Accessory Dwelling Units: Where to Start

You may have heard about accessory dwelling units – sometimes referred to as ADUs, Secondary dwelling units, or in-law units – and you’ve been wondering if you could build one at your property. But you don’t know where to start.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your local Planning or Zoning Department. Ask them if you can build an accessory dwelling on your property. You might be able to find this information on your local planning department’s website. Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco have good websites full of useful information. Many local governmental websites are just horrible, however, and a phone call will get your more information.
  2. Look at your property. Do you have a big back yard? Do you have a basement with reasonable ceiling heights? Can you provide a separate entrance to the location you are considering?

Once you have done the above, consider your budget. Construction isn’t cheap. The Bay Area has some of the highest construction costs in the country. The reconstruction related to the recent fires has only made the cost of construction and the availability of contractors bigger problems.

You will need at least $100,000 to build a basement conversion or $175,000 to build a free-standing cottage. That doesn’t include professional services or permits will will start around $25,000 and go up depending on how complicated the project is and where it is located. Approval processes and permit fees vary wildly from city to city.

I know that sounds like a lot of money. It IS a lot of money. Remember, though, that where we live, if you rent out your accessory dwelling at market rents, in most cases you can earn this investment back in between 4 and 10 years. That’s not bad. And after the unit has paid for itself, you are making money every month. What are you going to do with that money? Invest? Travel? Pay for your kid’s college? Something else?

So image for just a minute, can you fit an accessory dwelling on your property?

If you think you can, and you are located in Berkeley, Oakland, or San Fracnisco (or near by), maybe you should contact me for my ADU Review service.

My ADU Review is an on site meeting with you. I will evaluate your property for it’s potential to add an accessory dwelling. We’ll discuss the challenges, the likely budget, and how long it really takes to get projects designed, approved, and built. Shoot me an email and let’s make an appointment.

 

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