It comes as no surprise that Vancouver residents are looking for innovative, simple ways to expand their space. With the area’s rent and housing market steadily increasing, homeowners want to make the most of their properties.
In recent years, we’ve seen a huge boost in the popularity of laneway homes in the backs of people’s properties. Whether they’re serving as a potential income generator or simply as an extension of the main house, laneway houses seem to have taken many Vancouver neighborhoods by storm.
But what exactly are these backyard houses – and why do people want them?
What Exactly Is a Laneway House?
Somewhat similar to “coach houses,” laneway houses are tiny houses that are built behind or on the same property as the main house. Some people might call them a “mother-in-law suite.”
Laneway houses typically include a living space complete with a full kitchen, washer, dryer, and other essentials. They usually range from 600 to 900 square feet in size and cost between $350,000 to $400,000 to build, depending on optional features and additions.
In years prior, Vancouver law required that laneway houses also incorporate a garage. That’s no longer true, but modern laneway houses do need a designated, easily accessible parking space.
These mini-homes provide a variety of opportunities, including the chance to build extra housing on-property that is not a part of a basement or physically attached to the main house.
If you’re considering building a laneway house in Vancouver, don’t rush into the project without considering the home’s purpose. The manner in which you plan to use the space will influence its design and construction.
In our experience as laneway house builders, clients tend to choose them for one (or multiple) of the following reasons.
1. Multigenerational Home Option
One of the most common reasons homeowners choose to build a laneway house is to house family members separately but on the same property.
As of 2020, nearly 1.5 million Canadians had moved back in with their parents. Some chose to do so to save money during the pandemic (or simply to avoid being alone during quarantine). Others were pushed to do so to care for their parents or by their own financial circumstances.
With Vancouver becoming an increasingly competitive place to buy or rent homes, we’re not surprised to see more multigenerational home options appearing – including laneway houses.
Some parents want to consider an “at-home” living solution for their now-adult children. Other people want a space where their aging parents can live close by but still have personal space.
Because laneway houses have all of the essentials needed to live comfortably and can be decently sized depending on your property’s size, they can be an excellent solution for family living. As more and more Canadians worry about housing affordability and Vancouver’s hot market, it’s not a bad idea to think about using their current property wisely.
2. Visitor Accommodations
The second reason we see Vancouver residents build laneway houses is to extend their guest space. We all want our families to visit occasionally, but it’s always nice to have an option that’s separate but still nearby for in-laws and cousins during the holidays.
Laneway houses make excellent “guest houses” because they are spacious, private, and versatile. Whether you’re housing some temporary Christmas visitors or extended family all summer, a laneway house can serve as a comfortable space for family and friends.
3. Potential Income Property
The third reason we see is a little less sentimental but definitely more lucrative. Many homeowners decide to build laneway houses to increase the available rental space on their properties.
Considering that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is around $2,100, it’s not uncommon to see homeowners rent their laneway houses and spare space for upwards of two grand per month.
Let’s say you finance your laneway house’s construction and wind up paying $1,500/month on the loan. A renter paying over two grand would easily give you a 100% return on your investment.
Then, when you go to sell the property someday in the future, you’ve also added more square footage to the property, thus increasing its value and likely earning more on its sale.
Choosing to build a laneway house as an investment is a popular and often smart choice. However, there are some additional things to consider, such as how you will separate utilities from the main house and the renter. We’ll give a bit more into that later in the post.
4. Extra Personal Space
Lastly, we do see many homeowners build laneway houses as a way to gain some private, personal space – especially after the pandemic.
Whether you’re interested in building an at-home gym, private office, or even a “man cave,” laneway houses can be an easy way to better utilize up to 16% of your lot’s square footage (as set by the City of Vancouver).
With more than five million Canadians now working from home, at least some of the time, it’s unsurprising that many are looking for ways to expand their home’s amenities. If this is your plan, be sure to consider what you’ll need from your new space.
How to Communicate What You Need to a Designer
As you can see, each of the four reasons listed above can dramatically impact what you need and want from your laneway house.
If you’re building a home for extended family, additional sleeping space might be important. When housing elderly parents, you may need to consider excluding treacherous stairs from the design. Creating a home gym? You’ll need to think about the kinds of floors and layout that are conducive to your workouts.
Perhaps most importantly, if you plan to rent your laneway house to others, have you thought about what that will entail? You’ll likely want to separate utilities, which will require electrical and plumbing work.
As builders and designers ourselves, we know firsthand how important it is for homeowners to have a firm laneway house plan in place. You can do almost anything, but you need to know what that “anything” is upfront.
Ready to Get Started? Here’s How.
If you have a pretty solid idea of what you want to do with your laneway house, and you’re ready to get started, check out this guide from the City of Vancouver. It will help you understand more about the application process, survey requirements, and other crucial reviews.
The process of getting started can be overwhelming – but TQ Construction can help.
Reach Out to Our Top-Quality Custom Building Team
As one of Vancouver’s premier home builders and interior design firms, we specialize in custom renovations and property extensions. We’ve created and executed our fair share of laneway house designs, and we’re here to help your extra space meet your unique needs.
Share your goals and requirements with our team and we’ll bring them to life. To schedule your initial consultation or ask questions, call 604-430-9900. You can also reach a TQ Construction representative by sending us a message online.