God, I just wish my house was smaller. Said no one ever. In fact, the opposite is more likely true because we could all use a little more space.

But it’s not just about having more. Sure, a bigger living room would be nice but it doesn’t help if you need an extra bedroom. And a bigger bedroom would be nice, but not if you have to share it with more people.

That’s where accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, come in. ADUs are small dwellings that are near or attached to your existing house. These units can include: 

  • An apartment over the garage
  • A tiny cottage in the backyard
  • Or a basement apartment

ADUs are also known by many names like: 

  • Secondary dwelling units
  • Mother-in-law houses
  • Granny flats
  • Carriage houses

But in general, planners, inspectors, and officials know it as Accessory Dwelling Units. So it’s safe to stick with the term ADU unless you’re telling your friends about the cool new space you’re building.

From moving a family member nearby to building extra income, ADUs are an excellent option for tons of reasons. And 2015 brought more relaxed building codes for the city of Austin, which has led to an increase in these smaller living spaces. 

Whatever your specific needs, an ADU may be exactly what you need. Here’s a closer look at what it takes to build an accessory dwelling unit on your property.


Can You Afford an In-Law House?

For starters, an ADU is part of the same property as your main home and typically isn’t sold separately. According to the city of Austin, construction costs are approximately $150 per square foot, not including professional fees or utility connections (which can run an additional 10-30k). 

Before you start to think of building, you’ll need to figure out how to finance this project. Most homeowners use common methods like: 

  • Tapping into existing equity on their property
  • Taking out a renovation loan
  • Getting cash in hand from private investors or friends and family

Once you know approximately how much money you’re working with, then you can decide on the size and design of your structure. 

Keep in mind that cost is not always straightforward. You may be able to do some renovations yourself with the proper permits but the cost depends on the style and design you want. 

Now let’s look at an overview of the entire building process to give you a better idea of what it takes to complete an ADU.


How Convenient is it really to build an ADU? 

Building an entirely new unit can seem overwhelming. But don’t get caught up in the details as there are many professionals that can help make the process quick and easier for you. 

Before you begin planning, verify with the city that you’re zoned properly for this type of building. Then, make sure your building plans follow these city guidelines:

  • Make sure your lot is at least 5,750 sq ft
  • The max. size of the ADU is 1100 sq ft or 15% of the lot size, whichever is smaller
  • Building cover may not exceed 40% of the lot
  • ADU must be at least 10 ft from your main house
  • You must provide one dedicated parking spot

Once you’ve ticked off all these requirements and figured out financing, you’re ready to move forward. 

At this point, you might consider splitting the water and electric meters if you plan to rent the space out. Then, get the proper permits for building, removing trees or other major changes and you’re ready to build. Simple as that.

Overall, it’s a straightforward process and many local builders have experience with ADUs. Here’s a closer look at what’s been happening in Austin as far as building smaller dwellings.


What are Current Austin Trends for Accessory Dwelling Units? 

More and more people are investing in accessory dwelling units to satisfy a number of needs. Some of those needs include the option to house an adult child or elderly parent. 

Having an additional dwelling in close proximity to the main house allows people to care for others without giving up personal space or privacy. 

Other homeowners may use their ADU for additional income by renting it out. Depending on your circumstances, it may even make sense to move into the ADU yourself and rent out the main house. 

These structures also contribute to the limited housing availability in Austin. Whatever your reasons, having an ADU offers the potential for a lot of flexibility. 

How can an accessory dwelling unit improve your way of life and what would you use it for? Let us know by calling us directly or filling out the contact form above.