Oct 12, 2022

Sterling Homes Calgary Launches Preplanned Legal Basement Suites

Calgary, AB – Sterling Homes Calgary is now offering preplanned legal basement suites as part of its product options to meet customer needs for separate living spaces for multi-generational families, investment income options, and increased affordability when it comes to homeownership.

Prior to the launch of the preplanned legal basement suites earlier this year, Sterling Homes Calgary noticed that home prices were taking off in the Calgary market and that homeownership was becoming less affordable for many families.

Curt Keil, Vice-President, Sterling Homes Calgary, reached out to Gary Mertens, Regional Vice-President, British Columbia, to learn what he and his team were doing in Metro Vancouver, where the market has been more expensive for quite some time.

Curt said he learned from speaking to Gary that 99 percent of the homes built in Vancouver have regulation basement suites.

“That was an eye-opener for us to realize that as our market gets more expensive, and as homeownership gets more unaffordable with increasing interest rates, we’ll need to get ahead of it,” he said. “We realized we need all of our plans, our full availability of product, to have regulation basement suites designed.”

While Sterling Homes Calgary already had basement suite options available for customers, these were typically custom development plans, which can create extra challenges when trying to balance customer expectations and regulations/requirements to meet building code. These challenges include the size and placement of mechanical rooms, ventilation requirements, and overall functional layouts of a basement suite to make a tenant or family feel at home.

Having preplanned legal (or regulation) basement suites that don’t allow for extensive changes means both customers and the Sterling Homes Calgary team know what to expect ahead of time, providing the opportunity to tighten up timelines for completion.

To create the preplanned legal basement suite options, a drafting person worked full-time for three months designing one- and two-bedroom options for each plan Sterling Homes Calgary has. The work also involved collaborating with WM Schmidt for the plumbing and mechanical aspects of the legal basement suites, as well as Empire Drywall for the drywalling and sealing aspects, as well as design consultation.

“Working with WM Schmidt and Empire Drywall made it an easier process,” said Curt. “They’ve really worked as our partners in developing these, knowing that it will help us sell long-term, but also make their job easier with eliminating customization to our legal basement suites. That partnership was helpful in getting this project launched in a timely manner.”

The collaborative work results in one- and two-bedroom regulation basement suite options that meet code, allowing a homeowner to legally have tenant occupants in the basement. As part of the launch of these new preplanned legal basement suites, Sterling Homes Calgary is offering a $25,000 promo for homeowners who choose a legal suite option.

Choosing a legal basement suite does involve some sacrifice of usable space in the basement, but Curt noted that most people don’t use that space right away anyway and are also happy with the amount of space included in the upper levels of the homes.

The preplanned legal basement suites are especially appealing to a few different customer types.

One group are investment buyers, who are purchasing the homes as investment properties to rent out with multiple level streams of income. The second are buyers who want to rent out the basement suite while living in the upper levels to help cover the cost of their mortgage. And the third are multi-generational families and co-sharing couples who often split the cost of the mortgage and live under the same roof, though with separate living spaces.



The extra income from renting a basement suite at market can mean homebuyers may qualify for a larger mortgage with less income, since that extra rental income can help offset some of the cost of the mortgage. According to Joel Aksenchuk, Vice-President, Empire Drywall Calgary, more buyers qualifying for mortgages benefits both homebuyers, homebuilders and trades.

“Legal suites allow Sterling Homes Calgary to make more sales because homeowners can now qualify with this additional revenue from renting out the basement,” said Joel. “Especially with mortgage rates rising, this could help increase sales for the builder, which in turn would create more houses to work on for all the trade partners involved. This work also increases the scope of work and total income for work completed for trades, which will be important in a future market where sales volume will likely be slower.”

Aside from being an attractive option for homebuyers, the suites are also appealing for those looking to rent in Calgary, since the cost of rent has been increasing and there are often only apartment or apartment-style condos available. These legal basement suites offer an alternative for those who want to live in neighbourhoods with single-family homes, new schools and amenities.

Joe Webster, Heating Manager, WM Schmidt, said he believes legal suites will be more common and popular going forward for a number of reasons.

“Aside from the benefits for the homeowner, other benefits include reducing our carbon footprint by allowing more families to live comfortably in what would otherwise be single-family homes, as well as helping us condense our city’s population, which will reduce infrastructure cost and reduce taxes,” he said.

So far, rough-in options that set homeowners up to have a legal basement suite added in the future are just as popular as adding the completed legal suite during the homebuilding process. According to Curt, Sterling Homes have sold 15 regulation basement suites and 13 rough-in suite products this year.

The team is also trying a number of spec homes with rough-in product and full suites, which will hit the market in spring 2023.

“The spec homes will allow us, from a marketing standpoint, to really leverage this programming, alongside our ‘Quick Possession Without the Wait’ program,” said Curt. “We’re trying to make these homes with preplanned legal basement suites easier to sell and easier to buy. Ultimately, we are doing what we can to enhance people’s lives by making homeownership more attainable.”

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