11/16/2013 01:07 EST

Vancouver Real Estate: Backyard Affordability Solutions (PHOTOS)

Westcoast Outbuildings

What's a Vancouver-area homeowner to do when they run out of space and they can't afford to move house? Look to their back yard for inspiration, perhaps.

Property owners are increasingly turning to affordable backyard options for offices, studios—even separate bedrooms—as alternatives to buying new houses and moving to far-flung suburbs.

The trend has been a boon for Westcoast Outbuildings, a North Vancouver-based company specializing in small structures that has seen its sales double this year.

"With the economy the way it is and with land costs, a backyard office or a backyard room, in some cases a playroom for kids, that is far more economical than A, moving or B, a traditional renovation," owner Geoff Baker told The Huffington Post B.C.

Cost is clearly the draw, here. Remodelling a home can cost as much as $300,000, and many of these smaller studios are estimated at anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000.

Westcoast client Plamen Apostolov was stuck with a daily commute of 2.5 hours between his Aldergrove home and his office in Delta, before contacting Westcoast Outbuildings and building an eight-foot by 12-foot backyard office with running heat, electricity, high-speed internet and two work stations.

Other clients have been desperate for more living space. A New Westminster family looked at renovating their home but soon discovered it was out of reach for them financially.

So they bought a 96-sq.-ft. backyard bedroom kit from Westcoast and outfitted it with heat and electricity. The tiny space holds a bed and not much else—no bathroom, for example—and that's where their 15-year-old daughter now sleeps.

Check out some images of backyard affordability solutions in Metro Vancouver. The story continues below the slideshow:

Photo gallery Backyard Living Spaces In Metro Vancouver See Gallery

Structures under 110 sq.-ft. can be built without a permit under the BC Building Code, but turning them into living spaces is another matter entirely, said Blair Fryer, communications manager at the City of New Westminster.

"It would need to comply for life safety," he told The Huffington Post B.C.

"Life safety would include an additional door or egress in case of fire, as well as smoke detection and that type of thing, and that would then trigger a requirement for a permit."

Westcoast Outbuildings knew the New West. structure was to be used for a bedroom and advised the clients on what measures and permits would need to be undertaken and applied for, but, Baker told The Huffington Post B.C., at that point, it was the clients' responsibility.

Steve Curtis at Vancouver's Backyard Works said that outdoor studios aren't intended as living spaces, unlike the popular laneway housing developments that have popped up around Vancouver.

"These are more working spaces, study spaces, workshop spaces," he said. "Not to say they couldn't be slept in, but that's not really their technical purpose, so to speak."

In one instance, a client from North Vancouver needed more space to run his business from home. With a second child on the way, he was running out of space in his house.

Curtis built the Kallio Studio, an eight-foot by 12-foot structure in the man's backyard with cedar siding, fibreglass patio doors and a small bathroom.

The client even put a leather IKEA sofa in the space that allows it to serve as a guest house for when his in-laws come to visit.

"It's a retreat," Curtis said.

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