Kirstie Allsopp, presenter
There used to be a design and property magazine in the Guardian called Space. It ran an article about me and my husband’s property search business. Channel 4 was looking to make a property show; they saw the piece and got in touch. I did a screen test, as did Phil [also a property searcher]. We imagined we were going to be experts talking about property searches on a new show. Little did we know we were being groomed as hosts.
They offered us £600 each for a day’s filming, which was a lot of money. The idea was to shoot at weekends so we could keep our businesses going. Suddenly we were this double act, helping people hunt for homes. To be honest, we never thought it would last beyond the pilot, but it’s now been running for 20 years and 221 episodes.
Over the years, the format has changed. Originally, it was just half an hour with one person looking at several properties. Then it became an hour, featuring two couples with Phil and me filming separately. Apparently, we’ve helped 357 house-hunters and been entrusted with nearly £115m. Our first searcher was Kate Pybus, who was struggling to find a place to live near her work in central London. In 2000, when we made that programme, the average deposit for a first-time buyer was just under £13,000. Now, it’s nearly £19,000 – a leap of nearly 50%. Kate may not have felt it all those years ago, but she was in a much stronger position than most first-time buyers are now.
My biggest mistake was wearing my own clothes. I had a red leather coat with a huge zip, but this meant I got recognised more than I’d like. When we started, it was a more innocent time. I don’t think I could have made the series if social media had been around then. It’s bad enough having house-hunters who’ve been on the show ring me when they’re drunk – which has happened because I give them my number. But when it’s on TV now, people tweet all the time about how idiotic the presenters or the house-hunters are.
It’s not the fault of Location, Location, Location that the property market has gone mad. Because Jamie Oliver does a cookery show, does that mean he’s responsible for obesity? I’ve lobbied successive housing ministers to change the appalling way we sell houses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – it’s different in Scotland. But nothing has happened. It’s still a mess.
Lockdown stopped us filming earlier this year, but we’re now making our 35th series. What we’re telling is the story of people’s hopes and dreams. That’s why the programme has endured.
Phil Spencer, presenter
I feel like we’ve offered a parental helping hand, especially to confused first-time buyers. In the show’s early years, we’d do a lot of advice to camera with graphics that today look rather crude. Over the years, what’s pleased me more than anything is being stopped in the street by people who tell me the advice was useful. One of Kirstie’s best tips was how to find out if your bed will fit in a room – simply lie on the floor and use your body as a measuring tape! Lots of people do that now.
I think we’ve filmed in every county in the UK and helped keep the pubs going because at the end of every show we’d usually end up discussing the deal in one. I reckon we’ve been to about 2,000 pubs over the years. I used to keep a map in my office and put pins in wherever we’d been, but I’d need a bigger map now.
As the show developed we gave more emphasis to the conversations that take place between the couples and with us. That’s where the emotional appeal of Location, Location, Location comes from. It’s a very genuine programme. It’s not scripted because it can’t be. Of course Kirstie and I have had the odd row, usually over which pub to go to, but we’ve remained good friends.
My biggest humiliation came just off Brick Lane in London. I was filming with two girls who were looking for a flat and I was bigging up the area, stressing how close it was to the City, that it was up-and-coming and really safe. Then a policeman came up and said there had been a murder just round the corner. Another time, I called the estate agent with an offer that was accepted. I told the guy I was buying it for and he said: “Do I really buy the property?” I said: “That’s the general idea!” I think he thought it was just a game.