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Unlock Hidden Potential with Accessory Dwelling Units in the Bay Area

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Roey & Gil

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From a secondary suite to a granny pod or in-law units, many homeowners have secondary units on their property called accessory dwelling units, ADUs. ADUs are growing in popularity – and not just as a place for the in-laws, grandparents, or other family members to stay while they are visiting.

At Clever Design & Remodeling, we understand the possibilities that building a secondary unit in your San Francisco backyard can provide.

adu example
ADU’s are essentially a second, miniature, home on your property

what is an aduWhat Are Accessory Dwelling Units?

Although accessory dwelling units are not a housing innovation by any means, these second structures are becoming more popular. Essentially, an ADU is a secondary living space on your property. The unit must be constructed according to local building codes, meaning you must get the proper building permit to build the dwelling units.

ADU construction is becoming more popular for a very specific reason: The lack of affordable housing throughout the United States – and in the San Francisco, California area, in particular. Many property owners, including owners of single-family homes or multi-family buildings, are constructing ADUs as more than a way to provide a comfortable place for visiting friends and family.

ADUs can be an easy way to make passive additional income. Suppose you charge rent on the ADU or use the accessory dwelling unit as a way to earn income as an Airbnb. In that case, you can enjoy additional financial incentives, including tax incentives and an increase in your property value.

ADU small home unit
The best type of ADU is a small house which allows you the same comforts as your main home

adu conceptIdeas For Accessory Dwelling Units In San Francisco

Are you ready to construct an accessory dwelling unit (ADUs) in your backyard but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are a few very simple ideas that can help you create an imaginative additional residential property in your own backyard:

Consider Inexpensive Garage Conversions

You don’t need to build an entirely new structure to enjoy the benefits of an ADU. Many homeowners are opting for simple detached or attached garage ADU conversions. This allows you to maximize your unused garage space as secondary housing or as a way to make additional rental income.

When the unit is not in use, it can be used as temporary storage space, as well.

Opt For an Inexpensive Tiny House

If you aren’t sure which type of ADU is right for your backyard, or if you have very limited space, consider obtaining a building permit for a tiny house. Tiny houses have been very popular for decades and can make a truly amazing addition to your primary dwelling.

Build More Than One Unit to Maximize Profits

Instead of constructing one unit, some homeowners with enough space are considering constructing second units and enjoying the extra income and space that comes with all that additional square footage. Before you build more than one ADU on your property, check with your town’s or city’s building codes, as you might be limited to the number of ADUs you are allowed to construct behind your property line.

Can You Have ADU in the Bay Area?

The simple answer is yes, you can construct an ADU on your property in the beautiful Bay Area of California. However, before you begin construction, you must take steps to legally build the secondary unit behind residential buildings in San Francisco.

Here are some of the steps you as a homeowner must take to legally construct an accessory dwelling unit on your property:

  • Contact the city to determine if it is legal to construct an ADU on your property. In most cases, you will be allowed to do so, but there are restrictions in place in some existing neighborhoods.
  • There may be a state or local program incentive for constructing an ADU on your property, particularly if the accessory structure is intended to help the public. For example, because there is such a high demand for housing supply, including affordable housing, you may receive a grant to construct an affordable ADU or if you offer rent control.
  • Determine if financial assistance is available. In some cases, you may be entitled to financial assistance for the construction costs of your ADU. For example, one potential grant is provided by the San Francisco Housing Commission ADU Finance Program.
  • Contact the city zoning administrator or city inspectors to determine if you need to sign a regulatory agreement before construction begins. These agreements are often necessary if you provide the new units as rent-controlled properties.
  • In some cities in the Bay Area, if you are constructing an ADU behind a multi-family home or apartment complex, you must give the tenants notice before construction begins.

As construction nears, you will need to apply for a variety of permits. Don’t worry because the team at Clever Design & Remodeling understands local San Francisco and state law and current building codes and can help guide you through the permit application process. Also, be aware that the approval process can be lengthy, especially if you are constructing multiple accessory dwelling units.

adu interior
Household fittings and furniture are scaled to suit the size of your ADU

How Much Does an ADU Unit Cost in the Bay Area?

The overall cost to construct an ADU in San Francisco can vary dramatically, depending on the type of structure you choose and the overall cost of materials and labor. On average, each of your new units will cost between $145,000-$200,000 to construct fully. In some cases, you can save money if you choose a garage conversion in San Mateo County or build an ADU out of the building’s existing units.

Constructing a detached ADU can sometimes be more expensive simply because you will have to include the cost of plumbing and electrical work. Finally, if you are constructing multiple ADUs, you will also pay more.

Are Accessory Dwelling Units Legal in California?

Yes, accessory dwelling units are legal in California. California recently created new laws that govern ADUs statewide. However, there are specific laws regarding the number of ADUs you can construct and where you can erect the units on your property. For example, if you are constructing an ADU in the rear yard of multi-family buildings with more than five units present, you can potentially construct unlimited ADUs.

