Are you looking to add additional living spaces to your home? Maybe you want to have space for family members to stay with you, or maybe you’re looking to rent out the space for extra income on a site like Airbnb. Whatever the case may be, an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, may be the right choice. Read on to learn more about what ADUs are and what you need to do to get started building an ADU project. 

What Are ADUs?

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary residential unit on a single property. They are often known by other names like “granny flats”, “mother-in-law suites”, or “backyard cottages”.

Some of these units can be fully-functional, stand-alone homes with full kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas, while others attach to your current home and simply include kitchenettes, bathrooms, and sleeping spaces. They are a great way to optimize space on your property while providing additional functionality — and long-term resale value. 

Why have ADUs become so popular?

Some areas of the US, especially in cities across the West Coast, are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. In simple terms, housing building rates are not keeping up with demand. Thus, making the homes that are available for sale even more expensive.

ADUs are beginning to be viewed as one potential solution to this problem. Because space is at a premium, ADUs give homeowners the chance to maximize the use of their land by building an additional home on their property.

People want housing that is close to work, school, and the other places they spend time. However, these areas tend to be some of the most expensive to live in. ADUs offer renters the flexibility to find affordable housing in these expensive areas. Cities see them as a way to quickly alleviate the need for affordable housing. In fact, Seattle and the entire state of California have recently passed new rules that make it easier for homeowners to construct an ADU on their property.

What are ADUs used for?

Building an ADU on your property can be a great idea for many reasons. For one, families can use this space to house adult children, giving them a separate and private living area. Or house a senior family member who wants the independence of living alone but the security of having relatives nearby. Similarly, a growing number of aging homeowners are considering building an ADU to accommodate a future live-in caretaker.

In addition, an ADU can be used as an area dedicated to work, like a home office. Remote jobs are becoming more and more popular, and those who work from home often want a space they can retreat to where they can focus without getting distracted.

Others leverage their ADU as an extra source of income, either by renting the unit out to tenants, or by listing it on homestay sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Are there different types of ADUs?

In general, two ADU types exist: attached and detached. Depending, on which you’re building, the regulations will vary slightly, so it’s important to research regulations for the type of ADU you’re trying to build. An attached ADU attaches within your primary structure. They can be additions to your house, garage conversions, and basement of attic conversions. 

A detached ADU is a stand-alone unit, usually situated in the back yard of the property. It can be a tiny house or cottage that is not attached to the main structure at all. Detached ADUs tend to be a more expensive and involved project than attached ADUs. 

Who do you hire to build an ADU?

When planning your ADU, you’ll want to hire a team of professionals to help you handle the project from start to finish. An architect or interior designer can help you plan a beautiful and functional space. They can collaborate to help you with aspects like window and door placement, floorplans and layouts, and bringing everything together into a final plan. Architects usually handle the big-picture aspects of the project like engineering, material usage, and compliance with regulations. Interior designers, on the other hand, can help you choose decor aspects like finishes, appliances, furniture, and accessories. If you need help finding the right architect or design for your project, we would be happy to introduce you to someone in our network.

Once the design is finished, you’ll need a general contractor to bring the architect’s plans to life. GCs will manage every aspect of construction. At Pro.com, for example, we hire and manage each tradesperson, pull the right permits, and keep everything on track according to your schedule and budget.

What types of regulations apply?

While regulations for building an ADU vary between cities, there are a few things you should consider first. Zoning laws may limit what types of outbuildings you can build on your property, and you may need a permit before you can build. Depending on your lot size, you may only be able to build certain sizes of ADUs.

If you’re considering building an ADU, it’s best to check out your city or county’s website to learn about building, plumbing and electrical codes, and you may need to collaborate with different bureaus or departments to get all the permits straight. 

Pro.com tip: Not sure what you can build on your lot? Just shoot us a message. We can help you navigate your local regulations and put your ideas into action.

How much should I budget for an ADU project?

It’s important to realize that building an ADU is not a cheap project to take on. It’s recommended that you budget at least $100,000 for this endeavor, with detached ADUs potentially costing even more. Take into consideration the cost to hire your team, materials and accessories, and acquiring the necessary permits to build. 

Want to learn more?

If you’re looking to build an ADU on your property and would like to learn more, check out some of our recently completed ADU projects or request a free consultation. We will happily answer any questions you have about the planning or building process.

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ADU 101: Everything you need to know about accessory dwelling units
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ADU 101: Everything you need to know about accessory dwelling units
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An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary residential unit on a single property. They are often known by other names like "granny flats", "mother-in-law suites", or "backyard cottages". Some of these units can be fully-functional, stand-alone homes with full kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas, while others attach to your current home and simply include kitchenettes, bathrooms, and sleeping spaces. They are a great way to optimize space on your property while providing additional functionality — and long-term resale value.
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