Homes Under the Hammer has gone through some major renovations in recent years.
While Martin Roberts remains the hardy, original feature that gives the place character, Dion Dublin has come in – the hefty extension built on the back, which no-one was quite sure about it at first but which is now a well-loved part of the house – and, rocking HUTH to its very foundations, we've had the announcement that show original Lucy Alexander was leaving after 14 years.
Nearly 12 months on, the dust has settled and new host Martel Maxwell has joined the firm, arriving in her very first episode with a brief but incredibly scripted introduction.
“It’s brilliant to be here,” she beamed. “I absolutely love property, and I’ve invested in and built property over a long period of time and I can’t wait to see people do the same here on Homes Under the Hammer.”
And with that she was getting straight down to the serious business that HUTH demands; singing along with the “sha la la las” to (Is This The Way To) Amarillo by Tony Christie. Why? Because the house she was going to look at (“My first Hammer property!”) was in Lichfield, “where the singer Tony Christie made his home.” God we love this programme.
The main skill of presenting Homes Under the Hammer is possessing the ability to walk into a magnolia-painted bare room with wires poking out, a patch of damp and a dirty window and not only find something to talk about, but also make it compulsive viewing.
Thankfully, Martel has the trademark HUTH patter down to a T. Focusing on the views from the window (we’re not sure we could be so enthusiastic about a room that overlooks a standard issue pub garden) and waxing lyrical about the lack of original features in the house, she made you believe that for her, those UPVC windows were truly heart-breaking.
What she hasn’t quite mastered yet is the acting element of HUTH. Clearly the presenters have scouted out the properties before they present them on camera, but the true art is in making it seem as though that shock crack here or surprising cubbyhole there are brand new discoveries (something Dion managed on his first run out).
When nosing around the top floor, Martel was on the hunt for a way to squeeze a bathroom into the top floor: “I’m just thinking, I wonder if there’s a way to add an en suite…but there doesn’t seem to…” she trailed off, rather unconvincingly before revealing a tucked away cupboard. “Here we go.”
At least what she lacked in acting she made up for in her have-a-go attitude, gamely shutting herself away in said cupboard to demonstrate how you could fit a shower and a toilet in there. It still looked too small to us, but she deserves top marks for getting stuck in from the off.
Her delivery was very sunny, upbeat and chipper and a welcome to change to that of Martin and Dion. You could say that she seemed to be trying a bit too hard at times, but that’s preferable to someone not really being excited by property. And one thing’s for sure, Martel is very excited by property.
In the end, the house sold for £130,000 at auction. When she spoke to buyer Scott, her interview wasn’t wholly as natural as one of Martin's, but that’s to be expected. People have paid off their entire mortgages in the time he's been presenting Homes Under the Hammer.
After undergoing a very tasteful renovation, the house (*SPOILER ALERT*) ended up selling for £250,000. Buyer Scott hadn’t taken Martel's advice on that en suite, and showing that you can’t please everyone, the grumpy estate agent valuing it said the merged living space was “detrimental” to the property. Crikey.
Elsewhere in the episode, Martin was poking around a dated bungalow with an incredibly suspicious room in the attic that the police should probably be informed about, while Dionwas sent to something of a death trap in Sutton.
He’d definitely drawn the short straw with this terraced two-bed. The house had clearly had an argument with the 1970s, although the wood panelling in the hallway was the least of its problems. The rubble, holes in the ceiling and even those oven gloves – the whole property looked more like it needed to be demolished rather than bought at auction.
Despite not being able to venture into many of the rooms owing to safety concerns (seriously) Dion did find an old-fashioned rattle and went about like he was celebrating back at Aston Villa:
When his first episode aired two years ago, Dublin came under fire some viewers. And now look at the sort of moments he’s giving us.
With her easy manner and presenting style, Martel is a brilliant addition to the team. Of course we're always going to miss Lucy, but Martel should ultimately prove to be a good long term investment for Homes Under the Hammer.
Homes Under the Hammer airs weekdays at 10am on BBC1