Small green guest houe in the fenced back yard.
Home Improvement

What is an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit)?


Do you wish your primary residence was bigger, but you don’t have the money to upgrade to a new home? Or, do you wish there was just a more private space for your out-of-town visitors?

Enter: the accessory dwelling unit. Also known as an ADU, an accessory dwelling unit is the perfect addition to any single-family home that needs more space.

But what is an accessory dwelling unit? And why do people build them?

Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about accessory dwelling units.

What is an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit is an additional unit built next to or attached to a single-family home. Accessory dwelling units go by many names, including mother-in-law suites, granny houses, and in-law suites.

For a structure to qualify as an accessory dwelling unit, it must:

  • Be in a single-family zoned neighborhood
  • Consist of a room or set of rooms within a self-contained living space
  • Be on the same lot as a single-family home

Some ADUs have their own addresses and kitchens, although this isn’t always a requirement. Some ADUs are attached to the primary residence (attached ADUs), while others are freestanding (detached ADUs).

Some people also choose to convert their garage into an accessory dwelling unit.

Why Build an ADU?

Building an ADU can be costly, making many people wonder if it’s worth the additional cost. However, there are a lot of benefits to building an ADU, including:

Increase the Value of Your Home

One of the biggest benefits of building an ADU is that it allows you to increase the value of your home. Nowadays, many people are living with their parents because they can’t afford to pay for their own rent.

If someone is looking to purchase your property, they’ll see your ADU as a potential source of income, as they can rent it out to younger tenants who are looking for an affordable place to live.

Earn Extra Income

While it can cost a lot of money to build an ADU, you can easily earn that money back and then some by renting it out. As we just mentioned, there are a lot of younger people on the hunt for affordable places to live.

Many people living on their own find that apartments and houses are too expensive, and they don’t need all of that extra space. An ADU serves as the perfect alternative, as it provides just the right amount of space for one or two people.

When building an ADU, you have the option to rent it out to long-term tenants or to rent it out as a vacation property. If you live in a touristy city, renting it out as a vacation property may be the better idea.

While you won’t have the steady income that comes with long-term renters, you will be able to charge more per night. Plus, when you’re not renting it out to vacationers, your friends and family members can make use of the space.

Provide Low-Cost Housing for Family Members

One of the primary reasons people build ADUs is so they have a low-cost housing option for their family members. If you have a family member who is elderly or can’t live on their own due to disability, an ADU is the perfect solution.

The great thing about an ADU is that you’ll be able to have your family members nearby while still maintaining some sense of privacy. Plus, ADUs are often more affordable than nursing homes or long-term care facilities in the long-run.

Some people also build ADUs so their nannies or caretakers have a convenient place to live.

Provide a Space for Hosting Guests

Another major benefit of an ADU is that it provides you with extra space for hosting short-term guests. Whether you have friends visiting for the weekend or family members visiting for Christmas, an ADU is the perfect solution, as it gives your guests privacy while still allowing them to be conveniently close to your home.

Improve Your Backyard Aesthetic

Another great thing about ADUs is that they can help improve the aesthetic of your backyard. Just as is the case with building a home, there are all kinds of materials and colors to choose from when building your ADU.

Plus, you can surround your ADU with a lovely footpath and garden.

Get the Right Permits

Before you begin building your ADU, you need to get the right permits together. All ADUs need to be treated as residential construction projects, which means they need the same types of permits.

To get the right permits, you first need to put together your ADU building plans and show them to your city. In addition to basic building permits, you may also need electrical permits, encroachment permits, and various other permits.

It’s important to keep in mind that different states have different laws when it comes to constructing ADUs. Each state determines what’s allowable in terms of ADU construction, and then your city can choose to expand on these regulations.

Choose the Right Time to Build

Once you’ve gathered your permits, you need to choose when to build your ADU. While many people choose to build their ADUs in the spring or summer because of the weather, there are advantages to building your ADU in the winter.

Check out to learn why building an ADU in the winter is a good idea.

Accessory Dwelling Unit: Time to Build

Now that you know what an accessory dwelling unit is, it’s time to break ground. Before you know it, you’ll have a new space in your yard for your friends and family members!

Be sure to check back in with our blog to learn more about accessory dwelling units.

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