Secondary Suite Shopping Guide
With the increase in living costs, it is no surprise that secondary dwelling units are becoming increasingly popular; they offer the perfect balance between having an independent living space and maximizing the advantages that come with sharing a roof. You can read more about secondary suites in our recent blog posts here and here. But to make this a comfortable and safe situation for both parties, there are certain products we highly recommend.
Depending on how you are setting up the second unit, you may or may not be paying the utilities for that apartment. Either way, we strongly suggest looking into investing in low-flow toilets, sink faucets, and showerheads. These little things add up really quickly and not only do these low-flow options reduce water consumption and therefore reduce utilities bills, but they are also far more environmentally friendly, which should also be on all our minds these days. They are also required under the Ontario Building Code. Stick with good brand names such as Delta faucets and Kohler toilets, as they are all of high quality and have timeless designs. This means that they can be used for years and years to come, which will stretch your investment as far as possible.
While smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are important everywhere and are required to meet the Ontario Building Code, they are especially important in secondary dwelling units, as you can't monitor what your tenant does. They may accidentally leave something on the stove or plug in a defective appliance, anything can happen. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required to have a strobe light and a battery backup, in case of power outages, when installed.
Duct type smoke detectors are also required when ductwork is shared between units. Duct type smoke detectors monitor the air quality in the ducts. If smoke is detected, they will automatically close off dampers and turn off the furnace fans to minimize damage and allow tenants more time to escape safely. However, these are significantly more complicated to install and we recommend getting an HVAC professional to install this system to ensure everything is done properly.
Instead of running the constant risk of you or your tenant losing the key to their apartment or carrying the key to the mechanical room with you all the time, it become very convenient to change out your locks for keypad locks. They come in all different shapes and colours, but the following options we really love for their sleek and simple designs. As always, we recommend spending the money for a good quality lock like Weiser. The first one is a great option for the mechanical room, or a door between a hallway and an apartment, while the second option for a front door features a deadbolt, as required for exterior doors.
A washer and dryer inside a unit is a huge attraction to quality tenants. Although the size is dependent on the space in the unit, usually it is best to maximize your space by getting a stackable washer and dryer. This will allow you to make the most of vertical space and free up space for other, more important items. To ensure that you have a high quality washer and dryer unit, we recommend investing in good quality brand names such as Bosch, GE, Maytag, or LG brands. They may be more expensive than knockoff brands, but they will last so much longer and will age better than other units that may start falling apart after a year or two--and end in less service calls. Instead of having to replace the unit every few years, it’s worth it to drop some extra money upfront and use the machines for years to come.
Similarly, we have the same recommendations for kitchen appliances. Instead of gambling and hoping to find affordable appliances, if you have the money, it is surely worth it to find a high quality fridge and stove. The extra upfront cost will be balanced out by the peace of mind of the reliability of these goods. You will also need a rangehood, and to save space, a microwave rangehood combo (also known as an OTR or Over the Range Microwave) to protect cabinets from fire and grease.
As we mentioned in our previous blog, your secondary dwelling unit does not need to be your dream home or look like a 5-star hotel. It just needs to be clean and well maintained. So after investing in some pricey appliances and safety features that are essential, light fixtures and decorative pieces are where you can choose more affordable options. While this light might not be the most stunning, it is from a good brand that produces decent quality products at a decent price. It is also low-profile, helpful with low basement ceilings.
The same idea stands for kitchen sinks: it just needs to be good quality, but not necessarily the most beautiful. Both of the following options will get the job done and deciding which one is for you will entirely depend on your preference and space available. If you’ve got plenty of counter space, a double kitchen sink will provide some extra wash space. Otherwise, the single sink will also work well. These two Elkay sinks also have a lip around them that will help protect countertops.
Last but certainly not least, you should get a pack of furnace filters to keep next to the furnace so that they will be right there whenever you need to change the filter. Filters should be changed every 90 days and not doing so will force your furnace to work harder than it needs to, which will then lead to parts breaking prematurely. Checking in regularly to replace the filter also allows you to keep an eye on your investment property and keep an eye out for maintenance issues that may be coming up. Keep track of the size you need for your furnace for easy reordering.
Now that you have all your systems and machines set up, you will be able to enjoy all the advantages of having a secondary dwelling unit. All that’s left is finding the perfect tenant!
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