Carelessly discarded undies, collapsing roofs … Location, Location, Location producer Gerard Costello has seen it all.
During the past 20 years, hosts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer have helped more than 1000 British house hunters look for homes and, property show tragic that I am, I’ve been there for almost every search.
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Keen to find out why Location, Location, Location keeps me and millions of viewers worldwide tuning in decade after decade, I sought out Costello to find out what makes it so successful – and uncover a few behind-the-scenes secrets.
Are there ever any surprises when you turn up to the properties?
Gerard Costello: Yes, I’m afraid so. I remember a few years back, turning up at a house and having to lift someone’s underwear off the middle of the floor. TV didn’t feel very glamorous that day. More than once, the cameraman has sat the camera on the floor for a rest and it’s been pointing under the bed. This can reveal all sorts of things that really aren’t meant for TV. Suffice to say, anyone who lets us into their home can be assured their bedroom secrets will never be broadcast. Another time, Kirstie and Phil turned up to show a property, opened a door and realised one of the ceilings had fallen down … It was a quick viewing.
Does it surprise you that a show about British couples seeking a home is so popular with Kiwis 20,000km away?
It makes me very grateful. I remember for one of our catch-up shows we filmed with a couple who, several years after they had searched with Kirstie and Phil, had sold up and emigrated to New Zealand. We were able to catch up with them in their new home near Auckland’s West Coast. They had 3.5 acres with ducks, chickens, sheep and lambs. It was stunning and if that’s the type of home you have in New Zealand, I’m thrilled that you have time for our UK properties.
How do you settle on which properties to show the house hunters?
We usually spend a couple of weeks looking at the houses that are on the market and finding others that aren’t even on the market yet. These are whittled down and Kirstie or Phil looks around each of the homes in person before it is a definite to be shown to the house hunters. Sometimes people who want to sell their home don’t necessarily want it to be seen on television. In those instances, if we think the couple need to see it before making their decision, we help them to set up an off-camera viewing. They need to see the best of what is on offer to them and we’ll work out how to tell that story on television, whatever happens.
Do house hunters ever react in ways that require some judicious editing?
The home hunters often react in ways that surprise us, but we do our best to put it all on screen. It can be emotional looking for a new home and often there are tears. Kirstie and Phil are very good at judging when someone needs a moment and will sometimes even take them away from camera or ask if they want to leave the room. In terms of what they say about the houses, our view is that Kirstie and Phil always show them the best options. We can’t control it if they disagree and speak their minds and we are happy to put that on screen – after all, we want them to be honest and the viewer deserves to hear the real story.
Some of those home hunters can be picky to the extreme. Do things ever get heated?
I have honestly never known Kirstie or Phil to lose their cool with any of the house hunters. We know we get some really tricky searches but underpinning it all is the fact that the people house hunting really want to find a house. Kirstie and Phil have always really felt their duty of care to the house hunters and can often work with them for weeks and even months after the cameras stop rolling. There are some secrets to keeping this going, of course. We always make sure everyone has a good, hearty, sit-down lunch. A house-hunting army marches on its stomach.
How important has the pairing of Phil and Kirstie been to the success of the show?
I honestly think they are right up there with the best-ever double acts on television. I can’t put my finger on what works – but it just does. In many ways, they complement each other completely. Phil, for example, is very methodical, whilst Kirstie is very instinctive in her approach. Together, they tick every box. If I could bottle whatever chemistry Kirstie and Phil have, I’d quickly become the most successful TV producer in Britain.
Location, Location, Location, TVNZ 1, Wednesdays