If you want a source of passive income and to do a community service at the same time, a rare opportunity to be sure, there’s no better option than constructing an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on your property. This is Honolulu’s best answer to the increasingly pressing crunch for affordable housing and while there are some very specific rules, it’s a great chance for current homeowners to significantly increase the value of their property, provide a new home to family or renters in need, and enjoy the excitement of a new project literally in your backyard. However, before you start putting up timbers, there are a few important decisions you need to make.
1) Is the ADU for You, Family, or Renters?
The reason you’re building an ADU will shape every other decision you make, so you might as well start at square one. ADUs can serve a number of interesting, helpful, and profitable purposes depending on how they are used. If you (the homeowner) plan to move into the ADU and leave the main house for the family or high-dollar renters, the design should be fit to your personal needs. If the ADU is to house an overflow of family, consider their preferences and look into ohana housing instead, which has fewer regulations but isn’t as versatile if the family moves out. Finally, if you’re planning for renters, you’ll want the ADU to be as welcoming as possible for anyone who might move in.
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2) Would it be better Attached or Detached from the Main House?
You may not have realized it, but ADUs can absolutely be built as an attachment to your main house. In some cases, this may be the only way to achieve the required number of parking spots or fit the second dwelling onto an oddly shaped lot. That said, attached ADUs are more ideal for the family as you’ll be living in close proximity, along with sharing a wall and possibly a door to the main house. For ADUs you plan to rent or plan to eventually be able to rent, later on, it would be better to build a detached dwelling for added privacy and personal space.
3) Are You Prepared for a Very Small Dwelling?
ADUs come with a maximum size restriction depending on the square footage of your lot, and these can be pretty darn small. If your lot is between 3,500 and 5,000 sq ft, your ADU could have a maximum size of 400 to 800 sq ft. That may be smaller than you’re imagining. With 400 sq ft, there’s usually enough room for one bedroom with a full to queen sized bed, a compact kitchen/living/dining area, and a small bathroom. Once you know how big an ADU you can build, take a walk through a few models and existing homes around the same size to really get a feel for the functional size of the home. That said, people have reported living comfortably in less than 200 sq ft.
4) Can You Convert an Existing Accessory Structure?
If you have a large shed or well-built workshop already on your property, there’s a chance that you might be able to convert this into all or part of your new ADU. For this to be a viable option, the accessory structure needs to be sturdy and capable of being upgraded to good quality living conditions. You’ll need insulation, real walls and floors, a kitchen, and a bathroom along with the necessary power, water, and possibly gas connections. It may just be easier to build a new structure, perhaps even making room by knocking down the old shed rather than repurposing it.
5) Do You Want to Go “Off-Grid”?
One of the really nifty options for a brand new ADU is the ability to go ‘off-grid’. What this means for most is solar panels. Big ones, with enough battery power to ensure that the lights and water heater work at night as well. You can even install a rainwater collection and filtering system but we suggest keeping the water pipes even if your ADU is power independent. An off-grid ADU will cost a little more to make but for the rest of its life will add nothing to the power bill. If you’ve got the money to invest and love the idea of renewable energy, this could be a great ADU choice that will, incidentally, also raise its value as a rental property. While you’re at it, throw some solar on the main house, too.
Here at Owner Built Design, we specialize in making your Honolulu ADU dream a reality with our 4. For more helpful tips on designing the perfect ADU for you, your family, and your property contact us today!