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An Unreal Reality Show?: Behind the Scenes of "Love It Or List It"

Updated on September 1, 2016

Homeowners who appear on the HGTV series "Love It Or List It" are offered two options to choose from: either stay in their newly-renovated home or list their home on the market.

In a December 2015 episode, a North Carolina couple named Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan wanted a suitable home for their foster children.

Supposedly, their home's renovation plans were led by interior designer Hilary Farr while they went house hunting with realtor David Visentin.

David Visentin (left) and Hilary Farr (right)
David Visentin (left) and Hilary Farr (right)

The episode climaxed with the couple being surprised by the "big reveal" - their once-boring home is now decorated with beautiful furniture, appliances, and paint.

Then, the couple was left to decide between staying in their house or listing it on the market. In the end, they chose to list it.

(from left to right): Hilary Farr, David Visentin, Deena Murphy, and Timothy Sullivan
(from left to right): Hilary Farr, David Visentin, Deena Murphy, and Timothy Sullivan

A year after Deena and Timothy listed their home, they discovered another "big reveal": they were actually the victims of shoddy work, a breach of contract, and unfair trade practices in violation of North Carolina's general contractor laws.

Realizing how "Love It Or List It" failed to meet their expectations and used them for entertainment purposes, they filed a lawsuit against the production company in charge of the show, Big Coat TV, and the contractor who was in charge of their home's renovations, Aaron Fitz Construction.

In their lawsuit, the couple claims that:

  • they gave Big Coat TV $140,000 upfront for the renovation, but only $85,000 went to the contractor while the rest of the money was most likely spent on making their home a stage set for the TV series
  • duct work left holes on the floor, allowing vermin to enter the house
  • low-quality materials such as industrial carpeting were installed
  • the windows were painted shut
  • there was no proof that the general contractor, architect, and real estate agents were licensed to work in North Carolina
  • Hilary Farr and David Visentin had no significant roles in the renovation process
  • the show is "scripted", with roles and reactions assigned to various participants including the homeowners
  • they were never shown houses that were actually listed in the market

In response to the lawsuit, fans became shocked and Big Coat TV commented that they "do intend to vigoriously defend what [they] consider to be false allegations.

Outraged viewers of "Love It Or List It" still question the show's legitimacy and circulate rumors regarding what goes on behind the scenes of that show.

One rumor says that two endings are filmed - one ending with the homeowners saying "We're going to love it!" while the other one with the homeowners saying "We're going to list it!"

Another rumor states that although Hilary has a deadline to meet for a house's renovations, 99% of the renovation is complete by the time of the "big reveal".

Lastly, even though the show is not scripted, Hilary and David lead their clients down a certain road for dialogue.

After eight years of being on TV and 130 "successful" episodes, "Love It Or List It" viewers are now caught in a rift, choosing between whether to keep on loving the show or to give it up. Whether or not Deena and Timothy's claims about the show and the state of their house are true will be revealed in the courtroom.

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