Celebrity real estate expert and Host of Love It or List It Vancouver Todd Talbot thought he had created his dream home – panoramic ocean views, massive outdoor space with jacuzzi tub, a renovation right out of a magazine. But something was not quite right. Todd sits down with Adam & Matt to detail why he and his family gave it all up for a tiny fixer upper in East Van as well as his broader journey to “right size” his life. Todd is leading the charge to reimagine the dream home and it doesn’t mean dreaming big. Also, pot’s legal and it comes with consequences other than the munchies.
Vancouver Real Estate News, Market Updates, Insider Tips, Stats, & Analysis
Tell us about yourself?
Todd started his professional career as an actor. He has been working in front of live audiences for over 30 years. Around 7 years ago, he was cast as the co-host for the television show “Love It or List It Vancouver” on HGTV.
Todd’s passion for investing in real estate in Vancouver started around 15 years ago. He was involved in investing and renovating properties in Vancouver, including launching a real estate marketing company with some friends.
His goal in life was to retire at age 45 (this year!) and he felt that investing in real estate would provide the income to make early retirement possible, while still allowing him time to pursue his acting career. His first investment was a condo in Kitsilano in his early 20s and he has continued investing in real estate ever since.
You recently moved from Lion’s Bay to East Vancouver?
Todd was in Lion’s Bay for 7 years. He did an extensive renovation of his Lion’s Bay home to make it a “dream home”. Although the house was beautiful and had many of the features his family wanted in a home, he realized that something was wrong with this scenario. He started down a journey that resulted in moving to a much smaller house in East Vancouver.
Have you pinpointed what was wrong with your life in Lion’s Bay?
At Christmas time, while living in Lion’s Bay, Todd’s young son became overly concerned with how much he was getting for Christmas. This suggested to Todd and his wife that something wasn’t right about the materialistic way they were living. They ultimately decided to return many of the gifts they had purchased for Christmas and celebrated Christmas with many fewer presents than they had originally intended. His children were still happy with their gifts, even if they did not receive everything they wanted.
This was the turning point that ultimately led to ‘right-sizing’.
Todd’s family agreed to not buy anything that was not a necessity for 5 months. This led to scrutinizing their possessions and getting rid of things they did not regularly use. After doing so, they realized they had much more space than they actually needed and decided to challenge themselves to ‘cut their life in half’. This eventually led to further decisions to decrease their possessions which lead to an increase their happiness as a family.
They decided to only have one car and made the move from Lion’s Bay to a much smaller house in East Vancouver.
They renovated the house in East Vancouver to ensure it suited their needs and used ‘smart design’ to create a small space that their family would not view as a sacrifice. The thought at the time was that they would live in the East Vancouver house for awhile and determine what was working and what was not working. Eventually, their goal would be to move to a new house that they would ultimately build to best suit their needs.
Are you familiar with Adrian Crook, 5 kids 1 condo, who seems to be taking this idea to the extreme?
Todd doesn’t know Adrien personally, but he follows him on social media and credits him with being an important part of the overall right-sizing conversation. Todd considers the conversation around right-sizing to be nuanced and will result in different things for different people. There is no wrong way or right way to do it, but you must see what works for you.
For example, first time home buyers normally have very frank conversations with their realtors about what they can afford and what they can go without, but by the time they are ready to upgrade their home, they get lulled into buying as much space as they possibly can. Todd feels we are now seeing people push back against the idea that you should always purchase as much house as you can afford because they realize this might not be what they ultimately want.
Todd, you have now gone from one extreme to another, how has life changed?
There are some sacrifices, but both Todd and his wife would agree that they are way happier in their new home and that life is way smoother. They feel like their priorities and values and in line with where and how they are currently living. This is because of the choices the family has made.
Can you talk about the term ‘right-sizing’ and what that term means?
A friend of Todd’s coined the term. It can also be called smart-sizing.
The conversation is not focused on giving thing up, but it is about looking at your priorities and seeing ways that you can improve your life by right-sizing your home. With a smaller home, you can free up time that you would otherwise have spent cleaning. A smaller home also allows you to spend less money on heating costs. It sounds overly simplistic, but Todd knows it will have a huge effect on people if they try it.
It is different for everyone and has different requirements at different stages of life (single person, young family, retired). Todd believes you should have frank conversations about your home to determine what that space should look like to ultimately improve your well being.
As realtors, we hear from people all the time people that want to move out of a large home after retiring (downsizers). We also hear from people who live in small spaces that may dream of upgrading to more space (millennials). There is also this middle group that your family falls into that is not being talked about?
Todd feels that the middle group may want to change their living space, but do not have an example of who to look to for an idea of how to accomplish it. In the past, people with money in Vancouver would move out of the city to have more space. Currently, there has been a change in this way of thinking and people with smart money are now looking to be connected to community and move into more densely populated urban centres. People are realizing that community connection is important and contributes to their quality of life.
You may walk more and drive less in your new home. You may have more involvement in the community and greater access to amenities in your neighborhood. Has your quality of life improved after moving to East Vancouver?
One thing that has improved is that Todd can spend more time with his family. His commute time has been drastically reduced. He can be available to pick his kids up from school and this type of subtle change makes a big difference in his quality of life.
Having a large lot in the city for most people is not possible anymore due to affordability. Todd feels the city needs to smartly densify and make the city more walkable. Amenities need to be more robust. This will help cities moving forward. Young people are already moving in this direction. They want flexibility and they don’t want to be tied to a property.
