Just completed a home inspection in Gibsons BC. House was 6 years old, nearly 3000 sq.ft. with superior custom construction. All the interior and exterior finishes were well executed. The ground floor was unfinished but prepared for future suite potential. In my business I have seen many in-law suites, unauthorized accomodations and mortgage helpers. In this post I summarize what I consider important design considerations for any homeowner to think about when planning for a rental income.
- Legal. Check with municipality to see if secondary accommodations are acceptable for this particular community. Determine if this is going to be a legal or non-conforming accommodations.
- Parking. Make sure you have lots of it and it does not impact on the neighbours.
- Entry. Is it separate (preferred) or do you have a common front entrance with interior segregation? If entry is from the side or rear, be sure to provide a walkway.
- Porch or Deck. Be sure to have adequate railings and fall protection. What can go wrong, will.
- Laundry. Exclusive use or common area? If it’s for both your use and the tenant’s, make sure the access to it does not go through private areas.
- Sound proofing. Use insulation in interior walls and ceiling cavities to reduce noise levels. Consider carpeting for the flooring. The sound of heels on a hard surface can be irritating.
- Heating. Good practice is to have separate heat controls. This is easily accomplished with electric baseboard or infloor heating. However if you have a central natural gas furnace with only one thermostat, then there are building code requirements with respect to ducts and fire separation which must be followed.
- Codes & Permits. If you have a house still covered by the 2-5-10 year new home warranty then do the right thing, follow the regulations, otherwise any future claim may be invalidated. If the home is older, you have more flexibility in deciding how to do the renovation, subject to your personal knowledge and experience.
- Safety. Smoke alarm. Carbon monoxide detector. GFCI’s. AFCI’s. Operable window in bedroom. Absolutely no shortcuts.
- Budget. My rules of thumb. Use one-half of the cost of a new home build. For example, if the construction costs in your neighbourhood are $150 per square foot, then budget for $75 per square foot. If skilled labour is free, your own or from friends and relatives, then this cost can be further reduced by 50%.
- Utilities. Determine how to account for the gas, hydro, water, garbage collection and mail. Will it be shared, metered or included? Separate metering introduces a level of complexity and disclosure to third parties that you may or may not appreciate.
With the cost of housing at an all-time high in this region, a mortgage helper makes a lot of sense. Just be sure that the rental suite is built to code and in compliance with municipal requirements.