Simply put, a coach house — also known as a carriage house, secondary suite, or granny flat — is a small dwelling that exists on the same property as a larger house, most commonly located in the backyard.
Back in the 19th century, coach houses were really popular additions to homes in typically wealthier neighbourhoods. Whether they were built for relatives, guests, or even household staff to stay in, coach houses were able to serve a lot of different purposes. In fact, many coach houses from that era are still standing in some of Toronto’s older neighbourhoods!
Today, however, coach houses are making a big comeback, especially with the rise in popularity of TV shows like Tiny House Nation and Extreme Small Spaces that demonstrate just how much homeowners can do with smaller spaces.
While those popular TV shows are primarily all about how smaller homes can function as primary residences and the process of building them, there are also many other uses for small spaces like coach houses in today’s world too.
Whether you’ve considered building a new coach house-like structure from scratch or renovating an old stable or garage that already exists on your property, there’s a huge range of uses you can get out of owning one. Here are few considerations you should make if that sounds like you.
Are you the proud owner of a home with a coach house? You could be sitting on a gold mine — if you can find the right buyer, of course. Learn more about how you can sell your home for its top value by reading through my steps to selling a home here.
Can I Build One On My Property?
While I’d like to give you a clear answer here, it really comes down to a few different factors. And, at the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to your local municipality and their specific zoning and planning requirements as to whether you can build a coach house or not.
However, if you’re based in Ontario and are really motivated to build one, you might be in luck. A couple of years ago, the Province of Ontario passed some legislation that actually encourages coach houses to be built!
Why did this legislation get passed? Well, there are a few reasons, but the two biggest ones are:
- Property Affordability
- Multi-Generational Living
You see, coach houses can present homeowners with a great housing solution for both elderly family members or adult children. Instead of paying for your parents to live in more conventional seniors’ homes, you can save that money while providing them with more comfort and independence by setting them up in a coach house on your property.
Alternatively, if your kids aren’t quite ready to live on their own just yet, whether they’re still in school or recent graduates, they can find some of the privacy they’re looking for in a coach house.
One of the best ways to finance the construction of a coach house on your property for your parents to live in is by selling their current home. However, Will Safety Features Make it Harder to Sell Your Parents’ Home?
The City Always Has A Say
If you do want to build a coach house, the city still has a say in what you can build and where you can build it — even though it’s in your own backyard.
Between things like the coach house’s size, its distance from the street and other dwellings, and a lot of other particular planning details, you can definitely expect the city will have a lot to say about your coach house project.
While the input and red tape from your local municipality is always a bit of a pain, it generally has good intentions behind it. Their rules and regulations behind the building of new structures are in place to protect the property values of you and your neighbours’ homes while also ensuring your new structure doesn’t negatively impact the local environment or endanger anyone nearby.
Updating your coach house isn’t the only renovation you can do to add major value to your home’s current market value — read about the Big Home Renovations That Bring A Big Return here.
Your Steps To Building A Coach House
If you’ve got your heart set on building a coach house, the best place to start is by going down to City Hall. There, you’ll be able to ask them if there are any by-laws in your area that could prevent you from building a secondary suite or coach house.
If you’re lucky and there aren’t any prohibitive by-laws, your next step is to get a contractor to draw up some plans for your coach house. From there, you need to then submit those plans to the city for approval and wait to hear back from them. Oh, and it always helps if you cross your fingers too.
If you’ve got a pre-existing coach house or dated garage in need of an upgrade, you’ll need to find a qualified contractor to help you bring it up to standard. Get my advice on How to Find a Contractor to Renovate Your Home here.
When you hear back from the city, they’ll reply to your planning proposals with one of three answers:
- A direct denial
- A direct approval
- A denial accompanied by a list of amendments that would see your proposal accepted if completed.
In the end, building a coach house is really no different than any other construction or major renovation project. In the case of coach houses though, these types of projects are much easier to plan and facilitate now than versus a few years ago before that change in municipal legislation.
Adaptable bonus spaces like coach houses, secondary suites, and garages are among the most in-demand design trends in today’s market. Read up on the other coveted trends of today by reading about the Design Trends Buyers Are Looking For Right Now.