While coach houses are well-known in Vancouver, a new project in Coquitlam is the first of its kind in that community. At Morningstar's Somerton 34-home development, 21 of the houses come with a one-bedroom coach house above the garage.
Apparently, it's a popular idea. More than half of the houses with coach homes have sold out, said Deborah Calahan, vice-president of sales and marketing for Morningstar Homes. The 13 homes without a coach house are built to accommodate a legal basement suite; sales of those homes have just begun.
The UDI/FortisBC Housing Affordability Index for B.C. shows that less than 40.9 per cent of working households in inner Metro - which includes Coquitlam, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond/ Delta, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam - earn the $94,002 or more necessary to qualify for the $2,507-a-month mortgage payment required for the average new single-family home in the area, with a median price of about $850,000. Those figures are for re-sale homes; there is not enough data to calculate an accurate median price for new single-family homes.
Despite being new homes, prices at Somerton are lower than the median price for resale homes; they range from $649,900 to $809,900. The houses are just over 3,000 square feet each, including the basement, which can be purchased finished or unfinished, while the coach houses are about 500 square feet.
As a single-family home development, Somerton has not attracted many first-time buyers. Instead, it's people looking to either move up, or move laterally into a new home that are choosing to buy at Somerton, Calahan said.
"Usually, in order to buy a single-family home in the Lower Mainland, you need to have already been a homeowner, unless your parents are helping you out," Cala-han said. "Generally, we don't see that first-time homebuyer."
Somerton is on Roxton Avenue in Coquitlam, in a residential area near Leigh elementary school and Coast Meridian Road. The community is expecting SkyTrain's Evergreen Line to be ready for commuters in 2016.
"There has been amazing growth here over the past five years," Calahan said.
Calahan said buyers have come from all over Metro, including the Tri-Cities area, Burnaby and North Vancouver. She said the Somerton project has not seen a lot of offshore buyers. Many of the buyers are not planning to rent out the coach house - instead they intend to have their aging parent or university-age child live in the separate accommodation, Cala-han said. It also makes a good nanny suite or in-home office, she said.
If a buyer did choose to rent out the coach house, Calahan conservatively estimated they could get about $800 to $1,000 a month to help out with their mortgage. She said two-bedroom suites nearby are renting for between $1,000 and $1,200, while the coach houses are new and feel like a home unto themselves.
"These coach houses are like none other. They've got vaulted ceilings, picture windows and even a window seat in the bedroom," Calahan said. "It's like a mini-home and it's amazing."
The coach houses have private patios, a parking space and in-suite laundry.
An extra $1,000 per month in income could mean the ability to borrow and repay as much as $200,000 more on a mortgage. To buy a home in Somerton for $725,000, with $1,000 a month rent from the coach house, a family would need a down payment of about $145,000 and an additional annual income of about $86,680 before the additional rent to qualify and repay a mortgage of $580,000.
"If you run the numbers of a price of owning a home with renting out (a coach house), it becomes quite practical for a lot of people," Calahan said.
She said the city of Coquitlam approved this project as a bit of a test to see how coach houses could work in the community, but that it is possible there could be more in the future.
As the coach houses are built above the garages, the size of the yard does not change, Calahan said.