blog Buying a Home

Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Our experts dive into different types of secondary suites, the benefits of choosing a home that includes a secondary suite, and some important differences between garage, or garden suites, and basement suites in Edmonton.

What is a secondary or income suite?

A secondary suite, sometimes called an income suite, is simply an area either in your home (or on your property) that is rented out for additional income.

The two living spaces are completely separate from one another, which can be a welcomed bonus for people or families who enjoy their privacy, but want to make use of extra space.

Each of the two living spaces include a kitchen, bathroom, living space, furnace, and at least one bedroom.

What are the benefits of a secondary suite?

  1. A secondary suite provides extra income.

Perhaps the most popular benefit of a secondary or income suite is that it helps you with your mortgage and financing. Fall in love with a home just a tad over your budget? If the home you are hoping to buy includes an income suite and you are able to arrange and prove a renter, lenders will actually include the future rent payments as income when calculating your debt servicing ratios, and determining whether or not you qualify for the home.

  1. A secondary suite helps you build equity in your home faster. 

When your home includes an income suite, you’re essentially enjoying the benefit of someone else paying (or at least contributing towards) your mortgage! When the time comes to sell, you will have paid down more of your mortgage than you would have if you were living in the space alone. 

  1. A secondary suite allows for multi-generational living situations. 

Many different cultures from around the world still honor the tradition of having grandparents live with them. It’s also common for adult children to live at home for longer while achieving higher levels of education. Secondary suites allow for families to enjoy closeness, while still having the option for privacy too.

  1. A secondary suite helps reduce urban sprawl. 

By using the space more efficiently, more people are able to live on the same piece of land, which reduces the need for communities to continue to build outwards.

Who rents secondary suites in Edmonton?

  • Students – we’ve all been there, searching for a private, quiet, affordable place to make Kraft Dinner, put our bed and clothes, sleep, shower and study. The wonder years.
  • New professionals – they’ve started a career and are ready to work hard, but they want a safe and affordable place to live as they save towards a downpayment of their own.
  • World travellers – they live to work enough to cover their expenses and plan their next adventure.
  • Empty nesters – kids have moved out (hallelujah!) and they don’t need their big house anymore.
  • Those undergoing life transitions –  Whether it’s newly singles, new career choices, or simply making a change of province/city, your income property could be the bridge to someone starting a big part of their life over again.

How much money can I make from renting a secondary suite in Edmonton?

Typically, in the Edmonton market, a brand-new secondary suite rents for $800 – $1,200 per month. Kijiji and RentFaster are great online sources to see what rental rates landlords are advertising in the area you’re thinking of building. 

What you can charge for rent entirely depends on how large the space is, how many bathrooms and bedrooms there are, and whether the suite includes things like an in-suite laundry and a dishwasher. Don’t forget location, too!

What are the different types of secondary (income) suites in Edmonton?

The City of Edmonton defines a secondary suite as, “a separate dwelling located within a single-detached, semi-detached, or row house with its own living, cooking, sleeping and sanitary facilities. A suite may be created through the development or conversion of a basement or other interior space within a house, accessed without passing through the principal (main) dwelling, such as through common interior space, or directly into the suite from outside.”

There are two common types of secondary suites in Edmonton:

What is a garage suite?

A garage (garden) suite is a single or two story suite built on top of your garage. There is a lot of versatility when it comes to garden suites, they can have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and some even have balconies.

According to the City of Edmonton, ​a garden suite is “a self-contained dwelling located in an accessory building that is physically separate from the principal single detached dwelling and which may include a garage. Typically, garden suites are single or two storey structures built in the back yards of single detached homes and must have their own kitchen, bathroom, and living space. You may also know them as garage suites, carriage houses, backyard suites or laneway homes.”

What is a basement suite?

Basement suites are probably what you think of when you hear “income property” or “secondary suite,” as they have been around a lot longer than garden suites. 

Basement suites are often accessed through a separate entrance on the side or rear of the house, and can be built in homes with walkout basements for extra light. Basement suites have long been known as a great alternative to living in an apartment as they provide a little more privacy (only one set of neighbours) and are often a little larger in size.

