Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Right for Your Property?

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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) serve a much-needed housing gap in California. With the aging Baby Boomer population, the granny flat or what is also sometimes referred to as a mother-in-law suite is no longer a novelty, but rather, a fairly common practice. Homeowners are increasingly looking to add on to their existing property in order to accommodate the needs of parents, grandparents, and other older relatives who can no longer live completely on their own and yet still want the independence that comes with a structure such as an ADU or accessory dwelling.

Beyond that, yet another reason for the emergent popularity of these types of accessory dwellings is the added income they can potentially bring. ADUs are widely used as rental properties. In California especially, we are seeing more and more “casitas” utilized in this way. With this scenario, an ADU really does present a win-win situation: the homeowners on whose land the accessory dwelling is built get that secondary passive income, while the tenant is able to move into an affordable residence that offers home-like privacy with prices closer to what you’d find with an apartment.

Per California’s definition, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a separate dwelling area on the same land as a detached house. This mother-in-law suite, or casita, can either be completely detached or it can also be built attached to the primary structure on the property.

Budget and Feasibility Study for ADUs – Are You Compliant?

With the country facing an affordable housing shortage, the rise of accessory dwellings is not surprising. Some issues however that many homeowners who are considering constructing this type of accessory dwelling are facing are those concerning budget and feasibility, not to mention, overall ROI. In other words, does it even make sense to build an ADU on your land from a price standpoint, and if you do decide to construct a casita (one that you are likely to rent out), will you receive a measurable ROI?

The question many are asking is where do I turn? What are some starting points that can help people get a better sense of whether or not this type of dwelling is right for their property? And where can homeowners go to get a budget and feasibility study for an ADU? Below are four sites that offer very useful insights for those looking into ADU construction. While each of these websites has its upsides and drawbacks, they do present homeowners with a better overall feel for whether or not their property will “work” as far as an ADU goes.


A Few Resources for ADU Feasibility Studies


Recently featured on the new home improvement TV Show, California Contractor, this is one of our favorite resources for feasibility studies.  In line with their tagline: “Make smart choices for home using data you can trust,” this particular platform states that it will give you actionable advice for making more intelligent choices where your property is concerned. So, when it comes to whether or not a casita or mother-in-law suite is a smart move, theoretically, you should get the information you need just by plugging in some pertinent pieces of data regarding your existing home.

Among some things to think about if using

– For those living in California, the site will actually match you up with some local vetted vendors to help you get your ADU project underway.

– They actually base their numbers on “real-life” vendor quotes. Once you submit the details of your mother-in-law suite build, the platform will base the estimated pricing for your project on the labor and materials costs of similar projects going up in your area.

– will also give you access to valuable financing resources. Financing an ADU is not necessarily going to be like getting a mortgage for a house—it’s a more nuanced and in some instances, far more involved process.


Touting a “see what’s buildable” approach, is another site that gives users detailed insights into whether or not building an ADU is in fact feasible, and according to the site, they also have the ability to ensure that your project is in compliance, as they will check local codes. The dashboard here is fairly in-depth, and users are able to upload designs in order to ensure the proper scale. also advertises that homeowners can see how their accessory dwelling design works within the context of the contours of their property.

Some other things to consider as far as goes:

– The plans/programs were designed for both design/build teams and individual homeowners. You want to keep this in mind when navigating through the various purchasing options.

– The scope here is broader than with some other platforms and sites as you are able to get a more in-depth perspective as far as site planning goes.

– Depending on your purchased plan, you may receive a detailed compliance report. As ADUs are relatively new to California, this could be pretty helpful.


The third budget and feasibility study contender on this list is Unlike some of the other budget/feasibility websites, – right from the home page – presents themselves as ADU experts. In other words, the site really is geared specifically for those looking to construct accessory dwellings on their property. Focusing largely on issues of compliance, the site simplifies ADU construction, laying it out as centering on design, permitting and then building. As with some of their competitors, also specializes in connecting homeowners with reputable and reliable vendors to ensure a smooth build.

A few things to think about with

– They give you insights from other homeowners who’ve built ADUs; this way you get access to some local firsthand experiences.

– They attest that they help homeowners through each and every step of the process with the backing of the Housable platform.

– According to reviews, it seems as though they actually do help with the permitting process.


Finally, with, users get another platform that focuses almost exclusively on the construction of ADUs—after all, it’s in their domain name. They tout themselves as a one stop “Plan-Design-Build” solution for those interested in building an accessory dwelling. As with some of the other sites on this list, asserts that they will assist with compliance issues and also with helping homeowners procure the necessary permits. The site does offer a portfolio of projects and case studies so that users can gain a better sense of who they are and what exactly they do.

Among the key takeaways from the website:

– They say that they were among the first ADU specialists to the Bay Area and are thus deeply familiar with the regulations.

– They will also help with pre-evaluations and appraisals to facilitate the financing ends of things.

– Their website lists that they specialize in helping homeowners plan/design garage conversions, detached ADUs, attached ADUs as well as Junior ADUs (or interior conversions).


Opting to construct an accessory dwelling of this nature on your property—be it for family members or for additional income—is a big step. The key is to do your homework. Look into feasibility studies, assess ROI potential, and ultimately determine if in fact, this is the right move for you.


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