Todd Talbot and his wife Rebecca are going to handcuff themselves.
The real estate expert and co-host of HGTV’s Love It or List It, Vancouver is taking the latter route and committing his family to live in much closer quarters.
The Talbots are saying goodbye to their 3,000-square-foot Lions Bay home with stunning panoramic views of Howe Sound and hello to a humble 1912 East Vancouver abode with 1,200 square feet of living space.
“I bought that specifically to handcuff me in terms of the square footage we could put on that property,” says Talbot.
The motivation for the move is part challenge and part social experiment.
In the face of Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis, Talbot is passionate about finding families something other than the traditional home with the white picket fence.
Seven years ago Talbot was that guy. He bought into the “Canadian dream” and found himself purchasing a large Lions Bay property valued at $610,000 for his family.
He took most of 2010 off to put in about $600,000 worth of renovations into the 1973 arched A frame, turning it into a creative and contemporary West Coast home with million dollar views from every room and wraparound patios on both levels.
“We were attracted there from a lifestyle perspective,” says Talbot of Sea to Sky country. “One of the big things about Lions Bay is the natural view.”
So how will Talbot reconcile leaving that behind?
“I will freely admit that until the day before we put the house on the market I was like, ‘This is a great new adventure for us.’ And then the day I was putting it on the market, I was like: ‘I’ve got some mixed emotions about this,” says Talbot of his Lions Bay property, which he listed for $2.4 million.
At the same time Talbot is taking a page from his nomadic childhood. His family moved eight times, six of which saw Talbot attending a new school.
Talbot wasn’t emotionally invested in his family’s Lions Bay home for the long game – the plan was to live there for five years and then find another place to hang their hats.
“I’m a big believer – and this is one of the reasons why we do want to make a move as a family – is different communities offer different things. And if you stay in one community you are limited to that one experience.”
Talbot sees a lot of value in having kids exposed to different dynamics and East Vancouver fits the bill.
“You get a completely different socioeconomic landscape,” he says. “You get a different cross-section of people from different ethnicities, money, political views and I think that’s cool not only for us to be in that environment but for our kids to be there too.”
Talbot walked the talk, setting his sights on an undersized property, after preaching about full-sized lots in Vancouver being an unsustainable model.
“You are paying $2 million for a full-size lot in East Vancouver, whereas we paid $1.175 for this smaller house,” he says.
The property Talbot settled on in the Grandview-Woodland area is 25x103 feet.
Currently there’s one bedroom in the house. The Talbots are a family of four. Tiny house is an understatement.
“It’s essentially like a little box with a peaked roof on it, that’s it,” says Talbot with a tinge of nervousness to his voice.
Talbot will trade his TV suit for construction clothes and get to work with a crew on the unfinished basement before school starts in September. They will put two bedrooms down there.
The Talbots will be packing light for this move. Many of the materialistic possessions amassed in their Lions Bay home are being either sold or given away.
The underlying motivation is Talbot and his wife’s challenge to live a more minimalistic lifestyle.
Last Christmas they started by returning some of their kids’ (they are six and seven years old) toys. While that might sound like a Grinch move, Talbot swears it’s for their greater good.
“They didn’t know what they were missing,” says Talbot of the extra toys.
Next the family took inventory of their stuff. There was a garage sale. Trips to the consignment store. Stuff dropped off for donation.
The Talbots slowly started chipping away at the clutter.
Talbot says it comes down to opening the door and saying: What really is needed here?
“Like do we need 400 pens in the junk drawer?”
Of course, emotions do get in the way of progress. Talbot and his wife argued over their high school annuals. They have ten of these tomes between them.
“And I have moved these damn books around from house to house to room and room and it’s like – we never look at them – never,” exclaims Talbot.
To declutter can be intoxicating, reports Talbot.
“I look around the house and I’m like, ‘Damn, this place looks great because we don’t have all that crap around here.’ So you start to feel lighter.”
However, Talbot is learning to rein in his impulse purchases, which is hard for the clothes horse. There’s been some sober second thought in the shoe store.
It would seem the Talbots’ trials and tribulations in downsizing have the makings of a reality TV show.
“That’s a difficult question to answer at the moment,” teases Talbot when pressed for more details about the idea of sharing his personal life with audiences.
“Absolutely, yes, we’ve got big plans - big plans to share this.”
Asked about the stress of downsizing, Talbot laughs.
“The reason why people think more space solves problems is because you can get away from each other.”
Talbot, who’s been hosting Love It or List It since 2013, says the North Shore is a popular shooting locale.
“The North Shore seems to have a diversity of properties that I think are some of the coolest ... and that’s what people want to see on television. There’s this voyeurism to it.”
So will Talbot love his new home and less space?
“This might be mistake,” he says with a laugh.