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Essential Questions to Ask Before Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

July 24, 2023

As housing demands continue to rise and property prices soar, many homeowners are turning to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a viable solution to increase living space and generate additional income. ADUs, also known as granny flats, in-law suites, or backyard cottages, are self-contained living units located on the same lot as a primary residence. However, before embarking on the journey of building an ADU, there are crucial questions you need to ask yourself to ensure a smooth and successful project.

1. What is the purpose of your ADU?

Determine the primary purpose of building an ADU. Are you planning to accommodate aging parents, create a rental unit for extra income, or establish a home office space? Understanding the main goal will help shape the design, size, and layout of your ADU.

2. What are the legal requirements and regulations?

Research local zoning laws, building codes, and permitting requirements related to ADUs in your area. Some cities have specific guidelines concerning ADU size, setbacks, parking, and usage. Ensuring compliance with these regulations is crucial to avoid potential legal issues down the road.

3. How will you finance the ADU construction?

ADU construction can be a significant financial investment. Evaluate your budget and explore financing options, such as personal savings, loans, or partnerships. Consider how the ADU will impact your property taxes and insurance costs as well.

4. What design and layout will best suit your needs?

Decide on the design that complements your existing property and serves its intended purpose. Consider factors like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen facilities, and overall square footage. Balancing functionality with aesthetics will ensure your ADU is a valuable addition to your property.

5. Should you hire an architect or a contractor?

Based on the complexity of your ADU project, decide whether you need an architect to help with the design and planning phase. For more straightforward designs, a skilled contractor with experience in building ADUs may be sufficient.

6. What are the utility connections and access points?

Assess how your ADU will connect to utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage. Determine the most practical access points to minimize disruption to your existing property and avoid unnecessary costs.

7. How will the ADU impact your property's resale value?

Consider the potential impact of the ADU on your property's resale value. ADUs can significantly increase property value, but factors like the quality of construction, design, and local market conditions will play a role.

8. Are there any environmental considerations?

Evaluate how your ADU can be designed to maximize energy efficiency and sustainability. Incorporating eco-friendly features can reduce utility costs and appeal to environmentally conscious tenants or buyers.

9. What is your timeline for completion?

Set realistic expectations for the construction timeline, factoring in potential delays due to weather, permit approvals, or unexpected challenges. Having a clear timeline will help you plan accordingly and manage expectations.

10. How will you manage the ADU rental (if applicable)?

If you plan to rent out your ADU, think about how you will manage tenant screening, lease agreements, and ongoing maintenance. Decide whether you'll handle these responsibilities yourself or hire a property management company.


Building an ADU can be a rewarding investment that benefits both homeowners and tenants. However, taking the time to ask these essential questions before starting the construction process is crucial for a successful project. By addressing the key aspects of ADU development, you'll be better prepared to create a functional, legal, and aesthetically pleasing living space that adds value to your property for years to come.