With considerable headwinds in the market, many are wondering if this is the moment to Love it, or List it? This week’s guest can help! Celebrity Realtor & Past Guest, Fan Favorite Todd Talbot Joins Adam & Matt in Kokomo Studios to give his take on the state of the Vancouver real estate market and outlines why he just sold his house. Is Todd pulling the shoot on Vancouver real estate for good? Where does Todd see the current opportuntities for potential buyers? And what factor will have a far bigger impact on the Canadian housing market than increasing interest rates? Two schlubs and a heartthrob on this week’s episode. Not to be missed!
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You’re currently building an A-frame house in the Okanagan. Can you tell us how building towards a net zero, passive house is different? How do you consider the home’s health and environmental impact?
It’s not something we used to talk about; it’s not a sexy thing to talk about. And it’s not a cheap thing to consider either. But I’ve jumped in with both feet. We’re building an A-frame that is net zero, following passive house principles, and it blows your mind. Everything you know about construction is turned inside out. You have to consider things you never thought about before.
We’ve learned that houses don’t need to breathe, so we’re focusing on sealing up our home. But even the way we think of sealing up leaky condos is so in the past. Building homes makes up a huge component of Canada’s environmental footprint, not to mention the waste from homes that ends up in landfills.
Can you tell us more about the passive house movement?
Things are moving a lot faster than we thought they would. “Passive house” isn’t a great name. As it was explained to me, the name doesn’t sell itself but we are doing it. We are going to get there and eventually, they’ll come up with a sexier name for it.
My introduction to passive house building was from a sustainability place but really it’s about resiliency. How does your house perform under different conditions? What is it resilient to? That’s something people can wrap their heads around.
You’re building this passive house in the Okanagan. How did location factor into your building?
Over the last couple of years, it’s been particularly bad with forest fires in BC, as well as flooding and other natural disasters. To be building outside in a heat dome with smoke from forest fires is a huge challenge. We’re looking at how to filter the air and build better.
It started from sustainability but you have to address resiliency. We’re trying to balance the two with things like a metal roof, composite decking, etc.
We’ve been working on this house for a long time. We’re working towards passive house codes and net zero. We may not get there, but we’ll be close! I want to showcase what we’re doing because the learning curve is steep. I’m relying on the experts around me who are so great about sharing information.
What is it like to live in a passive house?
It’s a bit of a leap of faith. There aren’t that many passive houses out there so many of us building them have never lived in one.
You have to let go of some things when building a passive house. I used to dream of a wood stove in my cabin but as I learned more and more about sealing up the house, it seemed less logical to have fire inside. So I let it go. And now I feel less stress about how I would have incorporated it into the house.
Passive houses are very quiet. That can be very important to people. They’re also bug-free. Unless you leave a door or window open, you won’t have bugs coming into your house. You literally have total control over the environment: the noise, the air, the moisture and the bugs.
Let’s talk about air purification in a passive house. What’s an HRV system?
An HRV (heat recovery ventilator) or ERV (energy recovery ventilator) is a mechanical system that is exchanging the air within your house. On their own they won’t necessarily deal with forest fire smoke in the air, but you can add a secondary filtration system to your unit. I haven’t lived with this system yet but the benefits all make sense to me.
If you don’t have an air exchange system, you will have issues in a sealed, airtight home. You have to have both because they go hand in hand.
When it comes to timing the real estate market, how do you know when to jump in?
It’s tricky when you’re in the real estate industry and you’re exposed to so much information, but you also have to balance your personal risk level. You have to figure out which brain to listen to. I love to talk through opportunities with friends in the industry to get their feedback.
I’m very active in the Vancouver real estate market. I’m still investing my own money. Are there changes coming? Yup, there are some forces at work beyond our control like government restrictions and interest rates. No one knows exactly what will happen. But at the end of the day, I still believe in the Greater Vancouver real estate market.
You and your family have moved around Vancouver a lot. What keeps you moving?
Part of it is not healthy. I’m a bit addicted to change and moving forward. But now that I’m married with two kids who aren’t as interested in moving, there’s more resistance. So I do have a plan to slow down on a personal level. But I’m not sure if I’ll follow through with it.
Our plan is to try condo living for a little while, retransition into a house through our kids’ high school years, and then return to a condo in Vancouver after they graduate.
What is your real estate investment strategy? How should people make decisions in the market?
A lot of people stand on the sidelines and criticize the real estate market. But to be involved, you have to be in the game. Whether it’s with your principal residence or an investment property, you have to be in action and you have to be informed. Information will drive your decision making but it needs to fit into your overall plan.
I’m a buy and hold guy. I was painting a suite this morning where we’ve had the same tenants for 20 years. That works for us and makes me feel comfortable. I put pieces together that fit my investment strategy.
You have to be in action, clear about your goals and informed. And the only way to be informed is to get out there and learn. But no matter how informed you are, things will come at you that you can’t predict.
Let’s talk about how issues in the supply chain are affecting real estate right now.
