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Preparing for an In-Law Apartment

Canada’s older population is growing and living longer these days, while at the same time working professionals are delaying their decision to start a family. The end result is a large number of Canadian adults are finding themselves in the middle of the “sandwich” generation. This is the stressful situation that can result when adults find they are caught between the demands of aging parents and young children – often with a demanding career thrown into the bargain. Many Canadians are responding to this situation by opting for an extended family living situation. If this sounds like you, then you may need an in-law apartment. Here are some points to consider in your planning process.

Inlaw apartments — also known as accessory or basement apartments, secondary suites and inlaw flats — are self-contained residential units with kitchen and bathroom facilities within dwellings or within structures accessory to dwellings (such as above laneway garages).

Inlaw apartments must comply with any applicable laws and standards. This includes the Building Code, the Fire Code and property standards bylaws.

An effective in-law apartment will afford good privacy – to all parties. Start with some open dialogue to establish everyone’s wants and expectations. For example, is a separate entrance necessary? Will phone lines, cable TV and internet service be shared or does provision have to be made for new services? Is there a need for additional air ducts, radiators or baseboard heaters? How much space is realistic to meet everyday needs?

The next challenge is to determine how to meet those needs without putting too much strain on your budget. One good benchmark to help you determine which improvements are worth doing is to measure the cost against expected usage. For example, putting in a full kitchen is very costly and probably won’t be worth your while if you only see it being used infrequently or needed for a relatively short period. If you see this living situation only lasting three or four years until the kids are all in school, you might consider a compromise of adding a sink and counter to a bed-sitting room. A set-up like this could later evolve into a den with a wet bar or even a teenager’s suite in years to come.

On the other hand, a private bathroom close to sleeping quarters is usually a wise investment, especially if you can see the in-law suite being used for a guest suite or a more private area for your older children as they approach college age. Remember, the number of bathrooms is an important factor when determining the resale value and appeal of your home. If you do it right, you could recover much, if not all, of the cost. Your Coldwell Banker professional will be glad to advise you on how such improvements may impact the value of your home.

A feeling of light and space is another important consideration. Keep your decorating simple. Light colours, mirrors and recessed lighting all help a small space seem larger. Brighten it with task lighting especially counter work spaces and reading areas. Plan your room layouts in advance and don’t forget to take wiring and other facilities into consideration. You may need to add new outlets or even upgrade your electrical service to accommodate all your needs. While you’re at it, you may even want to wire a separate doorbell to ring in that area. A little advance planning can make your in-law suite a pleasure for years to come.

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