As a prospective homebuyer or homeowner, you may be interested in the benefits of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), also known as a mother-in-law suite, granny flat or backyard cottage. These structures allow for additional living space while earning rental income and increasing property value. However, a number of factors, including local and state regulations, must be taken into consideration.

ADUs have become more popular in recent years thanks to zoning changes, according to Kol Peterson, an ADU advocate who teaches classes on the subject and writes a comprehensive blog about the housing option. Peterson says that the structure, which can be attached to a home or built as a stand-alone unit, typically includes a kitchen and living area, with a separate entrance and access to water and power lines from the main house. Read more

While the construction of an ADU can be a significant investment, it can help offset costs by generating rental income that can help cover mortgage payments or other property expenses. Furthermore, homeowners who build ADUs in high-demand markets can often receive competitive rents and can benefit from the added resale value of their property.

Before embarking on the process of building an ADU, it’s important to determine a budget and understand local regulations for the project. It’s also important to find a contractor who is familiar with the process and can manage permitting. Peterson advises contacting your local planning and development department to inquire about ADU requirements. For instance, many municipalities impose standards for the size of an ADU, its proximity to the main home and minimum parking spaces as well as occupational limits for ADU residents.

Once an ADU is completed, its owner will likely need to submit it for a permit review and inspection. It’s also a good idea to discuss the ADU with neighbors and family members to ensure they’re comfortable with the addition. ADUs also require regular maintenance to ensure they’re safe and compliant with fire safety laws, such as installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

The emergence of ADUs has given rise to a number of companies that offer pre-fabricated units or design services to assist with the creation of an in-home living space. However, Peterson cautions that homeowners who are considering this option should consult with a local builder to ensure that the company is licensed and insured.

ADUs are a versatile and flexible housing solution for multiple types of homeowners. For instance, they can serve as a place for elderly parents to live or for adult children to live and work, fostering stronger family bonds and creating a sense of independence for all members of the household. Additionally, ADUs can be repurposed for different needs throughout a person’s lifetime, such as a studio, home office or guest house. This flexibility makes ADUs an appealing option for many families, despite their initial cost and time investment.


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