The Many Challenges with Renovation Projects – Adding a Legal Suite

I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but this project has been a GIANT pain in my butt.

I’m not a brand new renovator. In fact, I can’t even count how many kitchens, bathrooms and other parts of a house we’ve renovated since we started buying rental properties in 2001. It’s in the double digits. So I should be able to run a smooth operation … and if I had been documenting the last couple of projects for you, I would have had very little lessons to share. They went extremely smoothly with on time and on budget delivery and minimal hassles.

This project is not going nearly as well.

Every time I go to the house where we’re adding a legal suite (which these days is daily – and you’ll see why in the second video I have for you today), I find something that makes me say very bad words.

On the bright side, we’re on time completely with the one unit and only a few days behind on the other. I’ve had to eliminate some updates I wanted to do from my plans, but with those cut out, I’m not far off my budget either. So it’s not a failure, it’s just been irritating. For you, however, it’s been a great one to learn some things to hopefully save you time, money and annoyance on your renovation projects.

If you watch no other videos than these ones in my weekly series on Adding a Legal Suite, you’ll learn a few of the big lessons I’ve (re)learned in this project. Enjoy!

Week 8 of Adding a Legal Suite – Want to save lots of money? Buy your materials on sale … but beware!


Week 9 of Adding a Legal Suite – Not ready to check in on your project every day? Then a big renovation project probably isn’t for you.

Coming up in the next two weeks we’re cleaning and getting the units ready to show to prospective tenants.

At the same time as I am doing all of that, Dave is getting things organized to finance the property with a bank so we can pull all the cash out (or most of it!). In one of the earlier videos I explained that the key strategy we use to fund these renovations is to buy with cash and finance out once the renovation is complete.

How to Add a Suite to a House – 5 Things to Look For

One way to boost your rental income on a property is to add a suite to a house.

The cost of adding a suite is often a small investment compared to the returns it generates. When you add a legal suite you’ll often find it also adds a ton of value to the property. The hard part, we’ve discovered, is finding a house where it’s going to be relatively cost effective to add the suite.

We searched for months to find a property where it made sense for us to add a legal suite. The perfect property for suiting finally found us. Someone who had received our yellow letter several years ago had saved the letter and just contacted us now – ready to sell her property.

We thought it was PERFECT for suiting. It was in our target area, untouched since it was built in 1980, and fit our criteria for adding a suite. We closed on it last week and demolition is nearly complete.

We’re chronicling the adventure for you in a video series.

In the first video I explain the 5 things to look for when you add a suite to a house.

You’ll have to watch the video for all the details, but the 5 things we look for when we’re searching for a house to add a legal suite to are:

  1. Entrance Points: How do the tenants get into the suite and the main home?
  2. Heating Sources: Is there a furnace that has ducts that need to be closed off or is it baseboard heating?
  3. Flow of the property and how the suite can flow when added in: So many suites lack flow because it’s awkward to put it into an existing home. Considering how it’s going to flow is important which is why we are removing 3 walls in this project and adding one.
  4. Where are your plumbing and electrical systems relative to where you’re putting in the kitchen, appliances and any bathroom changes you need to make. One of the most significant costs of suiting revolves around electrical labour. The easier it is to separate the units the less you’ll pay. And can the electrical system handle the added load or does it need more?
  5. Where will the laundry be for each suite?

There is more to consider, like purchase price, rents, location and condition of the property but generally speaking if those things are great (And in this case this property is in our #1 focus area and is in great shape – just needs cosmetic love) then the other items are the important ones on our checklist for finding a property to add a legal suite to.

Want more videos in this series? Here’s how to add a suite to a house – week 3 update.


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