We are now seeing younger people that could afford a family home, but they do not want it. They do not concern themselves with what might necessarily be the best investment, they are choosing lifestyle over the best return on investment.
Todd believes another benefit to a smaller space is that you can have higher design elements, better quality finishings, more technology, without spreading your budget too thin. This is what young people will be more interested in going forward.
You moved from a large space with two young kids and made a change. That seems scary. What were the hiccups and how did you make that change?
1200 square feet is probably not going to be perfect for Todd and his family in the long run because his kids will need more space as they get older. Right now his children are buddies and he young kids always want to be with parents. So, right now, if he and his wife are in the kitchen, they are in the kitchen, too. Do his kids say they could do other things if they had more space occasionally? Sure, but ultimately, they will never look back and think that they suffered because of the smaller space.
An interesting article came out the other day about allocating space to bedrooms. People have been building home offices; Todd had one and rarely used it. Where does he work? In bed! We need to start designing living spaces for how we actually live.
We understand you are using a new fitness app?
Todd is doing the Whole Life Challenge. It is tough to stay on top of your health and this is a wholistic look at how we live using 7 elements everyday. So, it is not just nutrition – it looks at nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, stretching, and a rotating challenge. This week’s rotating goal is scheduling in having fun – a crazy concept!
The move to East Van seems aspirational, the app seems aspirational, as in you seem to always be looking for your better you. Is that part of your personality?
Yes, Todd’s challenge is always to look at how to be his best. The first lens is to look at family life. He is very proactive, and he and his wife go and see a therapist, he makes sure to spend time with his kids and work from there. He tries to view his goals through the eyes of his children and this is how he came up with right sizing and other goals – to be healthy for them, to raise them in an environment that gives them the best opportunity and stick to your values. This challenges him to always be evaluating what he is putting out in the world.
Part of the idea of right sizing is taking back some control over the issues that face Vancouver. What are your thoughts on the market here in Vancouver? Is now the right time to buy?
Todd always takes a long-term perspective and his strategy has always been to buy and hold. There is the least risk in that strategy. He is heavily invested in the Vancouver real estate market, he has been for a long time and he will continue to be. He sees no signs to change that formula and the fundamentals that drive the market are strong.
Real estate will increase over time exponentially. We have things a lot of people around the world don’t have – clean air, natural resources, clean water. These are going to be the things that we trade on. We have a banking system and a political system that are stable That is why people invest here. Is that changing? The answer, for Todd, is no. Vancouver is also limited by space. There will be fluctuations, as we are seeing right now, but look long term and take responsibility for what you can control – what you are buying, how you finance things, understanding what sacrifices you can make now for the future.
This slowdown is not a bad thing either. From an affordability standpoint, it has given us a bit of a breather, but interest rates are also going up so that will make things more expensive. Todd advises to make sure you have the financing sorted out, buy as close to the core of the city as possible, look for those elements that give you the best long-term investment and over the next 5 to 7 to 10 years you will be in a great position.
You should always be looking for multiple ways to cover yourself. So, if you can’t live there, can you rent it out. You need to be thinking strategically and not pie-in-the-sky dream home BS we get into.
What do you tell people under 30 who are looking at this market and trying to make sense of it?
Todd always looks at goals. Buy something rentable first and foremost because you do not necessarily know where life will take you when you are under 30. You don’t want to have to sell if you move and be at the mercy of the market.
Take your time and don’t rush and figure out exactly the right fit and make sure you are working with an agent you trust and who is knowledgeable.
It is still a great investment from a tax perspective as well. There are very few other investment vehicles in Canada that you can invest in and be able to sell tax free.
Are there other areas outside of Vancouver that you are excited about?
Todd recently bought a house outside of Calgary and another just outside of Kelowna. These are the first two properties Todd has ever bought outside of Greater Vancouver. He is a big believer in buying what you know and has seen people buy outside of what they know. You must 100% go there and experience an area if you do decide to invest away from home. Also, don’t take somebody’s word for it – you have to go and see it and take responsibility for your decisions.
Are you bullish on Calgary?
Todd explains that Alberta is driven by the oil industry and they will continue to have challenging times ahead. That said, he does believe that the infrastructure in both Calgary and Edmonton is strong and that Albertans will find a way through, largely by diversifying industry away from being energy sector dependent. Todd suggests that the long-term outlook for the Alberta market is bright.
One of the other reasons that Todd is so bullish on Alberta is due to the vibrant arts communities in both Edmonton and Calgary. His theory is that the quality of the Arts Community and its engagement is an indicator of larger potential growth coming to a region. He also suggests that the next up-and-coming areas are often the areas where actors, or people in the arts, are renting or hanging out in. This, he argues, is an early indicator for the presence of smart money.
Will your idea of “Right-Sizing” guide your advice for home buyers on the upcoming season of Love It or List It Vancouver?
Love it or List it Vancouver is filming up in the Kelowna area and Todd is very excited about one progressive home in particular that emphasizes sustainability.
The Five Wire with Todd Talbot
What is your favourite neighbourhood?
This one. Main Street.
What is your favourite bar or restaurant?
JJ Bean. The muffin – zucchini/chocolate muffin.
BONUS: Best Sandwich – Duffin’s Donuts. The Chicken Torta.
Downtown Penthouse or West Side Mansion?
Where do you bring someone from out of town?
For sushi – often Britannia Sushi on The Drive. If we are going high end, we are going to Minami in Yaletown.
What have you purchased in the last year for under $500 that has changed your life?
This coffee mug (pointing to a travel mug). I have been resisting buying one for so long. I used to think that little things don’t matter, but now I am focusing on the little things.