What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit and Why Are Homeowners Building Them?

Have you ever driven by a home and noticed a cute matching home near it? This might have you wondering how do you go about adding one of these mini homes and what are they called? Today we will be answering the question of what is an accessory dwelling unit and how to make the best one possible. 

Keep reading to also learn more about why they are useful.

What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An accessory dwelling unit is a second small dwelling attached to a regular single-family house or on the same grounds as the home. This dwelling unit can be either an apartment in a basement, a tiny house in the backyard on a foundation, or an apartment over a garage. 

No matter where the accessory dwelling unit is, it is part of the same property as the main home. This addition can’t be sold separately when selling a home. 

Building for Extra Income

There are a few different reasons that homeowners build accessory dwelling units. One big reason is to gain an extra income source by renting it to a family member or friend. You too can build an accessory dwelling unit as a rental income property.

There are a few factors to consider if you are trying to figure out whether or not adding an accessory dwelling unit as rental income is worth it or not for your situation. One factor that you want to take into consideration is your local zoning ordinances. 

Double-check with your area and your state what they require you to do, to be in zoning compliance. There are some areas that adding an accessory dwelling unit is not legal. Before you make your plans and start spending money make sure that you are not breaking any laws that will cost you fines in the future.

Another factor to consider is the tax consequences if you add a rental property in your home. Take into consideration what you are going to have to pay upfront and what you will have to pay to maintain the unit.

Building for Family

Another common reason to add an accessory dwelling unit to your home is for parents that want to live close to their kids and help them while they are raising their own kids. Sometimes the parents need financial help and adding a unit will help with finances. 

Younger generations are having trouble paying for bills, housing, and student loans making it common to live in an addition made to their parent’s home. This makes it more comfortable for the adult child and for the parents.

The child has their independence and is able to have an affordable place to live while the parents are in their own home. Both parties also have their own privacy. 

If your parents are getting older and you do not want to move them to a nursing home then an additional unit is the answer. This will still give your parents a sense of having their own place and their own independence but being close enough that you can lend them a hand or drive them to their appointments and to run their errands.

This will be really helpful in circumstances where elderly parents are being stubborn about moving out of their home. You can do your best to make the addition resemble their home as much as possible inside to make it an easier transition for them.

Not an Eyesore

There are a few ways to ensure that your addition does not become an eyesore. The last thing you want is to spend a ton of extra money and end up with something that looks terrible and that no one wants to really live in.


Try to place the windows as high up as possible to allow more light to come inside. The higher up, the deeper the light will be that will come into the unit. You can also opt for bigger windows to go along with the higher windows.


Consider making the ceiling vaulted instead of flat and low. The higher the ceilings are it will give the illusion of being much bigger inside. Higher ceilings with the combination of higher windows will also give the entire home more natural light.


A great way to add an addition that looks attractive is to have it match the exterior of the main home. Keep in mind that there are some cities that require the exteriors to match, make sure to be aware of the requirements where you live. 

You can also have matching window panels, matching doors, and matching roof materials. 

Open Space

A great way to create an accessory dwelling unit is to make it open. Because these are much smaller in square footage you want to avoid anything that will make them feel smaller like hallways. Use every space wisely. 

Some ideas to make the most out of each space include adding the laundry in an area in the kitchen area, instead of making walk-in closets make them for reaching into. 

Ready to Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

Now that you are more familiar with what is an accessory dwelling unit and how to go about adding one to your home, you can get started on the research phase. Make sure to get familiar with the laws in your area to make sure you stay in compliance at all times. 

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