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Could an Accessory Dwelling Unit Solve Your Space Issue?

From an increased interest in suburban and rural living, to the rising popularity of larger homes, to the mutual moaning about privacy and noise when you get together with friends, we know that everybody seems to be very concerned about space these days. We want more — but how do we get it?

Whether you need a home office, a retreat from a crowded abode, or a place for grandma to live out her golden years, an ADU might be the answer.


What Is an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is a second home built on the property of an existing home. ADUs can be made from many types of spaces, but they all have a few things in common.

ADUs are:

  • Additional units on the property of a primary home

  • Smaller than a primary home

  • Usually created after the main house has been built and occupied

There are several different ways you can create an ADU on your property, and each may have its own regulations and requirements:

ADUs are growing in popularity across the country, especially in western states. Yet they are still not widely accepted, and different states or localities may have different requirements or resources. Some places in California, for example, offer to help with your permits for ADUs, but some other states aren’t as welcoming — yet.

In most cases, a permitted ADU used as a living space must meet local size restrictions and requirements and must also have:

  • Its own kitchen and bathroom

  • Its own living space

  • At least one bedroom

  • Separate entrance

  • Proper building permits

  • Separate connections to gas, electricity, and water


Spending on Space

They may be small, but they are not necessarily inexpensive.

Note: Cost estimates are self-reported and include design services, permit, utility connection, and all construction costs. Landscaping is not included.



Is an ADU Right for Me?

Only you can determine whether an ADU will help solve your space issues. Be sure to weigh the facts carefully before you make a decision.


Probably the best part about constructing an ADU is that you won’t have to move house. You need more space, so you create it, on your own terms. Turn that basement or garage into a home office, studio, or recreation space. Or create new living quarters in an existing granny flat or garden shed.

Many Gen Xers are now supporting not only their kids but also their aging parents, and millennials may soon be facing a similar situation. An ADU can provide a permanent home to a parent or relative, a place for college students to live and study, or just a way to stay close to family.


There are a few downsides to ADUs, of course. Maybe you’ll lose storage space if you’re converting a basement, attic, or garage. Can you afford to give up that space? And if your ADU will be the new home of a friend or relative, are you prepared to become a landlord and take responsibility for the upkeep of a second home?

You also need to decide if the cost of turning an underused space into a workable office or living area is smarter than shopping for a new home that already meets all your requirements. Be sure to check out the comparable properties (comps) nearby, calculate how much you’re willing to invest in your home, and consider other factors to determine if an ADU is right for you.


ADUs are pretty popular with urban planners. They are being considered as a way to combat homelessness and to bring affordable housing back to metropolitan areas. But for you, for now, an ADU might be the solution to your space issue as we continue to spend nearly all our time at home.

Sources: | Architectural Digest

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