The supply chain is a huge issue right now. Anyone building right now is having a hard time navigating the market. I have to redo my plan every two days. Things like appliances, windows and engineered lumber are very tricky.
A delay doesn’t bother me if someone lets me know about it right away. I get mad when I find out about a delay too late to do something about it. So communication is key. When are things arriving and what are the potential pitfalls?
Of course, it’s not always someone’s fault. Not only are there supply chain issues but there are labour shortages, transportation issues and people are burnt out. There’s nothing you can do about that.
What advice do you have for home builders?
You have to be there. No trade wants you looking over their shoulder but you’re paying the bill, so who cares? You have to monitor it every day.
There are contractors who will stop, listen to you and be willing to explore what you want to do and there are contractors who shut down those conversations because it’s not how they operate. The latter don’t like to take chances and prefer to move quickly with the way they always do things. But you have to be diligent and stay on top of your projects and trades.
Tell us about your passion for real estate.
I really love real estate. We’re building up in the Okanagan and it’s really challenging. We have properties here in Vancouver that I manage. We just sold our house and are moving into a three-bedroom condo. And we purchased another property and sold a house in Calgary. So there’s a lot going on!
Let’s talk about the home you recently sold in Calgary, Alberta.
I bought the house in Calgary off my brother-in-law five years ago. The numbers were very attractive from an investment standpoint. There seemed to be some momentum in the Alberta real estate market so we went for it. But it doesn’t really fit with my overall investment strategy as I like to be close by to my properties. So I knew I would want to sell it.
I analyzed the opportunity and a couple of friends in that market told me it was a great time. The tenant was a single mom with two young boys and this is the only home her boys have ever known. She understood that we wanted to sell the home but actually reached out and asked if she could buy it.
We spent about a month together figuring out how to get financing and everyone agreed the price was fair. But sadly, it wasn’t coming together. I let her know that we’d have to put it on the market but she asked for two more days to try and make something work. Luckily, she found a family member who could co-sign and so we could go ahead with a private sale.
To see how excited she was to buy the home was the warmest feeling I’ve ever had selling a piece of property. This was how it was meant to go. It feels like everyone won in the process.
Is there any chance you’ll leave East Vancouver?
I think we have a plan to stay in East Vancouver. I believe we have two more moves in us before the kids graduate. After that, Rabecca and I would like to move into a smaller condo in downtown Vancouver so we can travel. It’s a lot of work to have a house in the city.
I’ve learned that the stage my kids are at dictate the space we need. So we’re letting them lead the decision making around how much space we need. They loved sharing a room at our old house but we have the capacity for them to each have their own room when they want it.
What is your take on the Vancouver real estate market? Where is the market going?
I just bought another property in East Vancouver so I’m very much still in the market. I’m heavily invested in development and we’re still buying more. So I am still committed and heavily leveraged in Vancouver.
If your time horizon is long, real estate will be more valuable than it is today. If you’re going to sell or liquidate, what else are you doing with your money? You have to have a better alternative to real estate.
I believe in this city. It’s ridiculously expensive and there will be government intervention to try and make it more affordable. I totally support that. Will it stop the increase in value? Will rents go down? I don’t see it.
But you need to be aware of what’s going on. We won’t be at a 2% interest for the next 10 years. Do the math. Will a 0.5% increase be the deciding factor of whether you buy or sell? For me, I’m still choosing a variable mortgage rate.
We live in a world of hyperbole in the Vancouver real estate market. Either the sky is falling or it’s a runaway train that nothing can stop. We never seem to find the balance of rhetoric. These hyperbolic headlines don’t help and only scare people. Plus, they’re behind the times. By the time the media has picked up on a trend, it’s long gone and unfounded. It’s unfair to first time buyers who get freaked out reading this stuff.
You need to have multiple outs. How do you manage your purchase in a way that will best protect you? Can you rent it out, improve it with some sweat equity, rent out the garage for storage, etc.? People got more creative during covid about how they can use their space.
Which real estate markets in the Lower Mainland are you excited about?
In the Greater Vancouver area, I’m a fan of real estate in New Westminster. I like where it’s positioned and where the city is going. I also believe in buying where you know. I know East Vancouver better than I know anywhere else. There are some cool pockets in East Van that are underutilised but shifting fast.
We have the first of multiple boutique developments with Saint Group of Companies and Blu Realty coming out soon. The first is Main and Maison and the second is Finch and Benson. They’re heritage-retention, four-unit buildings that are beautifully designed. The attention to detail and space for families in the city is what attracted me. They’re not inexpensive, but they are more accessible than a detached property.
Which real estate markets in the rest of BC are you excited about?
Across the province, we’ve seen a huge increase in recreational properties. The Okanagan has been on fire, both literally and figuratively. I’m a big fan of Vernon and Penticton. Both have a great throwback feel. Vernon’s real estate market is moving fast. People are super keen on the Okanagan.
Watch where the wineries are going. It’s getting too hot in Osoyoos so wineries are heading north. These wineries and the lakes are driving recreation and a desire to move to the Okanagan area.