Additionally, under California law, you can construct an ADU or another new dwelling on your property, but you must maintain the required setbacks and rear yard setbacks in your property’s zone.

adu legal in ca
Building an ADU on your property is perfectly legal in California and the state guidelines are easy to follow

Can Cities in California Prohibit Accessory Dwelling Units?

In the majority of cases, if you follow the rules and file all the appropriate paperwork, the approval process for most property owners to construct an ADU in their backyard will be easy and straightforward. There are some instances when you might be denied or have a few issues building behind your single-family home.

For example, if your residential building is part of a homeowner’s association or HOA, the governing body might have specific rules about building an ADU on your property. For example, you might be required to construct in an existing building envelope, or you may only be able to alter an existing space to create an ADU.

If there was an existing ADU on your property, or you did not construct detached ADUs up to code, there are ways you can have the unauthorized unit legalized. Once again, it is critical to talk to a zoning administrator to determine where and how many ADUs you can legally construct on your property, according to the state and local planning code.

adu rental unit
Your ADU can be transformed into a rental unit, with all the features of a studio apartment

4 adu typesWhat Are All the Different Types of Accessory Dwelling Units?

In general, there are only four main types of ADUs, and each has its own benefits.

Conversion Unit

When you convert any portion of your property into an ADU, such as your unused ground floor space or your garage, it is a conversion unit. Converting your existing space can help save you money, but be aware you might lose some living space by creating a studio unit from your garage or basement.

Attached Unit

If you add square footage to your primary unit, and it is deemed an ADU, it is considered an attached unit. This is an excellent option if you do not have enough additional space in your existing dwelling to create a conversion unit. The building costs of an attached unit are often less than a detached ADU simply because you may not need to add electrical or plumbing.

If you opt for an attached ADU, California building codes prohibit the amount of square footage that you can add to your existing primary structure. Keep this in mind when planning your attached unit, especially if you are planning on using this unit for rental income.

Detached ADUs

A trendy option for homeowners looking to make more income, a detached ADU involves creating a separate structure on your property. Depending on where you currently live, you may be able to additionally construct a detached ADU on your property in addition to a conversion unit or attached unit.

Remember that if you own a multi-family structure, you can construct unlimited ADUs on your property. This is an excellent option for property owners who are looking to dramatically increase their rental earnings!

Junior Accessory Dwelling Units

The newest variety of ADU, a junior accessory dwelling unit, is a specialized type of ADU that allows property owners to convert up to a 500-square-foot area of their existing space in a single-family home into a smaller ADU.

In the state of California, a Junior ADU can only be used as a long-term rental. This means you cannot construct a Junior ADU for use as a short-term rental or Airbnb.

mirror in adu bathroom
Feature wall mirrors are one of the many sleight-of-hand tricks which can be used to create the illusion of space in your ADU

building your aduLet the Team at Clever Design & Remodeling Help You Create a Dream Accessory Dwelling Unit!

Are you ready to start the fun and exciting process of constructing an ADU on your San Francisco or Bay Area property? The team at Clever Design & Remodeling understands the potential of creating additional living space on your property. Our ADU team is well-versed in every state ADU program and local program and can help you determine if you qualify for any grants.

walking you through adu processWe Will Be There to Guide You Through Each and Every Stage of the Building Process

Our project management team will assign you to an ADU team that will guide you through every step of the construction process, from understanding permits and your local planning code to choosing building materials and creating structural drawings.

We are staffed with five-star contractors, builders, and interior designers who can help you understand all the guidelines and ordinances that will impact your build.

visit your homeClever Design & Remodeling Will Visit Your Property and Determine Your Unique Needs

A representative from Clever Design & Remodeling will visit your Bay Area property and review your existing structures and property to determine the best options for you. We will offer you a preliminary free estimate of the cost of permits, supplies, and labor.

Don’t try to tackle the sometimes confusing and overwhelming process of constructing an ADU on your own, instead, leave this to the pros at Clever Design & Remodeling. We understand all the new and complex building codes created by the California Department of Housing & Community Development and how they can impact the construction of your ADU.

bay area renovation experts
Call us today and a member of our team will be happy to discuss your ADU options!

clever design logoAll About the Amazing Team at Clever Design & Remodeling

Based in San Jose, CA, the award-winning designers, project managers, and construction crew at Clever Design & Remodeling has years of experience transforming houses into dream homes. We will strive to understand your unique needs and help you construct a home or ADU that will work with your needs and budget.

In addition to constructing ADUs, our team can also handle almost any home improvement project, including:

We employ a passionate team of experts with one main goal: To exceed our customers’ expectations. We will work tirelessly to ensure our customers are heard and that they understand the entire process – from start to finish! Let’s get started!

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