What If I Can't Build What I Want On My Lot?

Does The Addition Add Up?

My previous blog entry revisited ADU structures that might be desired by a property owner to provide more space for family members, rental income or any other number of reasons. I suggested doing some footwork to make sure that a fully autonomous structure was valid in one’s location. Now I want to examine what steps you might take if you find that the detached structure you wanted to build isn’t allowable for some reason.

Different Goals, Different Solutions

First of all, your response will depend a lot on what your goals are. If you want more space to allow for a craft space, a workshop, room for guests or kids or other family members, perhaps a simple addition would be adequate. Additions have their own set of compliance issues, but they are typically at least somewhat less than building a whole new detached structure and might solve all your needs with less fuss. Tasteful additions that meet your aesthetic and other requirements should be easy enough to obtain.

Can an Addition Increase Your Bottom Line?

What if your real wish in considering an ADU is to achieve potential rental income? I’ll dedicate much more space to this issue since most of what drives people to invest in ADU’s is the desire for additional income. Can you have an addition or remodel fulfill that need? The town just north of us has a lot of homes featuring “suites” that are of the same structure, but separate in terms of having their own kitchen, bath, entrance, etc. Despite there not being a separate dwelling unit on the site, these homes are essentially two units and one is fully rented out.

An addition could potentially meet this demand while also meeting zoning or building department requirements that prohibit a fully detached unit. That’s something to look into and verify, because the opposite could also be true. An addition meant to serve as a rental will have its own set of issues to conform to, but those might be easier to meet.

When doing due diligence, some things to consider would again be fire safety and compliance, parking or driveway issues (provision of parking for a guest or tenant), connection or splitting of utilities should be investigated, and your building department might even have things to say about which way the main entrance to the unit faces (seriously, you should look into that…it could be the case). Rules vary by jurisdiction (some locations don’t even have building codes!) so they should be explored fully prior to beginning a project (ideally before you even start getting your heart set or your finances structured on a particular renovation!). You might also want to check with zoning to be sure a rental is feasible and allowed. If you belong to a neighborhood association that would also be a group to contact to be sure you keep good relations with your neighbors!

A home renovation, build, addition or side yard cottage are all things that people undertake or consider at different times and for differing reasons. Being clear on what you want to accomplish and knowing how flexible you are, personally, for achieving your goals can help you ask the right questions in advance and make your building process more straightforward and less stressful. Do some homework and consider your options. Remaining open to flexible solutions can help you avoid the sense that building departments and others with lots of rules and regulations exist solely (or mostly) to thwart your desires!

Privacy Please

Most of us are pretty creative and imaginative, and you can create an addition or remodel that supports your wishes in terms of outcomes while also satisfying aesthetic considerations. Privacy is an issue that needs a bit more investigation. If you are thinking of using an addition to your home to generate income, that will involve some consideration on your part . Just off the top of my head, if I were to build a rental space into my home, I’d seek to find ways to mimic full autonomy, by creating separate pathways, entrances and outdoor spaces and perhaps use natural or manmade screening devices, etc. that would allow both tenant and homeowner to keep their privacy intact as much as possible. I would also consider ways to more fully soundproof a home or the addition, at the very least, in order to keep noise transfer between units to a minimum. Much can be achieved with extra insulation (acoustic panels could be a great investment) and creative landscape work and while perhaps an additional expense, should pay back in terms of comfort for many years to come.