Basement suites are essentially a finished, liveable basement that is rented out and includes a separate entrance, kitchen and bathroom, among other things. 

How Do I Choose Between Building a Basement Suite or a Garden Suite?

By comparing the Pros and Cons of both types of suites, you may find that one is a better fit for your home:

Pros of a Basement Suite:

  • Less expensive to build
  • More common and well-known
  • Water, sewage and gas lines are already connected so the build takes less time than a garden suite

Cons of a Basement Suite:

  • Tenants live below ground with less natural light and airflow
  • Shared ceiling and sometimes entrances
  • Food smells from different suites can permeate
  • More risk with emergencies in case of fire or flood

Pros of a Garage Suite:

  • More privacy, no shared walls or entrances with your tenants
  • Tenants get to live entirely above ground with more sunlight, airflow, and windows
  • Less risk in case of emergency such as fire or flooding

Cons of a Garage Suite:

  • More expensive to build
  • Take up more of your yard
  • Different bylaws to follow

What makes a secondary suite legal in Edmonton?

To be legal, a secondary suite must have proper permits, or you will be heavily fined and either be forced to stop collecting rent or apply for permits and be charged additional fees on top of that.

The City of Edmonton says that a legal secondary (income) suite must have: 

  • Legal permits
  • 9′ basement foundation wall (for basement suites)
  • An additional side entrance
  • Additional furnace & hot water tank
  • Additional appliance package
  • Extra fire & sound protection

What is considered an illegal secondary suite?

Simply put, a secondary (income) suite is illegal if it has not passed the City of Edmonton’s requirements and received the proper permits. If your suite does not have a separate entrance, its own hot water tank and furnace, appliances, and fire/sound protection, it is not legal.

You can learn more about secondary suite permits and requirements on the City of Edmonton website.

What is an in-law suite?

An in-law suite is another type of secondary suite, and it could be either a basement suite, a garage suite, or built into the main or upper floors of your home.

Typically when we talk about in-law suites, we’re not talking about renting to tenants but instead having a suite for family members. If an in-law suite does not have a separate entrance, it cannot be considered a legal secondary suite.

How do I get a secondary suite in Edmonton?

Ready to gain additional income by renting a secondary suite? Here are the options:

  1. Retrofit an existing basement.

Already have a house you love and some extra space in the basement? You can explore retrofitting your basement to be a secondary suite. Keep all of the City of Edmonton’s requirements and permitting in mind as you determine whether this will work for your property. 

Some basements are easier to remodel than others. It’s best to seek a professional opinion before starting this process. You could easily sink thousands of dollars into this project to find out that you won’t be able to get approved by the City.

  1. Build a new garage suite.

If you have the room in your backyard, consider building a new garage suite. If you already need to replace your garage, this can be a good option for adding some additional value to your property.

There are very specific rules about the locations that can build a garden/garage suite. Make sure your neighbourhood is zoned for this type of secondary suite before you start planning!

  1. Choose an Edmonton home builder with expertise in basement and garden suites.

Lincolnberg Master Builder is proud to be one of the leading Edmonton home builders when it comes to building beautiful, income-generating secondary suites and we’d love to learn about your needs and begin the conversation.

Building a new home with a secondary suite included in the plans is beneficial for a number of reasons:

  1. A builder with expertise in secondary suites will know exactly what the requirements are and plan accordingly, so you don’t have to worry about it
  2. You can create the ideal secondary suite that is more likely to be rented (and for higher income!) than something retrofitted later that is at the whims of the original build
  3. Even if you decide not to rent out your secondary suite, you can use that space for your family day-to-day. It can also be ideal for guests!
  4. Having a secondary suite is great for resale down the road, as many buyers are interested in generating additional income!


 Should I Buy Or Rent A House? [Edmonton]

7+ Surprising Tips I Wish I Knew As A First-Time Home Buyer


To learn more about building a Lincolnberg home with a secondary suite, browse our new home models, explore our communities or connect with one of our Area Managers today!

Back to Blog