Granny Flat or In-Law Suite? Which is More Prudent?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Professional Associates

If you need to house aging parents or adult children, or if your family is multi-generational, what’s better — an in-law suite or a little granny cottage in the back yard?

Our data says you’ll spend less remodeling the basement or adding an in-law suite to your attic. But a USA Today feature suggests you consider building a small house or cottage in the back yard.

For instance, the article notes that in Vancouver, detached cottages or “laneway houses” have become popular: “[Architect James Tuer] … designed several, including one that cost $200,000 and rents for about $1,600 monthly. He says the owners have aging parents who may live there, or they may use it themselves at some point and rent out their main house.”

A Seattle builder is also building backyard cottages in the neighborhood of 800 square feet and at a cost of about $125,000.

Building a second house on your property means a trip through the zoning process versus the much simpler permit process you follow when you remodel existing square footage.

And if you don’t live in a trend-setting metropolis, zoning rules will likely keep you from building a second house on your lot unless you physically attach it to your existing house and put a family member in it rather than a renter. If that’s the case for you, maybe grandpa or the kids can make do with an apartment in the space over the garage.

I currently have seven houses listed that can accommodate an in-law or multi-generational family.  If this is what you need, just let me know.  They are in a variety of areas so we have choices!  With some vision, these houses can solve your family situation.


36 Norman Street in Clinton (legal two family – could be a one family – open today 11:30 to 1pm) needs nothing to move in and accommodate a multi-generational family.  Currently has a month to month tenant in the second floor (instant income).  Third floor used to be living space also and the basement is full high ceiling with solid wall, half bath and dry.





272 Oak Street in Shrewsbury (one family with a spacious legal in-law apartment) beautifully unique home with new heating system, roof and siding.  Needs nothing to move in and accommodate a multi-generational family or extra income.  Seller financing available.





12 Cottage Street in Ware (renovated Victorian) very large one family house with 2 story barn that would make a fantastic remodeling project to accommodate a second home on the property.  Barn currently has electricity to it.  But you could also renovate the interior of the house into a multi-family situation.  House has two full baths (one on each floor) already plus some great space on the third floor.  This house is only limited by its next owners imagination.





82 Saundersdale Rd in Charlton – newer single family that has already been converted into a two family with a 3 car garage.  First floor has one bedroom, walk in shower and laundry with huge living space.  Second floor has 3 beds, 2 baths and laundry with a double pantry kitchen.  Great space for the family that wants to stay together but independently.




1058 Park St Palmer – older home in need of extensive repair.  Has a legal apartment and would qualify for 203k rehab.  Owner says bring an offer!  Can be residential or commercial with six parking spaces in back.  Extended family?  Home office?  It’s only up to you!





179 Osborne Rd Ware – newer one level ranch that offers single level living but also has a walk-out basement that is prime to renovate into a separate living space.  House is squeaky clean at only 5 years old and very energy-efficient.  Low heating costs, great acre lot and ready to go with 3 beds and 2 baths to start.




127 School Street N. Brookfield – renovated farm-house with in-law apartment upstairs.  Great for boomerang or college aged family members.  Also features a four stall horse barn that can be renovated into a very cool living space or keep as a barn and get horses.




How are you accommodating in-laws, grown kids, or renters in your home?

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Melissa Zavala
Broadpoint Properties - Escondido, CA
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County

AMy: YOu must specialize in multi-generational. Not sure whether the words Granny Flat or In-Law Suite are better. Not many women like to be called Granny (grandma maybe, but not granny).

Aug 21, 2011 03:18 AM #1
Rodney Mason
Angel Oak Home Loans - Atlanta, GA
AL, FL, GA, SC, & TN

Providing housing for other family members is real need for some of today's families.

Aug 21, 2011 03:21 AM #2
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Houses that are conducive to multi-generational living will become more popular. "Aging in place" support systems means more families will be looking for homes that will comfortably accommodate aging parents.


Sep 18, 2017 05:26 PM #3
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