Thinking of adding an ADU to your property? We’re so glad you found us. 

We know this is a big commitment with many variables to consider. To help you in your journey, we’ve created a list of five important questions to ask (and answer) in your quest to find the perfect additional dwelling unit (ADU for short) for your lifestyle needs.  

What will be the primary use of your ADU?

Couple being greeted into home of another couple.

Having a clear understanding of the primary use of your ADU will save you a lot of time and money through this process. 

If you’re looking to create a home office space, private gym or yoga studio, home library, kids playroom, or whatever private space you’re dreaming of, a minimalist space is the perfect solution. 

Should you be considering adding an ADU to your property as a passive income stream, you’ll need to think a bit bigger by including a kitchenette and bathroom/wetroom, along with other important utility connections. 

When it comes to thriving in the less is more lifestyle, having clarity on your intentions not only ensures you create the perfect space for your goals and needs, it allows you to set a realistic budget to maintain a profitable return on your investment. 

Is your property capable of supporting an ADU?

two construction workers wearing orange vests and working on a project

Now that you’ve figured out the perfect ADU for your needs, the next step is confirming that your property can support your vision. 

We recommended working with a trusted contractor for this step of the process, especially if your unit will require any water or septic lines.

Ensuring all necessary leveling, grading, and foundation work is complete before you begin the building phase is crucial in preventing surprises and more expensive problems down the road. 

What are your local and city zoning requirements? 

image of building with text city hall on it

Zoning laws differ city to city and county to county, so it is important to make sure you connect with your local building and planning departments. They can tell if you if there are any local laws that may affect your project.  

These laws will determine the size of the unit you are able to build and how you are able to use it by taking into consideration the size of your lot, set back requirements, how you are planning to use the extra space (i.e. home office vs. rental property), and many other factors.

Beyond zoning requirements, does your city or county have any other building requirements?

homeowners association paperwork on wooden desk

In addition to the size restrictions zoning laws might enforce, the planning department of your city may have additional square footage and height restrictions when it comes to ADUs in your city or neighborhood. 

Another thing to discuss with your local Planner are the design restrictions in place for your community. This is especially important if you live in a Historically preserved neighborhood. 

These design restrictions may not only apply to the exterior of your unit, but the interior as well - including minimum sizing for living room, kitchen, and bathroom spaces.  

Keep in mind that if your community has a Homeowner’s Association, we also recommend reviewing any bylaws and abiding by any requirements in place to prevent future headaches as you move further along in this process. 

Many State and Local Community Councils offer incentive programs that can help expedite the permitting process along with potential funding opportunities to encourage people to add ADUs to their property. We highly encourage you to research and learn about potential initiatives like these offered in your community. 

What costs are involved and what should you take into consideration when creating your budget for a project of this scope?  

person calculating and budgeting on desk with a mini model of home in the background

As you’re building your budget for your dream ADU, there are many costs to consider in addition to the actual cost of the unit. 

We recommended thinking of the project in three distinct phases: 

Phase One - the “Prep” Phase: These are the fees (often) initially not thought about as part of the purchasing of an ADU - the work you’ll need to do to prepare your property for the long-term successes of your unit. These costs can include creating project specific drawings, permitting, contractor costs, etc. Hiring and working with an architect during this phase will not only help you with the design aspects, but they can often help with navigating permitting applications and costs. 

Phase Two - the “Building” Phase: In this phase, you’ll incur the bulk of your costs, including the purchasing of your unit or materials, site prep, grading, assembly work, utility hookups, and contractor fees. 

Phase Three - the “Personalization” Phase: This is the fun phase of the ADU building experience - adding all the furnishings and personal touches to make the space uniquely yours. Make sure you give yourself a realistic budget for this phase. We like to think of it as the “celebration of all the saving and hard work you’ve put into making this dream a reality” phase. 

We’d be remiss in not reminding you to consider a 10% contingency budget for any surprises that can arise in this process. 

 accessory dwelling unit in backyard in the afternoon

If you’ve read through all of this and are even more excited about building your ADU than when you started, we’re excited to share with you that you don’t have to go through this process alone. 

For Southern California residents, we are currently offering a special invitation to our Pioneer Program, which includes one-on-one guidance through the Prep and Building Phases of this process, in addition to: 

  1. No need to hire a separate architect. our architect will do the site specific drawings for you 
  2. Free shipping to project site. 
  3. Free assembly of the unit 
  4. Foundation included (precast concrete blocks, if it works for your soil type).

To learn more about our Pioneer Program, please click here. We look forward to meeting you and helping make your dream a reality. 

September 07, 2023
Tags: #adu