Tag Archives: ADU facts

Retirement Downsizing in Place with an Accessible ADU

Share
This entry is part of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

 

 

 

Many seniors are seriously conflicted about the choice to downsize into a smaller, more manageable and affordable house or stay with the family home to pass it on to the children who grew up there. There is an inherent conflict between practicality and sentimentality, especially as you start to slow down and getting around the big old abode is becoming more of a hassle than it’s worth. The good news is that it’s not a clear-cut choice between selling the house to downsize or staying and trying to take care of it on your own. There are many shades of alternatives like living in the master suite and renting out spare bedrooms, running the place like a bed and breakfast through Airbnb, or you can even effectively downsize into a senior-friendly little home, rent out the house, and still be close enough to keep an eye on the old family home. How do you ask? By building an ADU.

What is an ADU?

An ADU is a small additional home built on your property either separately from or connected to the main house. These are homes generally between 400 square feet and 800 square feet. What’s so special about ADUs is that you can build one almost anywhere because they are so small but include enough room for one or two people to live comfortably, if not expansively.

Most ADUs feature one or two bedrooms, a full if small kitchen and dining area, a bathroom, and sometimes a laundry area. They often feature wide porches to help create more living space and are very comfortable in a spacious backyard. In other words, they are the perfect retirement downsizing apartments and you can build one right next to the home you don’t want to leave behind.

An Accessible ADU is Perfect for Retirement

ADUs are great for a lot of different population groups but for seniors, they are the perfect put-it-anywhere retirement flat. Small and incredibly compact, the ADU will be easy to keep clean even with a limited daily energy and you’ll never have to go up and down stairs to reach a room in the house. Even better, they can be easily designed for perfect accessibility with all the privacy and comfort of an apartment in a retirement community but still on your own land and completely under your control. A ramp can be installed out front, bars can be elegantly and discreetly installed throughout the home, and you can even have it custom-built with counter lifts, light-touch appliances, and other helpful accessibility features to make it a luxury retirement suite right in your own backyard.

The Smart-Home Upgrade

You can also make your small retirement flat even more convenient with the installation of a modern voice-activated smart home. You can have wifi-enabled lights and thermostat, and maybe even other appliances like a smart oven, coffee maker, self-watering plants, pet treat dispensers, and amazingly much more. Even non-smart things can be added to the smart home roster with the use of wifi-plugs for simple on/off functions. This means that from the comfort of your chair, you can manage many aspects of your home without having to waste your energy wandering around turning lights on and off, resetting the thermostat when it gets cold, or starting the oven pre-heating. And with an ADU, you’ll only need one hub because it can hear you from one end of the house to the other.

 

Downsizing is often the most practical choice for aging seniors, but it can also be a hard one because you don’t want to leave your family home. Fortunately, you don’t have to actually go anywhere to downsize or even give up some of your privacy to rent out part of the house. You can gain the full profits from renting the entire main home and still live comfortably on your own property by building yourself a cozy little accessible ADU. With the combination of a small clean space, ramps, and handrails, and helpful smart-home integration, you should be able to enjoy your retirement quite blissfully with all the joy of watching your family home come to life again with activity from a nearby comfy porch chair. For more information about building your cozy custom retirement ADU, contact us today!

Share

5 Tips for Building an Energy Efficient ADU

Share
This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

 

If you’re thinking about or already planning to build an ADU on your property, it’s important to remember that the cost of construction is only the beginning. The ADU will connect to your property’s water, power, and possibly gas hookups. Whoever lives there will add to your utility bills as if they were living in the main house, meaning your monthly costs will inevitably go up. This means that the more energy-efficient your ADU is, the lower it’s monthly utility cost will be. While there’s little you can do about water other than to have a well or collect rainwater (a whole new project all on its own), you can

lower and even eliminate the power required to keep your ADU residents happy. Here are five tips to remember when designing and building your ADU that can help.

1) Insulation and Weatherproofing

The weather in Hawaii is notoriously nice but most modern families still prefer to turn on the AC when relaxing at home or preparing for work and school each day. This means that the more efficiently a home maintains it’s internal temperature, the more energy efficient it will be. To ensure that your ADU doesn’t leak AC, make sure that the home is fully sealed and well-insulated. Windows and doors that open wide are wonderfully breezy, but they should also have efficient weatherstripping so that when closed, they seal completely.

2) Central Air

A lot of homes have stop-gap cooling measures like window AC units or free-standing room heaters. Not only are these bulky, they’re also less efficient than a centralized air system with sealed ducts, clean vents, and a single well-built appliance managing all your cooling and occasional heating needs. The more streamlined your ADU design is, the less power it will use.

