Planning Your Income Suite Renovation


When it comes to renovating a property into a multi-unit with one or more income suites, there are a lot of things to consider.


Some of these will be cosmetic, like a neutral shade of paint or modern fixtures, but there are a few essentials that no responsible, legally-compliant landlord should skip out on.


These include:

Separate entrance for the income suite


Water-proof bathrooms, kitchen, laundry

Ceiling height

Fire separation

Egress window for each unit

Sound proofing between units

Don’t forget to get permits before you start renovating


In the video below my husband Marty and I take you through a property we purchased and go over the renovations we intend to do and why they are important.


Check out a transcript of this video below:
Hello, Keyspire, Amanda here. I’d like to introduce you to Marty, my husband, and my investing partner. Today we’re going to walk you through our latest deal. We purchased a property with the intention of installing a legal accessory apartment. So we’re going to walk you through what we’re going to salvage and what we intend to change.
Marty’s going to talk about some stuff outside. Hello Keyspire. Okay, so there’s one thing right off the bat that before we even come out and look at a property, we have to make sure that a property has a separate entrance for a basement apartment. Now the entrance doesn’t necessarily have to be in the side of the house.
It can be in the back, but that’s definitely something you’re going to want to make sure the property has before you even come out and view it. Because if it doesn’t have a side entrance or a back entrance, then you’re not going to be able to convert it. So you’re just wasting your time viewing the property. Okay, so another thing to be aware of is parking requirements.
So this driveway does not meet requirements to have a legal accessory apartment. What we intend to do is to extend the driveway off to the side, so we have side by side parking, but it’s important that you check with your local municipality to determine what are the requirements and what are those specific measurements.
A couple more things that Amanda and I like to look for is we prefer to buy houses that have a brick exterior. Not mandatory, it’s just a personal preference, but brick holds up for longevity reasons. It’s nicer than vinyl or aluminum siding. Another thing you’re gonna want to check, just in general, whenever you’re buying a house, Is the roof.
You don’t have to get up there and look at it. Just stand at the road and take a look and see what kind of shape it’s in. It’s going to give you a good idea of whether or not it needs to be replaced. And general curb appeal while you’re standing out there. How does the place look from the sidewalk?
Curb appeal is very important. So come on inside and we’re going to show you inside this property and we’ll point out what’s going to be salvaged and what we intend to change. So the reason why we selected this property is because the top floor is in great condition. As you can see here, the kitchen looks fantastic and there’s actually nothing that needs to be done up here.
The flooring is also in great condition along with the paint. There’s very neutral colors. What we will be doing is adding laundry so that the top floor tenants have their own private laundry and we’re also going to renovate the bathroom. That’s about it for the top, for the top floor. At first glance, you may think this bathroom doesn’t look that bad, which it doesn’t, but we’re going to be gutting it anyway.
Right off the bat, if you look at the floor, There’s click floor installed in the bathroom. We don’t want to use click floor. It’s not designed for water zones. You can even take a look and see here some of the joints have started separating just from when people get out of the shower and water pools, it gets into those seams.
So we want to remove that and properly waterproof the floor and then tile it. We can still salvage some of the stuff in here, though, like the vanity looks really. We just will probably replace the top with something a little more modern. The toilet looks brand new, so we’ll remove that and then put it back in after the renovation.
Even the bathtub looks like it’s in pretty good shape. So if we took the tub out, we’d probably put it back in after we retile. One thing I want to mention is we don’t have to necessarily replace this tile, but it was tiled a long time ago and the products that were around at that time didn’t really do that good of a job of waterproofing and mold proofing a shower.
That’s why you get a lot of leaky tile showers. So we’re going to remove this tile, put the proper Kerdi products in there, waterproof it, and retile with something a little more modern. One other thing we always do is we have to add an exhaust fan in the ceiling. It is up to a modern code to add a, have an exhaust fan in every bathroom.
This would be grandfathered in, so we wouldn’t be required to add it, but we still want to do that because. We don’t want steam collecting in any bathroom. It’s just gonna cause problems, peeling paint, mold issues, et cetera. So we want to make sure we get all the steam up and out the exhaust fan out through the roof.
Part of our investing strategy for this particular property was to renovate the entire basement. So when we ran our numbers, the intention was to fully gut the entire basement down here, and a couple reasons why we’re going to gut the basement is because we want to have a good look at the foundation walls, make sure that there aren’t any leaks, and also we want a clean slate to be working with here.
We want to create our own footprint so that we can install everything exactly as we want and fully utilize this space. Okay, so one thing you’re absolutely going to want to make sure of is what is that you have enough ceiling height in the basement. Every municipality has certain requirements for basement ceiling heights.
If you don’t have enough headroom, you’re not going to be even able to get a permit for an accessory apartment. So make sure you check your local codes and make sure there’s no spots in the basement that are going to be too low and not be able to meet requirements. An important component of a legal accessory apartment is an egress window, so this particular window is certainly not going to meet requirements in our local municipality.
So again, you’re going to need to check with your own city bylaws and determine what is going to be required for not only the window size itself, but there might be other stipulations that you need to look into such as the window well and how close this window is to property next door as well. So many factors to consider with the egress window, but this is very important.
One thing we will definitely be doing is we’ll be adding interconnected smoke and seal alarms on each floor. Now you’re going to want to definitely check with your local code to make sure what the requirements are, but that’s something we will definitely have to do in addition to the drywall fire separation.
So just make sure you check with the inspector and they’ll let you know everything that you need to do. So as important as fire separation is, so is soundproofing between the different units. So not only does it make it more enjoyable for tenants to live amongst each other, but it’s required in our municipality to fire separate the units and also soundproof the two units.
This here is the side entrance for the legal accessory apartment in the basement, and up here to my left is actually a regular door for now, so we’re going to replace this with a fire rated door. So this is going to be a great rental unit and a great home for a family. We have a three bedroom unit upstairs and what will be a two bedroom unit in the basement.
This is a nice home in a nice neighborhood, and we expect a great ROI. The bottom line is if you’re going to be getting involved in a renovation, get permits, it’s absolutely critical, just for safety reasons to make sure you’re up to local code and for the value. If you want your value to be worth anything, you have to get permits.

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Amanda Bouck

Amanda Bouck started building her real estate investing business at age 21. She also worked as a professional Property Manager for many years and was managing a portfolio of almost 50 properties. The knowledge Amanda gained over the years with investing, renovations and property management, brought her to the Keyspire team in 2014, where she serves as the Sr. Manager, Coaching & Content.

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