Accessory Dwelling Units: 5 Qualities to Look For in ADU Builders

Starting out on any unfamiliar home improvement project can be daunting. From landscaping to a kitchen remodel, there are many questions to ask. Picking a contractor for the job is one of the most challenging aspects.

Adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your home is no different. From all the different factors – material, placement, construction – to choosing the right builder, the process might appear too daunting.

Don’t let this process overwhelm you! Your completed ADU will make it all worthwhile.

Are you considering an accessory dwelling unit addition? We’ve gathered recommendations for qualities in ADU builders to look for before hiring. This article will help you with one of the biggest factors in building an ADU.

First: What Are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)?

You may know them as granny flats, in-law suites, or garage apartments. Technically, an accessory dwelling unit is defined as a secondary living space that shares the same lot as a larger house. An ADU might be attached to the primary home or a stand-alone structure.

An ADU must have its own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. However, it will share access to electricity and municipal water through the main property.

ADUs are becoming very popular around the country. In cities, they provide rental spaces that are more economical. Butevery location, people find ADUs are a solution to caring for aging parents or other family.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of ADUs.

Benefits of Building an ADU

Accessory dwelling units bring a host of benefits to homeowners and communities. Here is just a brief examination of some of the top reasons to build an ADU.

Housing for Aging Parents

It is probably not news to you that people are living longer. You may already be caring for an elderly parent or relative. This care and upkeep can be time-consuming, expensive, and anxiety-inducing.

ADUs are an excellent solution. They can be designed with an aging person’s needs in mind. Placed close to your home, they provide both privacy and convenience for checking in on your loved one.

Space for Special Needs

If you have a loved one with special needs, an ADU might be a good option for you. From accessibility to avoiding discrimination, an ADU is a space you can design to your specific needs.

Land Conservation

The benefits of an ADU extend into your community as well. Accessory dwelling units take up far less land space than traditional dwellings. With the infrastructure of electrical and water supplies already in place, building an ADU is also less disruptive than building a larger home.

Increase in the Affordable Housing Supply

Rents are going up, especially in high-demand cities. An ADU represents a chance to increase the housing supply in an affordable way, while providing a long-term investment for your property and family

Top Qualities in ADU Builders

Now that you’re convinced an ADU is right for you, it’s time to think about choosing a builder. It is worth taking your time and getting this choice right. The contractor will make or break your ADU construction process.

Here are some of the top qualities to look for in your ADU builder:

Do they build ADUs?

Lots of contractors claim to, but are they experienced? What kind of portfolio do they have? Have they built more than one ADU? These are questions to ask and get meaningful answers on. Building ADUs can be very complicated and needs a specialized approach for managing the permit process. Building an ADU is nothing like a remodel.

Excellent Reviews

Looking online is a great place to start making your list. You can also ask your realtor, neighbors, and friends about their own experiences.


One of the top complaints with builders is that they are slow to respond.

This is something that you’ll notice right away. Do they answer the phone? Do they respond to your emails?

If you contact a builder about getting an evaluation and it takes them a week to respond to you, that is a red flag.

Yes, it can be difficult to run a business and be a good builder at the same time. It’s part of the process, though, so builders with responsive communication should always go to the top of your list.

Willingness to provide direction

When you start to describe your vision, does the contractor listen and then respond? Or do they jump in and try to steer the planning discussion?

Your ADU is going to be a permanent part of your property for years to come. You need to make sure that it is built to your specifications and needs. While a builder’s experience and advice is helpful, it should support your vision — not erase it.

A good ADU builder will listen to what you want and help you plan and execute your vision.

Impeccable References

Ask to speak with a contractor’s previous clients. Sure, they’ll give you the most successful jobs. But it’s still worth asking what previous clients had wished went better.

Current License and Insurance

They might charge a little bit more, but making sure you have a licensed and insured builder will give you peace of mind and recourse should something go wrong. Confirm their current license and insurance with the Better Business Bureau or your local municipality. Ask your Building or Planning Department who the best companies are in the world of ADUs.

Provide a Complete Plan

If you’re going through this process for the first time, it will be difficult to foresee exactly what you’ll need. The plan should provide for a clear understanding of the project’s deliverables, so you know the real scope. What is covered and not covered?

A good ADU builder will be willing to discuss the plan with you and reach a clear agreement before the project breaks ground, and even more ideally, before the project is ever designed.

Local Experience

Different municipalities have different regulations around ADU construction. It is a good idea to look for an ADU builder who has worked in your area, or again, is an ADU specialist who knows how to make sure your building is compliant.

We Can Help

We have a team of ADU specialists that are ready to talk to you about your project. And they all check off the qualities in ADU builders that you should look for!

Contact us today to learn more about this space solution.

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