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4 Components To Adding An ADU To Your Property



|Last Updated: 26 Jul 2022

In recent years, the city has employed new programs to promote accessory dwelling units or ADUs.

Accessory Dwelling Units are also commonly known as secondary units, in-law units, granny flats, or cottages. ADUs are typically developed using an underutilized space; such as a parking garage, storage room, or attic. They can play a unique and important role in a neighborhood’s housing supply. San Francisco first adopted its ADU program in 2014 for select districts and has since expanded citywide. Today, we will explain four components to adding an ADU to your property: 


1. Benefits

As a property owner, there are both lifestyle and financial benefits to adding an ADU. Clients are choosing to build ADUs for several different reasons varying from just an additional source of income to a place for family members to live, a place for themselves to live if they’re kind of an aging baby boomer and they want to create a space that they might be able to move into with the vision of having their children move into the front house or the main house. It is really kind of runs the gamut and that’s kind of what makes it exciting. Homeowners immediately saw the potential for a unit like this. We all know that the long term future is about convertibility. As an example, a family of two with no-kids could change in the future. After all, ADUs is all about close family ties. In recent years, many homeowners are choosing to build these accessory dwellings for families, overwhelmingly. And oftentimes there is some financial component in the short term, in the next couple of years, but usually, they’re thinking long-term, either for their parents or their kids. 

2. Eligibility

With all these great benefits, you’re probably wondering, “Am I allowed to build an ADU on my property?” If you own a home or apartment building, the answer is likely yes! You also may be able to add units to your building without using the ADU program – so be sure to ask about all options that might be available. Also, be sure to check out our Eano website for information about eligibility, the permitting process, and much more. When using the ADU program, these new units cannot take space from an existing residential unit, and they must be constructed within the existing envelope. However, the Planning Code often allows waivers from certain requirements: for example, parking spaces can be removed to accommodate an ADU, or you may not be required to provide additional open space per unit.


3. Cost

The next step is determining your cost and financing options. The costs of building an ADU can vary, depending on the type of unit you are constructing and the complexity of your existing structure. With Eano Home Renovation’s experience, on average, the units cost about $200,000 each and that usually doesn’t include the soft story retrofit. One thing that has surprised us is that what we’ve seen in our clients is the range of people that are doing this, it literally covers the entire breadth of income, from people that have no income at all, but they’re fortunate to already own a home, all the way up to the wealthiest people. For first time home buyers, it would be a bit concerning since they can sometimes be overwhelmed by the sheer size of their mortgage payment. So ADUs are a good way for them to offset that heavy financial burden. You’re looking at about 3 years to pay off, give or take a couple of months. You can find a detailed breakdown of construction and permit costs on our website or learn further by leaving us a message.

4. Design

Start thinking about how you want your ADU to look. While there are a wide variety of options to consider, a first-floor garage space is the most common conversion. For homeowners who live in a predominantly single-family neighborhood, most of the houses on the block are single-family, there are a couple of two units, but they have kind of the upper floor, and then behind the garage is where commonly the in-law unit is built. This is to provide a little bit of privacy, set back from the street, has a view to the backyard, and have separate entrances. It’s ultimately having two different homes, it’s just that they’re within the same footprint. A well-designed ADU looks like a new, modern open-plan apartment on the inside, but on the outside, it looks like the building has always been there. Once you’ve selected an architect and contractor, they will work with you to determine what style is most appropriate for your home.

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