It’s a curious wildcard when you are buying a home: a house with an in-law suite, or mother-in-law apartment, or casita, or ohana house. No matter the name, these dwellings, which may or may not be attached to your main house, and which are intended for an older relative to have some privacy and space to themselves, are a big-ticket item when selling a house. Not many homes have them, so when yours does, it’s a major selling point. 

What Qualifies as a Mother-in-Law Suite?

Generally, to qualify as an in-law suite, the space must have a full bathroom and bedroom, preferably with at least a separate kitchenette. Some ground-floor bedroom suites in multi-story houses can actually fit the bill, although more often the term “in-law suite” means a detached cottage or apartment over a garage. Some are attached to the home, but have a clear demarcation of territory.

Why In-Law Apartments Are an Asset. 

What makes an in-law suite so sellable is that it needn’t just be used as the name intends. As more and more people work from home instead of commuting, an in-law suite can make a fine office. If you like to entertain, it’s the perfect space to house guests while giving them some peace and quiet (and you as well!). If you have an adult child who is struggling to get on their feet financially but wants their own space, this suite can fit the bill perfectly - especially if he or she pays a bit of rent each month.

Talking about earning money, an in-law suite can be rented out either short-term or long-term to make some passive income to add to your budget each month. You can lease it out by the week on Airbnb, for example, or else find a bonafide tenant to take on a lease. 

If you are thinking that you might like to add an in-law suite, expect it to be an expensive project if you are adding a detached property. You will have to check first with your municipality to make sure that such a beast is permitted. Some cities won’t allow a second kitchen, for instance, due to the increased chance of fires. Adding onto the house is seriously cheaper, possibly by half. 

If you are shopping for houses and find one with an in-law suite, give it some careful consideration. It will likely hold its value and may even be a serious benefit to your home in the form of income or extra space.