Stuck beside a run down semi, Secondary suites


Dear David,

We own a semi in a modest neighbourhood. My husband wants to jazz it up with a concrete drive, new kitchen, new bathroom and a fence. The home “attached” to us is somewhat run down and I fear ours can’t shine next to it. Is it better to move and invest somewhere else? – STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR STUCK: For better or for worse, in a townhouse or a semi, you are literally bound to your neighbours. I’m all for home improvements, but in this case, I’d recommend you consider your surroundings when planning renovations. The projects your husband is considering will enhance your property value to a degree, but they won’t change your location. It’s impossible to separate yourself from the adjoining house and you can’t force the owners to improve their property.

PRO TIP: In real estate, you can’t pick your neighbours. No one loves moving, but if you’re ready to make a major investment, embracing short term pain for long-term gain may offer a better return, and in the end can allow both of you to enjoy your home to the fullest.

Dear David,

We are active, retired empty-nesters.  We still live in our family home and love the neighbourhood. The house has more space than we need and concerns about security are making us re-think our travel plans. Do you think it’s time to consider a retirement complex? – NOT READY

DEAR NOT READY: If you’re not prepared to downsize and have room to spare, you may want to consider creating a secondary suite for rental purposes. The Bill 108 “More Homes, More Choice” legislation that came into effect at the start of 2020 is expected to bring changes to building bylaws that will address the shortage of affordable housing by reducing the amount of red tape that comes with creating a rental unit.

By definition, a secondary suite is a self-contained unit with a sleeping area, kitchen, bathroom and a separate entrance. Building and renting out a space like this could supplement your travel budget and ensure that someone is around the house to keep an eye on things while you’re away.

Before you decide to go ahead, speak with your local municipal planning and building departments. They’ll confirm what’s allowed on your property and can answer questions about zoning, building codes and other by-laws.

PRO TIP: A cost-benefit analysis can help determine if a secondary suite makes sense for you.  If it looks good on paper, sit down with your mortgage advisor. Working the renovation budget into your existing mortgage — or taking out a home line of credit — may make the project more affordable than you think. #AskDavid #Advice