What is an ADU?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small building on the same lot as a single-family dwelling. ADUs and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) are also known as “GrannyFlats” (GF), a “backyard house”, “guest house”, or “casita” among others. Most ADU’s are residential dwellings. The exact definition of an ADU/GF depends on where you live. The laws and the policies that bring ADU/GF’s to life are still developing every day.

ADU/GF’s are self-sufficient dwellings located on the same property as a main house. Some ADU/GF’s contain a kitchen, a living area, bathroom facilities, and a bedroom, or sometimes 2 if local code allows, and are the perfect “extra house”. Most of the time they tie into the same sewer line and water lines as the larger single-family home on the property. This reduces costs. Generally, it is a percentage of the larger houses sq foot. livable spaceper local code that gives the ADU the size available. ADU’s create more housing possibilities and they can provide additional revenue streams for you while increasing the availability of rental housing in your area if that’s what you choose to do.

Note: You can also convert a garage, or part of a garage, or a room in a primary house, to a Junior ADU, JADU, although you can be somewhat limited in what you can build depending on local building codes and the space you have available.

Why are ADUs rapidly growing in popularity?

ADU/GFs are being built at a very rapid rate. They are a fabulous way to address a growing housing crisis. They can provide a really nice and comfortable place for people to live whether it is for family or as a rental. The rental aspect is very intriguing for a passive income generation. ADU/GF’s can be built for a smaller cost than a traditional larger home. And the homeowner already owns the land. The ADU/GF allows a homeowner to utilize land they already own. It’s a win-win.

ADU/GF’s also address the growing popularity of downsizing and minimalizing. When for example parents want to downsize and reduce their “stuff” moving into an ADU/GF is the perfect opportunity.

What can I use a small backyard ADU for?

Long-term Rental Unit: ADU/GF’s are becoming more and more popular as rentals, especially in densely populated areas where affordable housing is scarce. Because the unit is completely self-contained, detached ADUs provide a great living experience for both tenant and homeowner, while providing affordable housing where there may be limited housing options. And they are fun to design and build.

The monthly rent of an ADU/GF is usually higher then market rent. Why you ask? Where would you want to live? An 800 Square Foot apartment or an 800 Square Foot little house with it’s own little yard and personality? I know where I’d want to live. Vacation Rental Unit: In popular destination locations, ADU/GF’s are being used as vacation rentals across the country. You can set them up to a theme or customize them to your delight. It can be really fun and a very rewarding experience. And quite profitable.

Aging in Place – Granny Flat: More and more senior adults want to continue to live independently as they age, as opposed to living in costly facilities. ADU/GF’s allow families to stay close to their loved ones when they need extra help, while giving the older generation independence.

Art Studio / Home Office: ADU/GFs can also be used as extra living space for the primary residence. Many people use it as a studio, home office, musical studio, or space for the kids. They are a great way to increase living space square footage without undertaking a major construction project to add an addition.

Affordable Living: Zoning laws will vary by municipality, but some areas of the country are relaxing restrictions in an effort to attract more affordable housing opportunities. Our ADU/GFs will provide more options for consumers who seek to live in certain locations and at price points they desire.

Will ADUs affect the value of my property?

Sure hope so-And probably for the better. Adding an ADU, Granny Flat onto your property (in a normal market) may, and probably will, increase your assessed property value. We can’t tell you exactly how much value an ADU will add, so we would recommend getting your property re-appraised post-construction. There may also be property tax implications but the value of what the ADU/GF will provide will likely far outweigh any increases.

What are unique features of ADUs?

ADU floor plans are designed with purpose and the user experience in mind. Conscious choices including high ceilings, window placement, separated bathroom and bedroom, and more create the optimal living experience for all involved.Also if your building an ADU for an aging parent you can customize the ADU with features like roll in showers, easy to grasp handles, lower countertops if someone is in a wheel chair, intercom system between the main house and the ADO. Sky is the limit and your imagination. Paul has built an ADU based on ADA guidelines in the past so he has a ton of ideas.

What the difference between ADUs and tiny houses?

