We have added basement suites in 2 houses (so far) and have learned that spending money in the wrong places is wasted money. In the beginning, this was a challenging concept for us. Mainly because we kept thinking about the suite like we were going to live in it. While this was helpful when we created a functional layout, it didn’t help the bottom line. Finishings we would like in our own space weren’t necessary for renters; nor were they essential for the area where our houses were located. We weren’t creating luxury suites in high-end areas; we were building clean and homey rental suites that were attractive to quality tenants and would generate good rental income. Check out our first rental suite renovation!
It can be a fine balance between creating a decent, livable space that’s desirable to tenants – and cost friendly to the owner’s bottom line.
Here are 4 smart areas to invest in when building rental suites:
1 Appliances that add value – for the tenant and owner
An appliance that adds value isn’t the same as an expensive appliance. An appliance that adds convenience, however, is an appliance to consider. Especially if other rental suites in your area don’t have them. For example, dishwashers in rentals are uncommon in suites similar to ours. As such, both of our rental suites have dishwashers. The additional upfront cost made our rental more marketable and allowed us to get top dollar for our units.
Another appliance that can make your rental more desirable is a washer/dryer. Separate laundry didn’t quite work out in our first rental to have separate laundry but both the upstairs and downstairs suites have access to shared laundry. Fortunately, our second suite allowed for separate laundry in both top and bottom units.
Adding appliances that make living easier for tenants will give you a better pool of tenants to choose from. Conversely, spending a lot of money on a top of the line appliance won’t enhance marketing of your suite.
2 Tenant comforts – that make everyone’s life quieter
While convenient appliances will make your tenants’ life easier, there are a couple of things you can add that make their life better. Specifically, when units share walls/floors they have the potential to transfer noise to the other. To decrease noise transfer, consider additional sound barriers. These may include one or more of the following: Donnacona, Green Glue, Rez Bar, Roxsul and/or extra dry wall. While it doesn’t stop all noise transfer, it certainly helps decrease it.
Another way to decrease the amount of noise created is to consider adding soft close drawers and doors in the kitchen. Many of us don’t realize the amount of noise we make. Even fewer think about how hard we are closing doors and drawers. If the rental suites are stacked or share walls, soft closing cabinets will help decrease the amount of noise generated. This is especially helpful when the rooms above or beside the kitchen aren’t as noisy.
While these additions add some extra expense when you’re building rental suites, they will make life quieter for the people in the house. In turn, it will also make your life quieter as the owner/landlord because you should have fewer complaints and, ideally, happy, long term tenants.
3 Separation for easy access – why mix water, electricity, and tenants if you don’t have to?
Consider having water shutoffs and electrical panels in each unit or in a shared area. Then if one tenant trips a breaker they don’t have to bother their neighbours to turn it back on. As well, if a unit is not rented for a period, or a water leak starts, the water can be shut off without bothering the other unit.
Furthermore, when multiple rentals are under the same roof, the issue of splitting utilities can quickly become a point of contention. It is possible to include these in the rent so the tenants don’t have to fight over how to split them. However, the down side when utilities are included is that renters don’t see the cost so may not be as mindful of how much they are using. This means that, as the owner, you may end up paying way more on utility bills than you anticipated. Separating the utilities during the renovation by adding a dual electrical meter allows tenants to be responsible for their own usage – and bills.
4 Upgrades for longevity – peace of mind is priceless
Lastly, consider investing in the building itself. Whether the insulation needs upgrading, the roof needs replacing or the drain tiles need fixing, spending in these areas will give you peace of mind and protect your investment. It may also have the benefit of saving on utilities E.G. double pane windows help keep more heat in.
Bonus tip: sometimes there are grants for making homes more energy efficient. Rebates are offered for upgrading things like windows and insulation. This helps you recoup your cost to install. Be sure to read the fine print to ensure your situation qualifies before going ahead and doing the work!
Spend money wisely when building rental suites
It’s easy to get caught up in the extras when you’re renovating. An upgrade here, a higher finish there – don’t seem like much separately but overall, they can add a huge amount to the project total. While top of the line appliances and in floor heating are nice, they are adding expense with little to no return.
When building rental suites, you want to make the most of your budget and keep your rental competitive with the market you are in. Anything else is just wasted money.
What are your tips on making the most of your budget when building rental suites? Let us know in the comments!
Denise and Sean
P.S. Thinking about going the do-it-yourself route? Read this first!
P.P.S. Check out our Rentals, Tenants and Income Properties Pinterest Board for essential information on having a rental.