Last Updated on March 26, 2024

What is a Basement Suite? | Real Estate Definition

By Alan F Macdonald

What is a Basement Suite?

A basement suite is a separate unit, or secondary suite, in the basement of a house or duplex that allows another family or separate person to live in a home. It makes a regular single family home into a two-family home, essentially.

Real Estate Agent Explains Basement Suites

A basement suite has all the amenities that a house or apartment would have, but it is located in the basement. Basement suites must have their own kitchen, bathroom, living area and entrance to qualify as a separate unit. Basement windows have to be large enough in bedrooms to allow egress in the case of an emergency like a fire as well. The City of Edmonton maintains a number of design requirements for secondary suites. Minimum standards differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The only basement type that is typically suitable for a basement suite is a full basement.

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Why Does It Matter?

If you buy a house with a basement suite, you may be able to rent out that suite and help pay your mortgage. If you buy a revenue property with a suite in the basement, then you are often making more money on the rental property than if you let the renters have the entire home to themselves.

However, basement suites are often not ‘to code’ in many areas and may be illegal depending on the requirements in the area and setup of the suite. Be sure to check permits, local building codes and bylaws to make sure that a suite actually qualifies as a safe and legal basement suite and it’s not just a kitchen in a basement – often referred to as an in-law suite or mother in-law suite. These are not true separate suites and should not even be labelled as such, although it is a common occurrence. Ask to make sure if that suite has a permit before you buy the property. If done correctly and legally, a basement suite can really increase the value of a property. It just gives a lot more options for owners and investors.

Did you want to make a basement suite but aren’t sure where to get started? Check out my article: Choosing the Right Property for a Legal Basement Suite.

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