What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit and Why Should You Build One?


Over the last few years, throughout the United States and Canada, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people living in Accessory Dwelling Units (or ADUs for short).

Have you considered building your own accessory dwelling unit on your property? Whether you want to live in it yourself or rent it out to someone else, there are lots of benefits that come with having one.

Read on to learn more about why you might want to think about taking this leap.

What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

First of all, what even is an Accessory Dwelling Unit? Sometimes referred to as an accessory dwelling, accessory unit, or additional dwelling unit, this is simply a dwelling unit that shares a plot of land with another, primary residence.

There are lots of different types of structures that can serve as accessory dwelling units, including the following:

  • Garage apartments
  • Basement apartments
  • Carriage houses
  • Pool houses
  • Home additions with a separate entrance

You can also purchase and/or build your own accessory dwelling unit that is separate from your main house. Often, when folks take this approach, they build a tiny house in their backyard or off to the side of their primary residence. 

Whether they’re attached or detached, Accessory Dwelling Units have their own entrances and provide those who live in them with extra privacy. They often share utility hookups with the primary residence on the property, though.

Reasons to Build an ADU

There are plenty of benefits that come with building an ADU on your property. Some of the most popular reasons why people choose to build them include the following:

Keep Family Close

First, ADUs make it easier for you to keep your family close.

Let’s say you have an aging parent (or parents) who need more help on a regular basis. Building an ADU provides you with a place to house them so that you’re close enough to assist but not so close that they feel smothered.

ADUs can also be good places for adult children to live while they’re getting on their feet after college and looking for a job that pays well enough for them to afford a place of their own. 

Earn (Mostly) Passive Income

Many people build accessory dwelling units with the intent of renting them out. If you take this approach, it can be a great option to help you earn mostly passive income.

Because you’ll be acting as the landlord for the person who rents out the unit, you may have to step in and take care of problems from time to time. For the most part, though, you’ll just be putting extra money into your bank account.

Rent It Out to Travelers

Some folks also rent out their ADUs on a more short-term basis to travelers. If you live in a tourist-heavy area, consider renting out your ADU on a site like VRBO or Airbnb. This gives you a chance to earn some passive income without having a tenant in your backyard for months at a time.

Use It as a Studio

If you’re not concerned about earning extra money, there are still benefits to having an ADU on your property. For example, you can use it as a studio or workshop for yourself. It gives you a private place to work without having to take up space in the garage or another part of your house.

Offer Guests Privacy

For those who often have guests come to visit, be they family members or friends, an ADU provides them with a private place to offer to their guests. If you don’t like the idea of sharing your home with people during their visit, an ADU can be a great solution.

How to Build an ADU

Okay, you have a clearer understanding of why you might want to build an ADU (and, if you’re still on the fence, you can check out this post on https://actonadu.com/blog/8-reasons-you-should-consider-building-an-adu-in-san-jose to learn more). Now, though, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to go about building an ADU. Where do you begin?

If this is the case for you, here are some steps to follow to begin the building process:

Set a Goal

Start by getting clear on what you want to get out of your ADU. Why are you building it? Who is going to use it?

If you answer these questions, you’ll have an easier time deciding how big it’ll be and what kind of amenities or features it needs. 

Set a Budget

Next, set a budget for yourself. Calculate how much you can afford to spend on an ADU that will meet the goals you set previously.

Do you need to save up for a while before you can take on this project? Will you need to borrow money from the bank to complete it?

Find the Right Builder

Once you have the funds, the next step is to find a builder who can help you construct your ADU. Reach out to local builders in your area to see who is available to work with you. Try to find someone who has built ADUs in the past if possible.

Get the Proper Permits

Every state and city has different regulations that you need to follow when it comes to building an ADU. Do some research to see what’s required in your area and secure all the proper permits before you get started.

Check-in Regularly

Be sure to check-in regularly during the building process. This helps you make sure everything is getting done on time. It also helps you take care of problems as soon as they arise instead of waiting until the end of the project to address them.

Start Building an ADU Today

Now that you know more about the different types of accessory dwelling units, as well as why you might want to build one, are you ready to get started? If you follow the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to construct the accessory dwelling unit of your dreams.

Do you want to learn more about ADUs or house-building in general? If so, head over to the DIY and Home Repair section of our site today. You’ll find lots of great resources there to help you create the perfect unit in no time.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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