3) Low-Watt Appliances

Appliances come in a wide selection of quality and efficiency. No matter what kind of appliance you’re looking for, from washing machines to water heaters, there will be options that consume less power for the same high-quality performance. With just a little bit of research, you should be able to fully equip your ADU with appliances that will combine into a significant reduction in power consumption for you and your ADU residents.

4) Solar Panels and Micro-Grid

Now that you’ve ensured that the ADU will consume the minimal amount of energy, you have the opportunity to have it compensate for its own power consumption, possibly reaching net-zero and removing the ADU from your power bill entirely. All you need is a modest solar panel array and a battery bank that can support the home’s power consumption overnight and maybe a day or two of clouds.

5) Smart Home

The final power-saving and incidentally delightful solution is integrating IoT smart home features. Wifi-controlled and programmable LED lights are not only more efficient, they can also be turned off from anywhere and turn themselves off when no one is home. A smart thermostat can ensure that the AC is never running when the house is empty. You can even install smart outlets to control normal appliances from your phone or on an efficient timer.

The more efficiently your ADU has been designed and built, the more inexpensive it will be to keep running comfortably and maintain in the years to come. From good insulation to lights that turn themselves off, with a little bit of forward thinking, you can reduce the amount of power your ADU consumes and possibly even generate all the power it needs to run every appliance in the home. For more helpful tips on building a new ADU for your family or rental use, contact us today!

Share

Just How Big is a 400 sq ft ADU?

Share
This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

 

 

Building an ADU on your property is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your neighborhood. It can provide cozy independent housing for retirees, extra housing space for family living with you, or provide a rental home for another family in need of affordable housing. However, building an ADU also comes with some specific limitations, one of which is how big your ADU can be in comparison to the size of your lot. Specifically, if your land is 3,500 square feet to 4,999 sq ft, the largest ADU you can build is 400 sq ft of internal floor space, including lofts. For larger lots, the upper limit caps at 800 square feet. But just how big is this in practical terms? How much walking space, how comfortable is the kitchen, and how many people can share the space without stepping on toes? 400 sq ft is small and 800 isn’t actually that much bigger.

Designing the Floor Plan

The key to building an enjoyable ADU is to understand exactly how much room you have to work with, then choose a floor plan that optimizes a comfortable lifestyle. In fact, the decision of floor plan is incredibly important to this process as you’ll need a design that fits well in your open yard space, is pleasant to live in inside, and suits the intended purposes. For a family, you’ll want to plan for private sleeping and clothing storage areas. For one or two retired elderly, a simple layout with plenty of wide spaces to move around in would be more convenient.

What 400 sq ft Looks Like on a Floor Plan

400 sq feet can be done in a lot of different ways depending on how you design it. The best way to think about a 400 sq ft is that it’s about the size of a two-car garage if square, and is usually about enough space for an open kitchen-living area, a full bathroom, and a one bedroom. The most important decision is how many walls to have. The fewer walls, the more open space you have, and most designs include an open kitchen and living room.

Designed long, you can put the bedroom and bathroom on the ‘private’ end and the kitchen and living room together on the other. This is better for narrow yard space and separating privacy space from visitor space. Square designs can provide more open space, especially if you’re willing to put the bed in the living area. Then, of course, there are all your non-regular options. L-shaped houses and other odd variations may provide for the exact distribution of space and yard use you’re looking for as well.

What About 800 st ft?

Okay, now let’s say you have quite a large plot of land and double that amount of ADU floor space. Now you have room for a separate kitchen and dining area if you want it, but in most cases, you’re better off investing in an extra bedroom or two to accommodate families with children. With creative storage, fold-away beds, and maybe another 3/4 bath, you could now comfortably fit a family of four or five in your ADU as long as they don’t mind small closets. For fewer tenants, you might add a study, guest bathroom, and a larger master suite instead.

Building a welcoming, family-friendly ADU is more complicated than it seems. You want to think carefully about who will be using the ADU and how you can make optimal use of the space available. If you’d like more ideas on how to design and build the perfect ADU plan for your property, please contact us today!

Share

The 9 Basic Requirements for Building an ADU in Hawaii

Share
This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

 

Since the dawn of property ownership, people have been building smaller dwellings near their pre-existing homes. In Australia, they call them Granny Flats, in certain parts of the continental US, they’re called Mother-in-Law houses and here in Hawaii, the official term is ADU, short for Accessory Dwelling Unit. Like the acronym says, these are little homes that act as complete residential unit accessories to a main house on a shared property. Theoretically, anyone can build an ADU simply by making a nice addition or building with a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom but officially there are certain legal guidelines for an approved ADU construction. Before you break out your carpentry tools or call a contractor, make sure your home and plans conform to the 9 basic requirements for building an ADU.

