Of course, you want an ADU. Everyone wants one. An accessory Dwelling Unit opens up a world of possibility. Maybe you want rental income to help cover a mortgage, and maybe you just want a guest house for your nanny or college-aged kid. There are a million reasons why a person might want to invest in an ADU, and there are so many different ways to do it, that it’s kind of overwhelming, so here’s a little breakdown.
We often think of an ADU as a converted detached garage, but it can actually take several forms. It can be attached or detached from the main house, attached to the garage, or even above the garage. You can also have a Junior ADU (JADU) which is a room you section off within your existing home that has its own entrance but can share your kitchen and bathroom. You can even have one of each (ADU + JADU), no matter how small your lot is, as long as the ADU is no more than 800 sq ft in size and 16 ft high. If you only have one ADU it can be as large as 1200 sq ft. Your ADU is supposed to be set back 5 ft from the property line unless it’s a converted garage that’s already built at the property line, and it has to be at least 10 ft from the house. It can be one story or 2, but beware of utility lines! The law requires a building to be 5 to 6 horizontal feet from the vertical path of a power line. So you might have some issues around that if you create a 2 story structure.
Here are some more fun facts: If you convert a garage from parking to living space, you no longer have to create replacement parking. What’s more is that since your garage is no longer a parking garage, you no longer have to maintain your driveway, and can actually extend your home into that space on the side.
So that gives you a sense of what you can build, but what about the cost?
The median price is reported to be about $150k. I know a lot of people who’ve made a lovely legal ADU for much less, and I also know you can go crazy and spend quite a bit more, but that’s the general range. And when you go to sell, the market will likely reward you nicely because buyers love ADUs and will pay a premium for houses with ADUs.
Be aware that adding an ADU will raise your property taxes. A new ADU is assessed at market value, so that’s 1.25% of the cost. Also, know that an ADU cannot be sold separately from the rest of your property, but now with SB9’s passage, that will likely change, allowing people to subdivide their land and sell off a portion of it with that ADU.
Tips: Reduce permit wait time by using pre-approved ADU plans from various architects: https://ladbs.org/adu/standard-plan-program/approved-standard-plans
. Consider a prefab: Many companies like Studio Shed
and The Plus Hus
build really cool, modern ADUs that can be installed in your backyard with minimal inconvenience.
Also, consider if you really want an actual ADU rather than just a finished garage with drywall and lighting and a plug for your Peloton.