8 things you need to know

Eight things you need to know about suites, so you can PROFIT in 2016

There have been some interesting changes in the world of secondary suites of late. And it seems that nearly everyone is confused, or working off old information, when it comes to rental suites.  

I’m going to share with you the recent game-changers that have really made things open up, what it all means to you as an owner of Kelowna Real Estate and ultimately how you can use this info to make yourself some money.

So let’s start at the top:

In fall of this year, the Federal government and CMHC changed its rules:

“The changes from CMHC would allow homeowners to count the income from their secondary units when qualifying for a loan, something that would seemingly bring more people into the housing market. Under the new rules, CMHC will consider up to 100 per cent of gross rental income from a two-unit owner-occupied property. This includes basement rental units and in-law apartments.” ~ Financial Post

At the same time, almost serendipitously, local governments decided to open things up for us from a zoning by-law perspective,

Council heard a plan in October that would change current rules against mortgage-helping suites at Gallagher’s Canyon, Tower Ranch and Quail Ridge.

Planner Ryan Smith told council, staff is working on zoning revisions for the three golf course communities that would allow secondary suites to be legalized in much the same manner as they are in other neighbourhoods, without a public hearing.” ~ Kelowna Daily Courier

Affecting even more households, the City of West Kelowna just amended their zoning bylaws. This is huge:

Nearly every residential zoning in West Kelowna now allows carriage houses, and with far fewer stipulations than on the Kelowna side. The largest being that you don’t need a rear lane access on your lot. The property value increase created when a property has two dwellings is exceptional, not to mention the additional cash-flow. I

had my first client this month follow my advice and buy a rental property in West Kelowna, specifically to take advantage of this rule change. I expect many more to follow suit. 

So let’s shift our focus away from rules and regulations, and on to something even more influential when it comes to the real estate markets, and suited properties in particular: Demographics.

Baby-boomers, massive in numbers, were ‘busy’ enough to repopulate the earth at a rate of approx. 2.2 kids per household. Consequently, they have created the largest generation in human history. This generation known as Generation Y, born between 1981 and 1993, is entering the real estate market in droves.

The eldest of the Y Generation turned 33 last year, and in the next decade, there will be more people turning 33 than ever before.

Why is that important? Because the average age of a first-time buyer is, in fact, 33. Due to rising prices and affordability issues, these buyers will be looking at suited homes to allow them to make the jump from renter to homeowner. 

While at the same time, and just as much of an economic driver:

Baby boomers are looking to augment their retirement, and are turning to investment real estate to pump up their passive income, as they cruise towards their mid 60’s. Suited homes make a great investment for this demographic.

Add to that, baby boomer parents are opting to move into suites and coach houses rather than retirement homes.  This puts even more demand on these kinds of properties.

Now lets talk dollars and cents:

Building a secondary suite doesn’t cost anywhere near what most people think it does (especially if you know who to call), and the revenues have never been higher. Here’s the rent you can expect for a rental suite today: 

So what does it cost to put one in?

Here is a basic breakdown of the investment, if you paid a contractor to do the entire job (suggested):

Permits and licensing

Cash and carry for $3500, includes counter tops  

$1,500 for basic appliances, or treat yourself to state of the art new ones upstairs and bring your current ones down.

(Fire-rated and sound dampening) $3,000 


vinyl planking @ 3.50/sq ft x 800 feet -$3,000

$2,000, Includes new hook-ups

Upgrading electrical panel

Upgrading new bathtub, and vanity and toilet

Contractor labour
$7,500 (framer, flooring installer, finish carpenter)

Total: $26,500 

It can be done for as low as $15,000 and as high as $35,000, depending on complexity and quality of finish.

You don’t actually need to have any cash on hand to do this, whether you are putting a suite into a home you already own, or are wanting to put one in a house you are buying, there are really cheap financing options available to you through either a home equity line or a purchase plus improvements line.

Here’s what it would cost you on a line of credit using the highest estimate:

Prime plus .60 = 3.3%   $35,000 x 0.03 = $96.25/mo. Now let’s say you build a basic/average suite and rent it for $1100, you are netting $1,000+ per month.

The ROI on the $35,000 is 34%, and keep in mind you didn’t spend a dime of your cash on hand.

Now for the big burning question: To legalize or not to legalize.

Many of my clients come to me with hang-ups with regards to in-law suites. People often say that they only want to look at listings with a legal suite. Fact: If you limit yourself to only properties that have legal suites, you will have way less from which to choose. For example, right now on the MLS, there are 13 homes between 350 and 400 with suites, only two of those are legal. And guess what, they are at the top of the price range.

Here’s a cool stat I’ve never seen anyone publish . . . until now:

In the second half of 2015, the average sale price for a home with a legal suite was $436,000

For the same period of time the average sale price of a non-conforming suite was $413,000

This means that the value the market place is putting on the legalizing of a suite is $23,000.

The question becomes, can you legalize an existing suite for less than $15,000 and double your money? The answer, in most cases, is a resounding YES.

So, let’s look at what it means to have a ‘legal’ secondary suite in Kelowna:

Need a building permit

Need a business license

Need 2 designated parking stalls for tenant

A lit pathway

At least 30m(2) of private, open space

The suite cannot exceed 40% of the total square footage of the principal living area

Several building code standards must be met such as:


Minimum ceiling heights

Fire separation

Hard-wired CO2 and smoke detector

If you’re interested in learning more about the subject of suites and real estate investment, I’ve prepared a free .pdf report just email and I will send it over.

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About the Author

AJ is the owner of Kelowna’s downtown boutique firm, Vantage West Realty. The firm takes pride in breaking the mould when it comes to how they practice real estate. With a well-deserved reputation as a real estate renegade, Hazzi has been shaking up the Kelowna real estate scene since 2002.

Having been a student of real estate through two market cycles, AJ has come to see an absence of truly qualified professionals specializing in investment real estate. This has become AJ’s role within the firm and the community: To educate clients on how to achieve financial freedom through real estate.

Arming his clients with knowledge on where to find positive cash-flow, how to renovate for profit, and other creative avenues that most agents completely ignore, Hazzi has carved out his niche as a real estate investment advisor (REIA), and loves nothing more than educating people on the right strategy to capitalize on both boom and bust years.  AJ is a firm believer that the Kelowna market is rich with opportunity, if one knows where to look.

If you are in search of an advisor who practices what they preach, consider that AJ has built his own real estate portfolio up to include multi and single family cash-flow rental properties, development property, resort property, fix and flips, and commercial properties. By sharing the lessons learned from his own experiences, his clients get the knowledge and confidence to invest without having to make the expensive mistakes he and many new investors have made along the way.

His goal is to impart on people, especially of the X and Y generation, that depending on RRSPs and Government Pension Plans to look after us down the road is risky business. Most people don't realize that as little as one or two properties added to your real estate portfolio now, can secure a comfortable, even lavish, retirement.

Bringing a consultant's approach rather than the tired, old-fashioned sales approach, AJ and his partners offer a world class service from finding, pre analyzing, and negotiating your next acquisition, to property management, all tailored to today’s busy investor.

To hear what AJ Hazzi's clients have to say about his service view the testimonials.

Contact Information

For more details or to reach AJ Hazzi, please visit www.vantagewestrealty.com

Email [email protected] Cell 250.864.6433

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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