1) Proper Zoning

Zoning in Hawaii and knowing your exact zone can be a little tricky and ADUs can only be built in six specific zones. Before even thinking about building one of these tiny separate houses, make sure to check your lot’s zone by address and ensure that it matches one of the following:

  • R-3.5
  • R-5
  • R-7.5
  • R10
  • R20
  • Country District

2) Lot is At Least 3,5000 Square Feet

To ensure that there is plenty of room for your ADU, anyone who wants to build one needs to have a house lot that reaches at least 3,500 square feet of space. Fortunately, your original house is allowed to sit on some of it. Rather than breaking out the incredibly long measuring tape, you can check your lot’s size online to figure out if you qualify. Bigger is always better, and you’ll find out why with point nine.

3) Lot is Not Landlocked

To build an ADU, your lot will need to actually make contact with the road. Due to certain access requirements, a landlocked lot cannot hold an ADU. However, you can have an ADU if your lot is connected via driveway to the road by way of an easement through another closer lot. Flat lots are also perfectly fine.

4) Lot Has One Current Dwelling

You cannot build an ADU unless there is only one complete dwelling on your lot. This means that duplexes, apartment buildings, and lots that already have two or more homes on them cannot build an ADU. However, renovated apartments above the garage or in the basement are just fine as long as they’re not legally a second dwelling.

5) Owner or Family Lives On the Lot

To qualify for ADU construction, the homeowner or at least one member of their family needs to live on the lot when the ADU is complete. This means they can either live in the main house or the ADU based on preference, as long as the owner or a family member is in residence. You are allowed to rent out whichever building you’re not going to live in.

6) Record Your Covenants

When you do build an ADU, you are required to record covenants with the land with either the Bureau of Conveyances or the Land Court of the State of Hawaii or both. This ensures that you will never sell the ADU separately from the rest of the property and the lot cannot be subdivided into two separate properties. There are also other related rules in the Declaration of Restrictive Covenants.

7) No ADU Covenant Restrictions

Check any private covenant signed for your land to ensure that it doesn’t prohibit an ADU. If you have already agreed not to build one, starting construction now would be both illegal and quite silly. However, you may not be aware that the prohibition exists to make sure to check with your HOA to be sure.

8) Room For One More Parking Space

An ADU is officially an entirely separate second dwelling and because of this, it’s expected that the resident is likely to have their own car. Therefore to build a legal ADU, you’ll need room within the lot’s parking areas for one more parking space than your lot’s minimum spaces unless the edge of your property is within a half mile of a rail station.

9) ADU Plans Meet Maximum Size

The maximum square foot size of your ADU is limited by the square footage of the lot itself. For a lot at the minimum size of 3,500, your ADU can only be 400 square feet. For just under 5K, it can be up to 800 sq-ft, and for lots above 5K, you can have a much larger ADU.

By the end of this list, you should have a fairly good idea of whether or not you’re legally allowed to build an ADU on your property in addition to your single-family home. If you do decide that an ADU is right for you, your lot, and your family contact us today! We’ll be happy to help you figure out the next steps.

Share

Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Build an ADU in Hawaii

Share
This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

It has been awhile since we discussed the benefits of having an accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) – including their potential for bringing more affordable housing options into the Hawaiian housing market and how ADUs can provide a new source of income. If you need to refresh your memory or read it for the first time, you can find that post here.

While the benefits of an ADU are numerous, there is a lot to think about when it comes to building an accessory dwelling unit. We have compiled a list of six questions you should ask yourself before you commit.

1. Why do you want an ADU on your property?

The reasons for having an ADU can vary greatly. Some are looking to generate extra income by renting it out. Others want to keep multiple generations of their family together on the same property while having separate spaces at the same time. Knowing why you want it and being able to articulate your reasons will be helpful as you get further into the process.

2. Are you or a relative willing to live on the property once the ADU is completed?

In Hawaii, as in many other areas, the owner (or a close relative) of an ADU is required to live on the property. This can be in the primary residence or in the ADU, but you or someone closely related to you will need to live on the property. If you are not willing to do this and cannot find a family member interested in doing so, consider investing in updates to the house that is already there and rent it out instead of creating an accessory dwelling unit.

