Love It or List It Vancouver’s Todd Talbot draws heavily on his own homebuying experiences during his Calgary Home and Garden Show presentation on “right sizing.” According to Talbot, right-sizing requires homeowners to do an honest audit of what is important to them when it comes to their living space. Courtesy Reformation PR

HGTV star Todd Talbot shares advice from 20 years in real estate at the Calgary Home and Garden Show

At the age of 22, Vancouver actor Todd Talbot bought his first home, paying his mortgage with the help of a rent-paying friend.

It was a unique occurrence among his theatre colleagues.

“(As an actor) you don’t make a ton of money and you are pretty transient,” said Talbot, who, as a teenager, appeared on the Hillside TV series with fellow Vancouverite and current Hollywood heavyweight Ryan Reynolds.

However, it was this initial foray into real estate – $190,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo two blocks from Kitsilano Beach – that sparked Talbot’s second career as an entrepreneur, leveraging one piece of property for another, and then another, and eventually leading to ownership of several real estate companies.

“I grew into this de facto real estate guy while still acting full time,” he said.

These days, Talbot doesn’t have much time for acting outside of his co-hosting duties on HGTV’s Love It or List It Vancouver, now filming its fifth season.

He will be bringing two decades of real estate experience to this year’s Calgary Home and Garden Show, where he will be giving a presentation on “right-sizing” and the relationship people of all demographics have with their living spaces.

“I grew into this de facto real estate guy while still acting full time.” – Todd Talbot, HGTV star

He will focus on his own family-of-four’s experience moving into what would seem to be a “dream home” in Lions Bay – with 3,000 square feet of indoor living space and 1,500 square feet of outdoor space overlooking the ocean – only to turn around and trade it in for a 600-square-foot home with an undeveloped basement built in 1912 on a 25-foot lot.

Drawing from this experience, Talbot recommends doing an honest audit of what is important – or, as he describes it, “the health food” conversation about what is best for you and your living space.

“How much are you spending per square foot on space you never use? You have paid for it, you are heating it, you are updating it,” said Talbot. “Is it working for you? (Then) what options are there? What do you need to find that creative balance between space and finances?”

Talbot’s epiphany came just over a year ago at Christmas, when his five-year-old son kept asking for more and more, even in a large house already overflowing with “stuff.”

He and his wife returned presents, purged things they didn’t use and then explored how much space they actually needed.

The goal wasn’t to “downsize,” which Talbot says has negative connotations, but to “right-size,” by challenging the whole idea of what is needed to be happy.

Talbot looked at the 1,000-square-foot homes built in the 1950s, where families shared bathrooms and bedrooms, for inspiration. “I’m not saying we need to go back there, but there was something with the space that worked, that was straight and simple,” he said.

Contrast that with increasing suburban homes sizes, where people have “space to get away from their space,” with rec rooms, home theatre setups and formal dining rooms “where you may host family gatherings four times a year.”

The Talbots listed their $2.4-million Lions Bay home and bought a small home on a small lot in Vancouver (still $1.175 million) with a basement accessible only by an outside door. Renovations, which are now “98 per cent complete,” have resulted in 1,200 square feet of total living space, with a master bedroom, shared bedroom for the kids, bathroom and laundry room in the basement.

Upstairs lies the kitchen and living area, as well as a small multipurpose room that can serve as an office or TV room.

Talbot will be bringing pictures of his small-home conversion to Calgary to illustrate the design choices the family made and the reasoning behind them.

Todd Talbot is presenting on the Home and Garden Stage Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 3 at 1 p.m. The Calgary Home and Garden Show runs March 1-4 at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park.