The numbers and the experience of buyers are saying that we’re moving from a long-held buyers market into the seller’s market zone. Well-priced and well-kept homes are selling within days of being listed and often with competing offers. This pushes the sale price up over list in some situations, which is great for sellers. As I’ve mentioned before, for the past several years, buyers have had the luxury of waiting, thinking and often offering low on the homes that have been available. Most frustrating for sellers! However, April was a very active month in the Powell River real estate market with 40 sales, up from 30 in March. Sellers responded with 60 new listings on in April, up from 42 in March. The early days of May are showing similar activity in the market as “the good ones” go quickly! In our small market, its difficult to find reliable stats about a rise in price, but there are some indications that prices are up about 2% over last year. We’ll watch and see how this progresses. For buyers, you need to keep in touch with your realtor, get out to see the ones that look good and make decisions quickly. Sellers: Get it on the market now while things are hot!
It sounds so good in the MLS write-up to hear that the suite in the basement of the house will help to make those mortgage payments, but as always: “Buyer Beware”! There is lots of R2 zoning in Powell River which makes it seem like the suite in the basement might be okay. However, the zoning alone doesn’t give permission to rent out parts of your house as a suite. Legally, the city requires the following things to allow a suite in your home:
The area must be zoned to allow for a secondary dwelling (R1, R2, RA1, R3, A1 and A2 zones only) and subject to the following requirements:
a) must be wholly within the primary dwelling with a separate and distinct entrance but not manifest as a second dwelling unit on the dwelling exterior
(b must meet the BC Building Code and all applicable local and Provincial codes and regulations;
(c) must pay supplementary utility charges in conformance with City bylaws;
(d) must be located in and not exceed 40% of the habitable floor area of the building, to a maximum of 90 square metres (968 sqft);
(e) must provide parking upon the lot in conformance with Part 6 of this Bylaw; and
(f) must be registered with the City and inspected by the Building Inspector prior to occupation
Building Code for Suites
No Building Permit on record = Not Legal. You may be paying the extra utilities – water, garbage, etc, but without having a permit on record showing that the work was done to code and approved by the building inspector, you’re still not legal. The BC building code is a huge document, but I asked the city building inspector about the areas that more often trip people up when adding a suite to their home. Generally, it’s about safety.
There must be a fire-resistant wall between the units. If the suite is a secondary unit by definition (under 968 sq. ft), then the codes are a bit less stringent. In such a case, one can get by with standard drywall on the wall on both sides. There must also be interconnected smoke detectors between the two dwelling areas. Also, standard forced air furnaces can be a problem because you cannot have interconnected ducts between the two units. One solution is to use remove ducting to the suite and put in electric baseboard heating. Another possibility is to use smoke detecting dampers in the ducts between the two dwellings which close if smoke is detected. The whole idea is to isolate one dwelling from the other as much as possible in the event of a fire.
Awareness is Key
When buying a home with a suite in it, REALTORS have been instructed (recently) to view an illegal suite as a material defect and must disclose its presence as such. At that point, it’s up to the buyer to find out as much as possible about what the presence of the suite means to them and their plans for the home. Typically, lenders will not accept the rent from the illegal suite as part of the buyer’s income because if the suite is shut down by the city, then that income disappears. Insurance companies don’t like illegal suites either.
Converting the suite into a legal suite by upgrading the heating and smoke detectors for example could turn into a very expensive undertaking in an older home if there are other aspects of the code that may need to be brought into line once the job begins.
It’s my understanding that the city does not actively look for illegal suites, but if a neighbour complains or it comes to the attention of the city by other means, then they may have to deal with it. In which case, the owner will either lose the income from the suite or incur possibly huge costs to make it legal.
#203 – 5701 Willow
Townsite View Condo
2 Bedr/1 Bath -963 sf with level entry
2nd floor ocean view, in-unit laundry
Easy access; close to parking
Call for a showing!