Now that “Sheltering in Place” has become the “new normal,” many of us are looking to our homes to support us more than ever before. Maintenance projects that we might have been putting off are suddenly in our faces 24/7 and getting long-needed attention. And with this new and constant attention to home, we recognize that we need our spaces to be multi-functioning, as everything from work, to school, to socializing is now being done on video-chat.
While video in some ways feels more distanced than the in-person world of before, it is also more intimate. We are peering into each other’s homes through these tiny boxes on our screens!
Speaking of tiny… another concept that has become even more popular in recent years is the multi-purpose and modular-functioning tiny home — as well as the idea of creatively carving out space in your existing full-sized home, whether within the structure, going underneath, adding onto, or installing an entirely new structure; whether built from scratch or pre-fabricated and placed in your yard.
All of these can be classified as an ADU. ADU stands for “Accessory Dwelling Unit.” Sometimes quaintly or antiquated-ly referred to as the “in-Law” or even “Mother-In-Law” unit. In legal terms, an ADU is a space that has its own entrance, a bedroom, its own bathroom, storage of some kind, and a kitchen.
While ADUs might have once been the place that gave you breathing room from your Mother-In-Law when she came to stay for extended periods (not for us, we love our MILs!), today the ADU serves many functions, from an income-generator via Airbnb, to a home-office or home-schoolroom, to a way to re-welcome-home adult children who previously left the nest, or shelter other relatives long-term, creating an accommodating extended family compound in uncertain (and even in better!) times.
There are two categories and four typical formats of an ADUs: Detached — either Constructed or Pre-built; or Attached — usually a garage conversion or underground excavation.
A general ballpark-estimate for a 200-square-foot interior ADU is about $150,000 and a 650-square-foot backyard-detached cottage may run you as much as $350,000. Prices will vary depending on size, as well as any unforeseen construction issues that come up, plus how fancy you want to go with materials, appliances, decoration, furnishings, etc.
In the Bay Area, some see the rise in ADUs as a solution to rising new-housing needs. And legislation has followed suit in recent years. We’ve experienced a welcome decrease in the regulations that were previously deal-breakers, or at least headache-makers, including reducing or eliminating parking requirements, and shortening distance from curb measurements for permitting, as cities like Oakland and Berkeley are searching for lower-impact ways to create more housing.
In comparison with countries across the world, it seems that the United States has started to catch on to the benefits of multi-generational family housing, seeing ADUs as a pathway to keeping families together; although economic factors are also a noted influence and now, the pandemic.
Currently, California holds the #2 spot in the U.S. for the highest percentage of multi-generational family homes.
More and more in the Bay Area, we are seeing scenarios like this one: a large backyard cottage might house an adult child in their 20s with the parents living in the front house, and as this next generation marries and starts to have kids, the new growing family and aging parents swap places, with parents moving to the backyard abode and aging-in-place.
Of course, the key to having an ADU install be a positive experience is hiring an experienced and knowledgeable team. We have worked with HDR Remodeling and other general contractors and architects whom we refer to and are referred by who can steer you through the process with, hopefully, as little grief and as much information to reasonably calibrate expectations of cost and duration, as possible.