3. Do you know the rules and regulations for ADUs?

Different residential properties on the Hawaiian Islands have different zoning regulations, as well as homeowners’ association rules, which may or may not allow ADUs to be built on your property. There are also regulations regarding owner-builders you need to be aware of if you intend to take on that responsibility for the ADU. Do your research and find out if your property is eligible for an ADU before you invest much money into the process of building it.

4. Are you prepared for the initial and ongoing costs of creating an ADU?

The cost of creating an ADU is not just a one-time, lump-sum payment. Often, there are multiple costs involved and multiple professionals you will need to pay in order to make sure that the work done to create your ADU is up to date and up to code. You need to be prepared for additional costs to surface as construction goes along.

5. Are you planning to convert space that already exists into an ADU, or will the ADU be a new building?

Many of the specifics of the accessory dwelling unit will depend on the answer to this question, so know your answer before you start designing it.

6. When it is finished, are you prepared to take on the role and responsibilities of a landlord?

Once you become a landlord, you are responsible for many things related to the ADU – including the maintenance and upkeep. Not sure what all of the obligations and responsibilities are? Spend some time researching what that means from a legal standpoint as well as what will be expected of you beyond what the law states, and honestly assess your ability to be a good landlord.

If you are considering building an ADU and looking for someone who can create accessory dwelling unit designs that are easy to read and permit-ready, contact us today. We have decades of experience and would love to work with you to create an ADU that fits your specific needs.

Share

What’s the 411 with Hawaii ADU’s: The FAQs Continued

Share
This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

If you live or even occasionally visit Hawaii, you’re probably already aware of the intense housing crunch going on, especially when it comes to affordable rental properties for working families. While homelessness is usually something that happens to people who can’t or won’t work, it’s an unfortunate fact that many families are finding themselves without proper lodgings because there simply aren’t enough homes to go around. For this reason, Honolulu has recently authorized home-owner residents to build small secondary residential homes on their property in order to rent to families in need. These residences are known as Hawaii ADU’s or Accessory Dwelling Units and are a great way for home owners to both alleviate the housing crunch and make a little extra money for their own mortgages.

In a previous post, we covered a few of the FAQs about ADUs from defining our terms to how they compare to ohana units. Today, we’re picking up where we left off to answer more important questions about how you can contribute to the local effort against homelessness.

Frequently Asked Questions Pt 2:

Q: Are owners required to live on the property?

The short answer here is yes, but in truth, it’s a little more complicated. You cannot rent both the main house and the ADU at the same time, but the named owner doesn’t necessarily have to live on the property. In order to rent your ADU, the main house needs to be occupied by a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption to the property owner. However, a designated authorized representative is also allowed.

Alternately, you or a relative can choose to live in the ADU and rent out the main house, which also counts as using your ADU to alleviate the housing shortage. This is a great option for retirees who want to downsize for ease of lifestyle without leaving their family home behind.

Q: Is there a minimum occupancy period for each ADU tenant?

In order to ensure that Hawaii ADU’s are actually being used to help with the housing problem, tenants need to stay at least six months (180 days to be specific) with each lease. This prevents both landlords and tenants from misusing it’s intended purpose, but that also means that it’s inadvisable to Airbnb your ADU between tenants.

Q: Is there enough local sewer and water capacity?

It’s true, not every neighborhood has the infrastructure available to support doubling up on sewer and water needs. For this reason, you’ll need to get approval from all the usual sources including the Department of Planning and Permitting, Wastewater Branch, Traffic Review Branch, State Department of Health, Board of Water Supply, and the Honolulu Fire Department. If they all agree that a new residential structure is OK, you can proceed with building plans.

Q: How much parking is required for an ADU?

Hawaii ADU’s only require one off-street parking spot. This sets them aside from ohana units which require two and therefore permits home owners with smaller yards to contribute to the housing effort.

Q: How big can Hawaii ADU’s be?

It may be tempting to build yourself a near-duplex residential buddy, especially if you have the yard space to spare, but ADUs are, in fact, limited in size based on the size of your lot.

  • Lots 3500 – 4999 square feet can have an ADU of up to 400 square feet
  • Lots 5000 square feet and up are limited to an ADU of 800 square feet.

Q: How many ADUs can I build?

The answer here is only one, but it’s slightly more complex in practice. ADUs fill a secondary residential slot, but can only do so if you don’t already have a secondary residence on your lot. Therefore ohana dwellings, guest houses, and multifamily dwellings like duplexes disqualify a lot from having even a single ADU.

If you’re considering building an ADU on your lot, you’ll need an expert designer who can get your plans through approval the first time around. I have decades of experience and specialize in permit-ready drawings and would be delighted to ensure your ADU project hits the ground running. Please contact me today for more information or plans to build!

Share