“Tiny Houses” are a familiar term these days but they are different than an ADU/GF’s. The key difference between ADU/GF’s and tiny houses is that ADU/GF’s are generally bigger and more livable and on a solid foundation. A tiny house usually sits temporarily on a foundation, but not always, and combines living areas into the same space, for example, a sitting room, living room, and kitchen all in one space with a lofted bedroom above it or Murphy bed whereas an ADU’GF will have a separate rooms for bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms. However, there will be less space for each in an ADU/GF’sthan in a typical home. ADU/GF’s are usually between 400 and 1200 square feet. They can be larger or smaller depending on what a property and local building codes will allow for. Anything over 1500 feet is creeping up towards the size of a typical home.

Does an ADU have to be separate from the main dwelling?

No, they don’t. In the past, related living setups frequently featured attached ADU/GF’s. The key is that while attached to the main home they can also function separately with their own bedroom space, kitchen, laundry, bathrooms, and entrance depending on how they are built. There shouldn’t be a need to access the main home if you don’t want to.

Are ADUs okay in my neighborhood?

Thousands of ADU/GF’s are being built in the US today. They are a terrific way to take on the housing shortage and the housing crisis and create affordable living. ADU/GF’s can generate passive income for the homeowner as a rental or provide additional housing for multi-generational family members. ADU/GF’s also cost less than other forms of housing and make very friendly uses of existing land on properties. ADU/GF’s allow people to simplify their lives as well but still live in a neighborhood setting. Rural America is coming back in vogue.

The only way to find out if an ADU/GF’s is allowed in your area is do the research or have us do it for you. Many cities in the US have, or are, updating their local zoning laws to allow for ADU/GF’s. Many cities are realizing that ADU/GF’s are a critical component to stabilizing the housing and rental market. That being said there are density restrictions in many areas so the 1st step in taking on an ADU/GF project is to see if you can actually build one where you want to build it based on local building codes. Paul can help with that.

How much will my ADU cost?

Building an ADU/GF is a project with many moving pieces. Average all-in cost completely depends on what you choose and what you want at the end of the project. For turnkey, professionally built ADU’s typically cost between $120 to $180 a square foot. Obviously based on the finishes and the personal choices you make this will affect the final cost. Please keep in mind that one of the biggest factors in an increase of the final price are “during construction changes” that you want to make. Changes cost time and money and are appropriately invoiced so be aware and plan your ADU as completely as possible before starting.

However, the money spent in the construction will probably be recouped, sometimes at a 2-3x over cost but certainly there are no guarantees. We’ve also created free articles, videos, and a community where people can help each other.

When it’s appropriatewe will introduce you to professional service providers like Project Managers (very important), licensed contractors, designers, and lenders. We can secure special rates for you with providers with national buying power and those providers can pass on great deals to you.

Do I need permits?

You're researching ADU/GFs now and you’re going to discover it’s very difficult to actually make heads or tails of the different programs that are available to you.Also you will read terms you’re not familiar with so write down your questions. This is where Paul can help you out tremendously.

Even if you can get through the permitting process you might be leaving money or square footage on the table because of what you don’t know. That’s where ADU/GF expertise can help you out.

In some cases we see homeowners think they can wing this process on their own only to discover an unexpected setback months into construction that scuttles their project with the city or county or creates HUGE delays, cost, and frustration.

We’ve seen it all and will help avoid these pitfalls. Just schedule a time and lets chat.

What about utilites?

Like any structure someone will live in or use regularly utilities are needed and ADU/GF’s are no different. There is basic utility planning that needs to take place. Trenching and hookup to the home are the responsibility of the builder and included in the costs to the homeowner. Trenching is rarely simple on existing properties and at times can be very challenging. Our Professional Installers can work with you to provide this service. You should plan on permits and possibly a separate meter. We HIGHLY suggest separate meters when possible because if you use the ADU/GF’s as a rental you will want to separate the usage for billing.

What type of foundation do I need?

As with any construction project if the ADU/GF is separated from the main house then a poured slab or foundation or building department approved foundation will be necessary. Because every site and material availability is different the cost of foundations or pour concrete will vary greatly. We will work with you directly to get the best foundation for your site in an efficient and as cost effective way as possible.

How long will it take to complete my ADU?

Every job is unique so completion is based on the scope of work. As a general rule:

  • Garage renovation takes between 45 and 75 working days
  • Room additions take 90 – 120 working days
  • Total GF/ADU new build takes 125 – 150 working days