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What you need to know about residential outbuildings

By ATB Financial 2 March 2020 3 min read

If you have or have ever wanted an outbuilding on your property, you know that they have been tricky to finance. There are many different types, requirements and uses associated with them, and in the past, banks have been leery of valuing them as part of a mortgage. Let’s take a deeper dive into what is considered an outbuilding and how recent changes to valuation for outbuildings at ATB have impacted financing options.


What exactly is a residential outbuilding?

A residential outbuilding is a detached structure that is part of a residential property. There can be many different types of outbuildings, but when we are talking about mortgage financing, we are referring to an outbuilding that is for personal use. These can look different depending on if you are in a rural or an urban setting.

Rural residential outbuildings

There are many different variations of rural outbuildings because there is often more room available. These buildings can be used for storing vehicles, equipment, and other recreational vehicles, provide a space to dabble in hobbies or as a gathering place for neighbours, friends and family (sometimes all of the above). There is also the "shouse” or “shop house" which is simply put, one large building that's part-shop and part-house.


Example of a rural residential outbuilding.


Urban residential outbuildings

For urban homes, we often think of a single-family home with an attached garage and a yard. That's not always the case, especially in recent years. Many people want a second detached garage to store their vehicles or ‘toys’ or to have a place to get-away (sometimes referred to as a "man-cave" or ”she-shed").

Urban outbuildings can also include multi-generational households in the form of carriage or laneway homes. These are typically a smaller home (often a loft above a garage) located on the property.


Example of an urban residential outbuilding.


What are my options for financing a residential outbuilding?

Historically, there was never a rule to support valuing a residential outbuilding for financing and as such, could not be included as part of a residential mortgage. They primarily had to be financed either with cash, or various forms of potentially high-interest personal credit.


How have financing options changed for outbuildings?

ATB has developed and launched new rules and guidelines which provide the opportunity to include outbuildings in the overall valuation and mortgage of the property. In short, homeowners may now be able to unlock equity and access financing in the most affordable way possible to enhance their property and not have the burden of paying for the entire project out of pocket.

For example, if a homeowner would like to build a new structure on their property, they should talk to their banker about their plans. They will also need to learn more about the permit requirements within their local municipality or county. At that point, the homeowner can potentially refinance their mortgage to include the valuation of the outbuilding to secure the financing to get started on the project.


What are the steps to building a new outbuilding or upgrading an existing one?

There are five simple steps to remember:

  1. Research the permit requirements in your county or municipality to understand what kind of documentation and requirements are needed for approval. Most requirements are available online through your county or municipality website.
  2. Reach out to your financial institution to determine what you can secure for financing before you start the project. (To note, as of March 2, 2020, this is an ATB exclusive rule change in Alberta, so we know who you should reach out to...)
  3. Decide on how you will construct your building and what kind of resources you will need to make it happen, such as contractors, planners, tradespeople, etc.
  4. Secure quotes to determine the overall cost to build your outbuilding.
  5. Circle back with your banker or branch to finalize your financing needs.


If you are thinking about building or updating an outbuilding on your property, talk to your banker or visit your local ATB branch to understand how you can access the value of your residential outbuilding.


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