Upstairs & Downstairs InvestmentPublished on March 9, 2016

  • Jeff and Kathy McVeigh
    Photo by: MARK HOLLERON

  • Before: Kitchen
    Photo by: MARK HOLLERON

  • After: Kitchen & Dinning Room
    Photo by: MARK HOLLERON

  • After: Dinning Room
    Photo by: MARK HOLLERON

  • After: Dinning Room
    Photo by: MARK HOLLERON

As an award-winning team with Royal LePage, Jeff and Kathy McVeigh have shared many years together selling real estate in the Ottawa area. So when it came to buying a property that could accommodate a self-contained rental apartment, their professional experience was a big asset – even more so since that property would be their own home and would need renovating from top to bottom.

After raising three children in a large family home in the suburbs of Findlay Creek, it was time to for the couple to downsize and move in closer to their city office. The husband-and-wife duo already owned some rental properties, but were looking to invest in a home that was perfect for them, as well as meeting requirements to include a basement apartment that would appeal to suitable tenants.

As experienced property investors, the McVeighs knew the type of home they wanted and the ideal location. They were well-acquainted with the Billings Bridge/Heron Park area, which is close to Carleton University and colleges that have steady accommodation needs. Kathy describes the neighbourhood as, “full of large two-storeyed, semi-detached and bungalows on big lots.” Here, on a relatively quiet street close to the park, they bought a three-bedroom, two-storey semi with a full basement.

“It’s a very desirable type of property for investors – a well-built, square-shaped brick home that is easy to duplex. And typical of homes built in the '50s and '60s, it has a side door that allows separate entry to the basement unit,” says Kathy who emphasizes the importance of complying with all building regulations and city bylaws in constructing a secondary dwelling in your home. These cover topics such as fire and safety issues, separate entry requirements, sound-proofing, utilities and more.

In addition to the structural and legal aspects of owning a rental unit, Kathy also notes that they were careful to address any concerns in the neighbourhood. “As it has a well-established and strong community, Jeff wanted to get involved to let people know that we are responsible neighbours and landlords. We recognize the importance of tenant selection for them and us, especially when you have people living below you.” She adds that thorough vetting is essential, as well as talking honestly about your lifestyle. “For instance, we like to entertain on the weekends, and everyone has to understand there will always be some sound transfer – it cannot be eliminated completely.”

Currently, they have an approved tenant they know very well. Their 25-year-old daughter recently returned to Ottawa after living in Toronto, and is enjoying the large basement apartment that has a brand new kitchen in an open-concept living area with a separate bedroom, bathroom and laundry. Intergenerational living at its best!

With the professional design and construction expenses associated with installing the apartment, the McVeighs wanted to minimize the cost of renovating their home spaces without compromising comfort and style. A handy guy himself, Jeff acted as the general contractor for the project, which involved extensive gutting to remove walls, all old cabinetry, vanities and appliances, along with funky flooring and wild tiling patterns.

“We opened everything up on the main floor, so there is no front hall and you walk straight into the living room,” says Kathy. “It gives us more usable space, and we really recreated what we had in Findlay Creek where we lived mostly in the kitchen, eating area and family room.”

The kitchen was renovated with sleek white Ikea cabinetry and a big new breakfast bar. It combines with the dining area, which includes a must-have feature for Kathy – a stylish built-in buffet with upper cabinets, again by Ikea All flooring was replaced with hardwood, and the two full bathrooms were beautifully renovated with a stacked laundry added to the second floor.

One of the benefits of being realtors and viewing thousands of place is that the McVeighs can usually see the bare bones of a home through old or bad renovations and ugly decorating choices. “I don’t even care if a home is dirty,” laughs Kathy. “I look for a good solid building with a great street location – and it’s a bonus if the roof and windows are in good condition.”

While living through the long renovating process was hard for Kathy, she reports that they are both pleased with their wonderful new spaces and centrally located neighbourhood. “I love being 10 minutes to everywhere – it’s just great!”

Jane Whiting

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