Why build an ADU on your property?
Many homeowners are excited about the simplified restrictions and are now exploring building an accessory dwelling unit on their property, but why? I’d say it comes down to two things: their new ability to add living space to their property in a simplified manner, coupled with the tremendous variety of potential uses for an ADU.
Adding square footage to an existing home in the past meant building an ‘addition’ or second story, which was a headache. Not only was it often very costly, time-consuming, and usually required considerable changes to the home's existing layout, but it also meant living through the discomfort of construction in your home.
An accessory dwelling unit relieves many of these problems and allows for many flexibility in uses. People are building them as extra space (an office or guest house), a music or yoga studio, a mancave or she-shed, or a home for their retired parents or grown children.
Beyond these ‘typical’ uses, it’s also an opportunity for a homeowner to use as a rental unit for additional income. I’ve heard from several soon-to-be retired homeowners planning to build an ADU in Los Angeles so they can move into it (as they don’t need as much space) and rent their primary home as a source of retirement income. That’s pretty ingenious.
Who can build an ADU?
With regard to parking, an ADU is exempt from any parking requirements as long as the property is within one-half mile of public transit (bus stop, etc).ADU on their property
Los Angeles ADUs are also allowed on multifamily properties such as duplex, triplex, four-plex, and apartment buildings. These properties generally have different guidelines for the construction of ADUs, but they also have the potential to build several ADUs on a single property.
If converting an existing garage into an ADU, two spots need to be maintained for the existing residence but can be uncovered spots on a driveway, which can be side-by-side or even tandem. A new accessory dwelling unit must be at least 10’ away from the existing house and garage or it must be attached to either. Also, a new unit must be at least 4’ from both the rear and side property lines. A garage conversion into a living space, however, does NOT need to meet these setback requirements.
How much does an ADU in Los Angeles cost?
An accessory dwelling unit cost will vary greatly in cost based on the options and size you choose. As discussed, the most cost-effective option is to convert an existing garage into an ADU garage conversion.
Since the major components already exist, the construction entails items such as constructing the fourth wall (where the garage door is currently), adding the interior components such as interior walls, a kitchen, bathroom, flooring, etc; adding windows and doors, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, insulation, and a new sewer line that will probably connect to the sewer lateral at the front of the main home.
The cost for an ADU garage conversion can usually range from $95,000-$120,000 depending on the homeowner’s requirements. Costs to construct a new accessory dwelling unit in Los Angeles can also vary considerably based on size, the number of stories, location, access, etc, but will generally range from $150,000-$400,000
A safe rule of thumb is to assume $250-$400 per square foot – the bigger the space, the lower cost per square foot. If you’re considering ‘building up’ for a 2-story ADU, costs will go up considerably as well. Keep in mind that ADU cost also can vary greatly depending on the quality and style of materials you plan to use. ADU cost will be affected by both interior materials (flooring, kitchen cabinets, tile, lighting, etc) as well as exterior materials such as roofing, stucco/siding, hardscape & landscape. Finally, ADU costs are affected by things like ADU permit cost, city requirements or fees, and the proximity to utilities on your property. For ADU cost-saving ideas check out this blog (link).
Finding The Right Team – How do I hire a good Los Angeles ADU contractor?
When looking to build an accessory dwelling unit or even starting to explore the idea, it’s best to search for only local, licensed General Contractors. No other contractors are qualified or equipped to do this sort of construction, and using an unlicensed contractor or handyman would be a mistake.
Any contractors you contact, always confirm they have experience with these types of projects. It is best to hire a contractor who’s built additions and garage conversions in the past and knows the potential issues/pitfalls. There are several other important criteria you should use in selecting a contractor, not including their cost estimate.
Other things to look for in a contractor include:
- Check for a valid contractor’s license
It’s extremely important to check their license on the Contractors State License Board website to confirm it is active, there are no disciplinary actions, and it has Workers Compensation insurance associated with it (assuming the GC has employees).
- Make sure they’re insured
Always ask the contractor for a copy of his insurance certificate and make sure that it hasn’t expired. It might be a good idea to call the insurer directly, just to be sure. There have been cases reported where uninsured contractors have ‘Photoshopped’ their insurance papers to trick homeowners, so you can never be too careful.
Ask your contractor for at least three references you can call. It’s important to ask them about their experience and satisfaction with the quality of the contractor’s work. If you can get any pictures of the work, even better.
- Read their reviews online
It’s also a good idea to do a Google & Social Media search of the contractor to ensure there are no major red flags. Read any reviews you can find about their business, and don’t be afraid to address what you found with the contractor if there is anything concerning.
Building an ADU is not dissimilar to building a small home. Therefore, it’s super important to interview multiple ADU contractors in Los Angeles. The planning, permitting, and construction of an ADU is a long process, so the ADU contractor you select and hire will be “in your life” for a long time. You can be certain there will be cost overruns and delays, so ensuring that you’ve hired an honest and trustworthy ADU contractor will make a big difference during the process. The right contractor will be upfront and communicative with you.