What Exactly is An ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit?
As society, the economy, living habits, and environmental awareness change the way we live, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are making a big comeback. Here’s what you need to know about them:
An accessory dwelling unit is a fully functioning living space with bathroom facilities, bedroom, and kitchen. It is a small, self-contained residential unit located on the same lot as an existing single-family home. An ADU can be a remodel of existing interior space, an attic dwelling, a basement apartment, an addition attached to the house or garage, or a separate dwelling located on the property.
You may have heard other names attached to accessory dwelling units like “granny flat”, “guest house”, “mother-in-law suite”, “backyard cottage,” etc. Legally speaking, an accessory dwelling unit cannot be bought or sold separately (like condominiums), and either the main house or the ADU must be occupied by the owner.
ADUs have a long history, and although they fell out of favor somewhat during the mid-1900s, they are seeing a significant rise in popularity again in the 21st century. There are several factors behind this:
California continues to be in the throes of a major housing crisis
Homeowners want space for family or guests that allows them to live independently on their property.
Environmental awareness makes smaller homes a good idea for the planet.
Property owners want to maximize and improve land use, particularly in areas that are already overdeveloped.
In short, this is a way for homeowners themselves to boost the availability of affordable housing options for their family and friends.
Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit Right for Me?
There are a variety of ways you can use an ADU, and its functions can change as your needs evolve. Here are some ways that people are using accessory dwelling units today:
Home office space
A private guest house for visitors
To rent out as an apartment to individuals or couples
To accommodate a family member with special needs
To accommodate aging family members who want to live independently, yet close to family
A starter home for adult children
Naturally, adding a free-standing or attached ADU to your property or home will demand a great investment of money and time, but the benefits once the unit is complete can offset the initial costs. As ADUs are significantly smaller, they cost far less to operate and maintain (per square foot) once they're finished. If you rent the space, this income can also help with retirement savings and mortgage costs. As a homeowner, an accessory dwelling unit can also significantly increase your property value. And having the flexibility of adaptable, additional living space on your property can give you more options as your family’s needs change over time.
How Do I Start an ADU?
If you’re a homeowner who wants to optimize your existing property with an accessory dwelling unit, it is absolutely essential to get professional help. You will need to work with an experienced, qualified design/build firm that is fully informed on the latest state and local building codes, permits and regulations. You’ll also want a design/build team with impeccable taste that can deliver your ADU on time, on budget and with a great sense of style.