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Secondary suites are a unique type of home upgrade that come with their fair share of advantages – both from a financial and lifestyle perspective. However, along with these benefits, they also come with a lot of special considerations. 

In this blog, we’ll go over some secondary suite basics to help you get a general idea of whether or not one may make a good addition to your home. 

Wish to learn more about property upgrades that offer a strong payoff? Click here to check out our blog about eco-friendly ways to boost your home’s value.  

What is a Secondary Suite?

The term ‘secondary suite’ applies to an independent living space that’s attached or built-in to an existing property. Occasionally these may also be referred to as in-law suites, nanny suites, or even apartments. 

In the real estate world, we use the term secondary dwelling unit (SDU). 

Like most other types of property, SDUs are regulated by the Provincial government’s Ontario Building Code (OBC) with additional bylaws and regulations coming into play at the local or municipal level. As secondary suites in Ottawa fall under Ontario law, there are a handful of formal characteristics that define them – including: 


  • Private sleeping quarters
  • A bathroom
  • A kitchen or cooking facilities 

In order to qualify as a legal SDU, these features must be located in a separate, self-contained area of the property. For instance, if you choose to rent out a spare bedroom in your home to a tenant who will be sharing the main areas with you – this would not be considered a secondary suite. 

Before you build, consult the OBC to ensure you’re aware of all relevant requirements or restrictions.

Gearing up to buy a home? Explore these related blog posts for helpful advice. 

Why do Homeowners Build Secondary Suites?

Speaking broadly, most homeowners consider adding a secondary suite to their property for the financial benefits. By renting out a portion of your home, you can earn reliable supplementary income on a  monthly basis. These funds can then be used to help pay off your mortgage, cover other home expenses, or simply help you enjoy greater financial stability. On top of the short-term financial benefits, adding a secondary suite can also boost your home’s resale value down the line. 

Multi-Generational Living 

SDUs have also proven popular with homeowners who are seeking opportunities for multi-generational living. As shifting economic and social factors influence the local real estate landscape, multi-generational living has become slightly more prominent in the National Capital Region. 

One of the unique advantages of using a secondary suite for this purpose is the flexibility. For instance, if you’re a parent with children who are in their 20s, a secondary suite could be an affordable housing option for them as they save up to buy their own home.

Or, perhaps your parents or in-laws will be looking to downsize from their home in search of something smaller. A secondary suite could be a great way for them to stay close to family. 

Before You Build: Important Considerations

While SDUs offer their advantages, it’s important to recognize that adding one to your home is not a small process by any means. Constructing a safe, legal, and financially viable secondary suite requires careful planning and professional guidance. 

You’ll also be navigating plenty of red tape, both locally and provincially. From licensing and permits to building codes, inspections, and everything in between, there are simply no shortcuts when it comes to secondary suites. 

That being said, as a homeowner, it is totally possible to add a secondary suite to your home (if regulations allow it) without getting overwhelmed or lost in the process. With a professional expert by your side, you can build a secondary suite that adds value to your home, provides opportunities for earning passive income, or makes a great home for a family member. 

Thinking about buying your first home? Check out these other blogs from our site for a look at what you can expect from your buying experience.  

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of adding a secondary suite to your home, the best place to start is by speaking to a local real estate agent – like The Wright Team. 

With over 40 years of industry experience, we know housing in Ottawa and the National Capital Region inside and out. However you may be looking to improve your home, we can provide personal advice to help avoid risk and make the most of your investment.  

Along with our industry expertise, we have a wide network of professionals to support your goals. If you need, we can connect you to local contractors and tradespeople who can help you bring your vision to life. 

Looking for a local real estate team who can guide you through value-adding home improvements? The Wright Team can help! Call 613-692-0606 or send us an email at to get in touch.