Phil Spencer: 'It's good fun but I do want to beat my pal Kirstie'
With his co-presenter Kirstie Allsopp winning the first round, property expert Phil Spencer has ramped up the competition in series two of Channel 4's Love It or List It. The TV personality tells Gemma Dunn why it's important to have a giggle on set
Phil Spencer is a man on a mission. Having carved out a career based on his passion for property, the 46-year-old is a tour de force when it comes to helping feuding, hapless homeowners alongside his Location, Location, Location co-presenter Kirstie Allsopp.
"I couldn't do it without her, as it wouldn't be the same," he says of his on-screen "marriage". "We bring very different things to it, but we like working together; it's more fun together than it is apart."
But the Channel 4 show isn't where the Kirstie and Phil collaboration ends. Others include Relocation, Relocation and Location Revisited; plus an entirely new format in Love It or List It. And this spring, they're back with the latter.
Reuniting for a second series of the show that initially attracted 2.3 million viewers per episode, the dream team are helping families who have fallen out of love with their house.
In competition with one another, Allsopp will once again be positioned in camp "love it", encouraging families to stay put and revamp their current property, while Spencer is still team "list it" and will try to convince them that listing their house for sale and moving is the only way.
"Making any series for the first time is tough because you're trying to crack the format," Spencer reasons.
But its popularity, he believes, is down to it being "very timely".
"The problems that we help people solve are the problems that are discussed in every home up and down the country. Relevant now more so than ever, because the cost of moving is so high, so you can't afford to get it wrong.
"It's a big decision and there's never a straight answer. It's very rare that people say 'this is definitely what we're going to do'."
Round one saw Allsopp in the lead as she transformed the homes of four couples, winning them around to her school of thought. However, Spencer confirms the competitive element has ramped up.
"I have had to pull out all the stops to try and catch up. It's a bit of fun, but we're quite competitive anyway," admits the Kent-born star.
But he is quick to reassure viewers that the main focus of the show is "to help these people".
"It's not about us winning or losing. We're going to have a bit of fun along the way, but it's not guns at dawn."
With housing hitches - including couples who are running out of space and bored of the outdated decor, to those who bought the wrong home to start with or ended up having more children than they anticipated - Spencer promises a real cross-section of interesting characters.
Better still, the property guru believes the market has improved "slightly" a year on: "I don't think prices have particularly changed, but there's probably a greater degree of confidence."
And for those lacking assurance, he's on hand to "be objective".
"I try to remove emotions from the process, because people can get carried away if they fall in love with something. I do play devil's advocate a lot. I'm just trying to make sure they've considered all bases."
Having gained a huge amount of experience as a property expert (including 16 years of working on Location, Location, Location), Spencer is confident in his ability to help families "uncover the right thing". And with another series of the hit show set to start shooting soon, it remains much-loved.
He elaborates: "When you take that person into a house that blows them away, that's a really very special thing. Not just for us as presenters, but the research team and the crew, too. Every story and situation is different and Kirstie and I spend much of our year nosing around people's houses, which is fun."
He also counts being "good pals" with Kirstie a key factor in its success.
Of their rapport, he adds: "When we started making property shows, they were out-and-out property with hints, tips and advice. Then Kirstie and I would - I mean it loosely - 'muck about' and have a bit of fun to allow the people we were working with to relax.
"Love It or List It is not scripted, so what happens, happens. We don't know if they're going to turn up, tell us we're barking mad and refuse to go in.
"Going out house-hunting has been an interesting thing for me, as I'm going out with one person who desperately wants me to cock it up and one person who wants to find all the positives. It's real time. That's possibly the key to what Kirstie and I do together."
With lots of travel required, including that of his latest solo project, Phil Spencer's Stately Homes, coming to More4 this spring, he ensures time away from his family doesn't get the better of him.
He says: "I can't do the job from home - and I like the job, so it's the nature of the beast."
Spencer made the decision last year to relocate, with his wife Fiona and two sons, from south-west London to a countrified pile in Hampshire.
"I can walk the dog out the end of the garden into farmland and footpaths," he says with glee. "We've got chickens, sheep and ponies and we're about to get another puppy, so we're really happy. The whole school dilemma with the boys worked out fine, too.
"As I talk, I am looking at the two ponies in the field that my sons have just been on. I love it, I haven't had a backward glance."
Love It or List It, Channel 4, Thursday, 8pm