Top Considerations for Building an In-Law Suite

Did you know that 20 percent of buyers would pay more for a home with an in-law suite? Added home value may be one reason in-law suites are more popular than ever.

Another reason for the rise in popularity may be the increase in senior citizens in America. People are living longer than ever, and elder care is a top concern for many.

There’s no doubt there’s been a rise in extended families living together as well. Building an in-law suite may seem like a good idea for any of these reasons.

Before you break ground on an in-law suite, though, you’ll want to be sure you’ve carefully considered all aspects. This guide will help you think through some of the most pressing concerns.

Is Building an In-Law Suite Legal?

The very first question you need to ask is whether you can legally build an in-law suite on your property.

Even if you think you have the space, many cities and municipalities have tight regulations about the construction of additional dwelling units. Zoning laws and more may prohibit you from turning a shed or a garage into a dwelling.

There may also be restrictions on hookups to gas, water, and other utilities.

If your city or municipality won’t allow for the construction of an in-law suite separate from the house, you may be able to get around this. An addition to your house or a renovation may enable you to create a separate dwelling area within the main structure. Restrictions may still apply, so this isn’t always the solution.

If you’re not sure if you can create an additional dwelling unit, then you should check in with the local zoning office. A local architect or builder may also be able to help you find information on the legality of an ADU.

Will Your Property Allow It?

The next consideration is whether your property will allow the ADU. Zoning laws play a role here as well, as you may not be able to build in certain areas. You may only be allowed to have structures of a certain size or they may need to be set so far back from the road.

This could mean you can’t fit a separate dwelling structure on your property, even if you think you have enough space.

If you’re thinking about converting an existing structure, you’ll want to think about the practicalities of it. A suite above the garage may sound like a good idea, but is it practical for your aging parents to climb up and down stairs?

Other practical considerations may include the expansion of existing facilities. Plumbing is often a concern, so if you already have a half bathroom you could expand, you may want to ensure your design incorporates this.

Some laws will require ADUs to have separate entrances. If so, you’ll want to consider the implications of this for your design.

Why Are You Building the ADU?

This is an important consideration, because the answer can affect what goes into the design of your in-law suite.
Are you building the suite to increase your property value? Are you living with extended family that includes younger relatives or those about your age?

If you’re considering the in-law suite for aging parents or other elderly relatives, then your design considerations will need to include accessibility. It’s much easier to install accessible showers and bathtubs in the first place than to replace existing ones.

If your in-law suite will house another family, then your considerations might be different. If you’re thinking about an ADU to house a disabled relative, then you need to think again about accessibility. Accessibility for someone with a wheelchair may look different than it does for someone with memory loss.

What Needs to Be Considered in Accessible Design

As noted, using a space above the garage or in your attic may not be a great option if it means lots of stair-climbing for an elderly person. These spaces could be totally inaccessible to someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility.

You may want to consider different spaces in these cases. You’ll still want to think about accessibility, such as access ramps or even elevators to help your family members get around.

Stairs in the interior may also present a problem. Even a step down could present a fall hazard for an elderly person.

Shower and bath accessibility are also of concern. You may want to install a walk-in bathtub or a shower seat right from the beginning.

Flooring may be another consideration. Some types of flooring can be quite slippery, which presents a fall risk for elderly parents. Choosing flooring that offers better grip means you won’t need to redo it later.

Other considerations might include locking mechanisms, especially if you have parents with Alzheimer’s who are prone to wandering. Paint color can have a big effect on mood, which is incredibly important to elderly populations. Many older people are depressed, but having a bright and cheery living space can help.

Finally, consider the ease of cleaning. Unless you can afford a cleaning crew coming in once a week, you’re likely going to end up cleaning. Your elderly parent may assist you if they can, but cleaning often goes by the wayside.

Is It Right for Your Family?

If you and your parents fight like cats and dogs, is it a good idea to have them move in right beside you? You’ll want to carefully consider the answer to this question.

There are many other options, and many people prefer independence. A majority of older people said they preferred to age in their own homes. Your in-laws or your parents might consider moving in, but they also might not want to.

The impacts on your own household should also be considered. While an ADU is a separate dwelling unit, having your parents so close may not be the right choice.

Disabled relatives may want to seek out other options. This is often true of children, who may want to move further afield and live more independently.

In any case, you may have more options than you think. Assisted living or senior housing may be available.

Long-term care options may be more appropriate in the case of parents who have advanced medical needs. Even with the in-law suite, you may still need to consider these options as well.

Plan for the Long-Term

Maybe your parents aren’t ready to move into a smaller space just yet. If your parent has a progressive illness, they may need to move to other housing so they can receive care. Eventually, elderly relatives may pass away.

The ADU will still be standing. So, what do you plan to do with it in the long term?

One option might be renting it out. Airbnb makes it easier to list accommodations, and many travelers appreciate having a space separate from their hosts. A well-appointed ADU could be a great option.

You might also plan to have the space absorbed into the main house, if possible. You could eventually attach a garage to the house. If you run your own business, it could make a good space for a home office.

You might also consider it as a space for a hobby, if you have one. It could even become a library or a gym.
Of course, your long-term plan may be to sell your home. If so, then you may want to build the ADU to increase your home’s value.

Can You Afford It?

The last consideration is the financial side of the construction project. The cost of building an in-law suite can range quite widely.

It depends a bit on your plan for the ADU. If you’re building an entirely new structure, it’s probably going to cost more. High-end finishes and even the size of the space will affect costs.

In Portland, Oregon, you’ll pay between $40,000 and $50,000 on average for an attached unit. If you go detached, you’ll pay closer to $100,000.

According to the experts at Acton ADU, you do have plenty of options for financing an in-law suite. You may be able to secure a loan or use a personal line of credit. Your builder may be able to help you find financing.

There may even be incentive programs, depending on where you live. Some cities have seen ADUs as a way to help solve low-income housing crises. Other areas may offer incentives for caregivers or assisted living.

Be sure to consider if you can handle the costs of building an in-law suite addition.

Increasing Home Value Is Always in Style

Building an in-law suite could be a smart move for your property and your family. It could help you ensure aging parents are cared for. You might be able to give your college-aged child their independence.

An in-law suite might be a good option if you want to increase your property value. Other renovations can also boost your home’s selling price. If you’re looking for more ideas, then check back often for all the latest trends and tips.

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