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Tips for a great accessory dwelling unit

When designing an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, it's important to consider any features necessary to your purpose. Photo by Pexels.

Building an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, next to your home in your yard is the hottest trend in real estate. Over a million homeowners across the country have built one. Building a small additional home, complete with a kitchen and bathrooms, to house aging parents or an adult child can be an excellent use of your space.

ADUs, also called granny flats, casitas and in-law suites, aren’t always built in a yard. Sometimes homeowners build these units into basements or in place of or on top of garages.

The typical ADU occupies about 700 square feet. Sometimes people use them for other purposes after a few years, such as rental units.

If an ADU seems to make sense for you, consider the following points.

Check Local Regulations

Many places have single-family zoning rules. While more than a million ADUs exist, about three-quarters of towns ban them. Even when the rules allow ADUs, they can be very different from one jurisdiction to another.

Make sure that an ADU complies with local regulations and the rules of your homeowners association. Rules related to residential density, utility capacity, fire safety and access for utility personnel are common. Contact contractors with experience in your town to see what is permitted.

Look at Prefab and Pre-Spec Options

Many ADUs cost more than $100,000. To control expenses, consider a prefab unit or a pre-spec unit. A prefab unit provides set choices. A pre-spec unit allows you to customize an ADU, whether to satisfy your design requirements or to comply with local regulations.

Another option to save time and money is to hire a panelized ADU contractor instead of a stick-built contractor.

Think About an Attached ADU

A detached ADU often comes with additional requirements, such as a California mandate to hook it up with its own solar power. An attached ADU can avoid the costs involved with compliance, as well as save space.

Design for Your Purpose

Whether your ADU is for an elderly loved one or renters, make sure that you include all the features necessary in the design. Elderly people could need wide, wheelchair-accessible doorways, for example. Renters might want a nursery and ample storage space.

If you are in the process of buying the house where you plan to build an ADU, due diligence is crucial during the investigation period on your escrow to ensure what you want is possible.

An ADU to help a loved one age in place could be much cheaper than a long-term care facility. Rent from an ADU could help you pay off your mortgage. All in all, building an ADU could be a financially prudent decision.


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