Should You Have a Mother-in-Law Suite?


In-law suites can be either attached or detached. They can consist of simply a room or can include a bedroom, bath, kitchen, and living area. Many times they have their own entrance to afford more privacy. 

Some examples:

  • ⬥ A converted garage
  • ⬥ An apartment over the garage
  • ⬥ Finished basement apartment
  • ⬥ Detached guest house

Other uses for mother-in-law suites

If you don’t have a family member in need of your in-law suite, it could benefit you as a homeowner in other ways.:

As a home office

If you work from home you could take advantage of tax breaks by having a dedicated space for your home office. You also have the benefit of closing the door to avoid being disturbed when you’re working.

Separating your “work” life from your “home” life becomes very easy with an in-law suite. Since it often comes with a bathroom and kitchen you never have to leave your space during office hours.

As guest quarters

An obvious use of an in-law suite is as guest quarters. Your “out-of-town” visitors can enjoy a comfortable, private place to stay when they come to visit.

As a living area for an older child

Adult children who are attending school and/or who are in the process of becoming financially ready to go it on their own can benefit from an in-law suite.

They can enjoy some semblance of autonomy and could pay less rent than if they were to try moving out on their own.

Rental unit

A mother-in-law apartment can be rented out either in the short or long term. This can be done through a property manager or through a service such as Airbnb.

Pros and cons of in-law suites

As with all things in life, there are pros and cons of homes that come with in-law suites.

Here are some of the advantages, in no particular order:

You can provide a low-cost option for your family member’s housing needs as they won’t need to pay for their own housing. This gives them the option to use their retirement funds for other needs such as medicine, insurance, and groceries.

If health issues are a concern the close proximity is beneficial for caregiving requirements. Yet, it still allows for some independence, depending on the needs of your aging family member.

As noted earlier, if you have a separate dwelling it’s beneficial when guests come to call.

Another benefit is storage space. If your garage or shed is full a mother-in-law suite can be used as storage space. Extra furniture, large sports equipment (snowboards), and seasonal items can be stored here without the worry of theft or damage.


While not necessarily a disadvantage, you could incur additional costs to accommodate your aging parent.

For example, depending on your situation this could include modifications such as:

  • ⬥ an electronic stair-lift
  • ⬥ safety rails in the tub/shower
  • ⬥ ramps

This is true whether you’re building an in-law suite or buying a home that includes one.

Higher utility costs could negate any rental income you might receive from renting out your second dwelling unit.

If you’re planning to build an in-law suite you could run into issues with the local zoning and regulation authorities. 

Insurance coverage may not cover your in-law suite – or could offer coverage at substantially higher rates.

Whether or not you have renters you’ll have more maintenance costs, especially if your in-law suite has its own bath and kitchen. And with more area to clean, you’ll also add to your routine household management tasks.

How it affects house value

In 2013, the National Association of RealtorsHome Features Survey asked purchasers what home features were important to them.

In addition to more closet and storage space, buyers were willing to pay more for a home if it included a basement and in-law suite.

If you’re thinking of adding – or buying – a home that comes with an in-law apartment it could prove financially beneficial in the event you decide to sell.