What Is an ADU and Why Do You Want One?

Everybody’s doing it. That is, building ADUs (accessory dwelling units), the 2018 real estate term for what used to be called mother-in-law flats or guesthouses. Basically, they’re just smaller homes on the same plot of land as a larger, primary dwelling. ADUs range from free-standing structures tucked in the backyard of a larger dwelling to apartments built over top of a garage (or converted from a garage). So why are they suddenly blowing up? A 2017 California law loosened zoning restrictions, and since then they’ve boomed in popularity. Here’s why you might want to build/move into/start a Pinterest board for one of your own.

Your Perfect L.A. Neighborhood, According to Your Zodiac Sign

la accessory dwelling unit kithaus

Tiny Homes Are Trending, Big-time

In the old days, prospective guesthouses needed expensive plans custom-designed by an architect or builder. Not these days, since the tiny house movement has created a market in which builders compete to sell you reasonably-priced, prefab homes in a variety of styles from the sleek Kithaus to a shingled Ideabox.

cozy bedroom

Homeowners Can Reap Passive Income

Want to list your little backyard home on a short-term rental site or rent to a long-term resident? The money you make can cover your mortgage on the whole property, according to the just-published Backdoor Revolution by ADU-dweller Kol Peterson.

kids in kitchen

Family Members Can Be Nearby, But With Privacy

Want to have your parents live where you can easily assist them—or where they can help with childcare? Need a space for visiting relatives to sleep, but not be underfoot? Want to offer a sibling or college-age child a way to pay affordable rent in a safe neighborhood? An ADU is the answer.

french doors patio

You’re Increasing Your Home Value

Make sure to have all the necessary permits in place, and then any additional square footage in your ADU is added to your total living space, which adds to your house’s price when you sell or refinance.

la accessory dwelling unit small living room
Pottery Barn

You Get To Play Fixer Upper

Possibly the most fun part of developing ADUs is the opportunity to channel your inner Joanna Gaines without having to leave home. You’ll get to incorporate popular features like lofted ceilings, open sight lines and space-saving pocket doors. If you’re decorating, you can browse the spate of new small-space collections from quality sources including West Elm and Pottery Barn.

The 10 Best Home Styling Hacks We Learned This Year

dana dickey
Dana Dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...
read full bio