For some, it was the essential thing, and for others, it was a desired pipe dream: the idea of having one’s family members, like parents, move in to help with childcare needs for their grandchildren. Intergenerational families benefited substantially from living together during the hardest months of COVID-19 lockdown, since paid, out-of-home childcare options were few and far between for those who needed to be working while children were out of school. 

As a result, house renovations and home purchases that include an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, became a major draw in the housing market. Living with three or more generations of one’s family is easier when everyone has their own spaces, and ADUs are one of the most economical ways to do that.

Understanding ADUs

An accessory dwelling unit is a part of a given home that tends to serve as a separate living space. The definition can be fuzzy – for instance the old idea of an “in-law suite” was simply a room or two with a dedicated restroom, while other ADUs must have a separate entrance and some form of kitchenette to be considered a full ADU. Backyard guest homes that are separate structures, attic apartments, and finished basements can all become ADUs.

The appeal tends to be the ability to be physically near your family members (or renters, if you rent the ADU out) but for everyone to have what they need for daily life without having to cross paths. Instead of bumping elbows while trying to make two dinners in the same kitchen, the idea is that everyone can do their own activities until they are invited into each other’s spaces.

Home Modifications That Help Boost ADU Possibilities

If there is a way to create a separate entrance, a kitchenette with hot water, a sink, and some electricity for something like a toaster oven, or adding a bathroom, you may be in a good place to renovate part of your home into an ADU. The benefits are apparent if you want to have family members live with you, but moving from just seeing an attic or basement as living space to seeing it as an ADU can affect the home’s sale.

People who might see the mortgage as a little bit of a stretch for their budgets may choose a home with an ADU in order to get some rental income that can help with the mortgage. They also may be shopping specifically with an eye to moving family members in at some point, and you’ll save them some renovation time if you already have an ADU on site. 

While there isn’t a definitive price boost from having an ADU, many people find that they are valuable for all kinds of things, from having a separate office space to having an adult child move back in while job hunting. If your renovations move you in that direction, it’s likely to be looked on favorably by buyers.

ADUs are just one of the insights from real estate agents that Homelight has tracked; when you go to sell a home, make sure you consider the latest reports for additional helpful home trends.