to put anything.

A simple basement would just be like heaven for most people and they don’t have them. I’ve asked about the real reason behind that. Some say it’s the lay of the land or the soil sample, that the soil that they have is not conducive to it and I don’t buy it, because I’ve seen basements there. But they are far and few between.

M&C: Will there be any other regions of the USA that you guys will take the show to for redos and real estate finds?

David Visentin: I don’t know if we’re going to move next season. We’re finishing up this season. I would love to go to Nashville. I would love to go to Charleston. I know part of it would have to be where there’s a real estate market that most people can relate to.

I think that is important. Although it would be fun to go to New York, but I think you end up with people just going, I don’t understand [the prices of homes]. Kind of like Toronto. I think a lot of Americans couldn’t understand Toronto, and paying a million and a half for a townhouse.

But Charleston and Nashville would be fun and be a great place to do business. I’ve been to Boston, I love Boston. We’ve done just about every kind of house you can do in North Carolina. Change might be nice, but I don’t push those buttons.

But there’s a lot of great episodes coming up this season and we have a lot of fun and interesting homeowners.

Love It or List It airs Monday, Aug. 10, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Fans are invited to stay connected with Love It or List It on HGTV’s digital platforms. Each new episode will be available on HGTV GO on Mondays beginning Aug. 10. Viewers can visit for exclusive show content and videos and follow @HGTV and #LoveItOrListIt on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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