7 Steps to Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit

Real Estate Agent

Real estate experts predict that accessory dwelling units will continue to rise in popularity over the next several years. Why? Because the push for more affordable housing, the change in state regulations, and the advancement of construction technology are making the accessory dwelling unit more accessible than ever.

Accessory dwelling units make great solutions for anyone who needs low-cost housing for a loved one, space for guests, or additional income from renters or travelers. The question is, how do you go about building an ADU?

Fortunately, designing and building an ADU isn't as difficult as you might expect. We're going to walk you through the process step by step.

Read on for seven easy-to-follow steps to design and build your very own ADU.

  1. Decide What Your ADU Is For

First, you're going to want to decide what your ADU is for. This can help determine the design and location for your ADU, but also the amount of money you're willing to spend on it.

As we mentioned earlier, there are three popular uses for an ADU. These include providing permanent low-cost housing for a loved one, providing a space for short-term guests, or building up your passive income by renting your ADU to tenants or travelers. If you plan on renting out your ADU, you may have more wiggle room with your budget since you'll be making money off of the investment.

  1. Figure Out Your Budget

Now, it's time to figure out your budget. Naturally, the more construction that is required to create your ADU, the more you should expect to spend on it. Most ADUs run anywhere from $20,000 (for something like a minor garage conversion) to $250,000 (for a larger new-construction ADU).

Many people take out a loan on their ADU construction. However, most banks will want to see your design and financial estimates, so you will need to finish steps 3-5 before applying for loan pre-approval.

  1. Understand Your Local Zoning Requirements

Your state and city will have zoning requirements that you will need to comply with when building an ADU. Make sure that you understand what those requirements are before you finalize a design. Oftentimes, the zoning requirements affect your design as much, if not more than, your budget.

Zoning requirements may determine things like:

  • How many people you can house in an ADU
  • How large your ADU can be in comparison to your primary residence
  • Whether or not your ADU must have a shared or separate entrance from the primary residence

Depending on where you live, you may be required to get a special permit in order to build your ADU. Make sure that your design is compliant with regulations, or you will face fees and legal issues.

  1. Decide On an ADU Style

As we mentioned earlier, different types of ADUs will require different budgeting. What types of ADUs can you choose from?

Detached ADUs are somewhat like tiny homes in that they are completely separate from the primary residence. Because they require all new construction, they tend to cost the most. However, they also afford the most privacy for both you and your ADU inhabitants.

Another option is the build-on or pop-out ADU. This also involves all new construction, although the ADU is built onto the side of your primary residence. Typically, this style will have a separate entrance as well as an entrance into the primary residence.

Conversion ADUs are the most affordable on the list. Some homeowners convert the space above their garage (or another attic-style space), the garage itself, or the basement into an ADU. If you have square footage you're not using that could be converted into a comfortable living space, this is a great option.

  1. Design Your ADU

Once you know what your ADU will be used for, the budget you're working with, any relevant zoning requirements, and the type of ADU you want to build, it's time to start designing. Remember, an ADU is a space that includes all of the amenities someone would need to live comfortably. Your design should include:

  • A sleeping area or bedroom
  • A kitchen or kitchenette
  • A bathroom equipped with a tub or shower

Optional features include a living room, an office, and a dining area. Because ADUs are typically around 800 square feet, they tend to make use of multi-functional furniture so that one space can be used for things like watching TV, dining, and more.

  1. Get Your Design Approved

Once your design is fleshed out and you have some solid visual aids (think blueprints), it's time to get approval from the city. First, you will need to head to the government agency in charge of building and construction to get your design approved. Once they have approved it, you will need to apply for the proper permits to begin building.

As long as your design is clear and in compliance with zoning regulations, this process should not take more than a few weeks.

  1. Find the Right Contractor to Build Your ADU

Now, it's time to find the right contractor. Ideally, you want to work with someone who specializes in building ADUs. A good example is ADU construction from Acton ADU.

In fact, companies like Acton ADU will happily team up with you from the very first step. They can help you navigate financing, local zoning requirements, designing your ADU, and, of course, building your ADU.

Build Your Own Accessory Dwelling Unit With These Easy Steps

If you're ready to build an accessory dwelling unit, you've come to the right place. With our easy-to-follow guide, you can move through the ADU design process smoothly and efficiently.

Looking for more real estate tips, tricks, and news? Take a look around at more of our posts and products to make the most of your residential property.


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