When you finally have that lightbulb moment and exclaim proudly, “I’m getting my ADU in the back built!”, what does that really entail?
The popularity of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are growing exponentially. These aren’t the granny suites of yesteryear. Now, these are chic and modern fully fleshed out living spaces. With the rise of the tiny home movement, the in-laws aren’t the only ones moving in either.
Maybe you’re an empty nester putting in a space for your grown children to come back to while saving money for their dream home. Maybe you have an aging parent who wants to remain independent but close to home.
No matter the reason, you must remember that building an ADU comes with similar regulations and considerations as building an actual home. You need a qualified team of professionals to guide you through this process.
Here we walk you through the considerations of hiring the right team of builders for your new ADU, the regulations you’ll be facing, and how to ask the right questions so you don’t end up over budget and out of time.
Why You Shouldn’t Choose the Lowest Bid
There’s always a fairytale we tell ourselves when we begin any construction project that we will be able to find a phenomenal builder who is going to undercut the competition and save us tons of money. The fact is, too good to be true is an actuality.
When sourcing a team of builders don’t jump on a bid only based on price. There are many more things to consider before moving forward on a project. Coming in way lower than the competition is a huge red flag. It signals either incompetence or less than savory plans for your money.
Don’t let yourself be taken for a ride by accepting a “too good to be true” quote.
Still, want to take the lowest bid? Let’s go over some horror stories that could result.
The $20,000 Additional Line Item Due to Negligence and Inexperience
Let’s say Delores hired a company because they came in way lower than the other bids she received. They were thousands of dollars less than the closest bid price.
This seems fantastic! The project starts and already there are problems. The builder doesn’t know the specifics and details of the region’s codes and ends up beginning the building without an additional permit to cover the height of the fence.
Construction must cease until the new permit is acquired. This adds a few hundred dollars onto the initial estimate and at least a week in additional time.
Construction continues and the inexperienced plumbing team is unaware that the piping is supposed to be 1” and not ¾” pipes. This is a big hit.
The entire plumb job has to be redone and all new piping installed. With the additional month of labor, this brings the project $20K over the initial estimate. Had Delores done her due diligence and not picked the bid based solely on the price she wouldn’t be out thousands of more dollars and her project would’ve been done on time.
There are tons of these common construction mishaps you can avoid by working with a reputable team and not the bottom barrel pricing organization.
What Do I Need to Check Before Hiring a Team to Build My ADU?
You don’t have to become an expert in construction to make yourself an educated consumer. Before you make any large purchase you need to understand the basics of the product, what the project should roughly cost, and what kinds of regulations you’re facing in your region.
There are many areas that are not zoned for additional accessory unit spaces to be built in a backyard. In addition, if you are in a good zone there are restrictions on where the unit can be placed among other regulations of the construction itself.
Before you hire anyone, take a trip to your local city offices and ask questions about the project you want to complete. They will give you a rundown of the top concerns and clear up confusion before the process starts.
Not only will this save you time and money in the long run but you’ll also have an idea of the hurdles you’ll be tackling down the road. You’ll be able to counter if a team advises you something way out in left field and know who to contact to double-check the necessity of the request.
Look for a Company Who Specializes in Design as Well as Construction
There are hundreds of companies in the Silicon Valley region who would be happy to take your money and complete your project. But, not all of them have experience in design in addition to construction. Many architectural professionals are not familiar with pricing or construction specifics.
Also, a lot of them don’t have major levels of experience with smaller dwellings. If they don’t have a design team on staff, plans in a library, or a meaningful way to provide design solutions, you may be facing additional expenses and complexity. Working with a company, like Acton ADU, that prides itself on design and execution saves a lot of headaches and dollar signs from creeping onto your project estimate down the line.
Ask for the Company to Provide Their Experience, Licenses, and Insurance Before Accepting Their Bid
It’s shocking the number of people who move forward on a construction project only to learn the company they’re working with are not, or under, insured and do not have the proper licenses.
You should never hire a company that is unlicensed. It’s unprofessional and a huge red flag for issues to come.
While an unlicensed contractor could end up doing good work, it’s more a beacon of being fly by night and wanting to make fast money. Since construction projects are paid in large lump sums there is no recourse if you hire an unlicensed contractor and they never come back to the job site.
It’s tough to track them down again and highly unlikely you’ll ever get your money back.
Here at Acton ADU, we have over 30 years of experience in the design and building and we are fully licensed, bonded, and insured. You can rest easy with Acton on the job.
Ask About Permits and Fees Before You Hire Someone
Ask any potential contractors if they are going to be filing for permits and taking care of those fees or if it will fall into your lap.
We believe that the company you work with should be the one dealing with the city, scheduling inspections, and obtaining permits. Having someone who doesn’t know the intricacies of construction doing these tasks can only lead to unnecessary delays and incorrect processing.
How Do They Handle a Project?
Any company worth their salt will have a robust portfolio of previous work. They can show you multiple projects similar to yours and the end costs of each project. Ask if you can see everything from the start forward.
This gives you an opportunity to see how they handle everything from the initial design and architectural plans to the execution of the final interior design elements. If you’re not handy and need a professional for every step of the way make sure they can handle that.
At Acton, we have in-house interior design, residential design, contracting, and more. We will handle the entire project from start to finish and leave you with a gorgeous move-in ready unit.
Do They Offer a Warranty?
We live in an age of convenience and impermanence. Where warranties are made and on the day after the 90-days things break.
That’s not the kind of work you’re looking for on a permanent addition to your home and livable square footage.
Ask the companies you’re considering about their warranty. Do they offer one? How long does it last? Is it on only specific components of the unit? Have they been around long enough to service a warranty? How long have they been in business? Will they be in business 10 years from now?
Ask about the things that could potentially void your warranty so you’ll know what to avoid.
We are professionals at Acton ADU who stand behind our work. We are so confident that we offer a full 10-year guarantee on every accessory dwelling we create. This is to make sure you’re happy and feel good about an ongoing relationship with the company.
You know we’ll get the job done right, the first time, and it will be meant to last.
What Do They Have to Offer in Terms of Affordability? Can They Help You Afford the Adu of Your Dreams?
Construction projects are daunting and can become very expensive depending on what you want to accomplish. Also, most construction projects, unlike things like cars, are unable to be financed through the construction company you’re working with.
Most homeowners will need to find financing through their bank and put up collateral for the construction loan. At Acton ADU, we believe in a different way.
We offer ADU financing here at Acton, as well as options for finance a new home purchase that includes money to build an ADU right away. We can help you secure financing that is perfect for the new construction of a backyard home with experienced and trusted providers in our very own network.
You’ll be looking at a down payment as low as 10%. We offer interest-only payments during the construction of your ADU. You can choose a variety of different construction periods up to 24 months to fit what you can afford.
We also have options available for vacation homes, renovations on your existing home, and can include closing costs in your loan amount. There are low-fixed rate or adjustable rate options for our loans.
Your property values will be based on the “post-improvement” value estimated after the project is complete. What does that mean? It means we don’t go based on the current market value of your property but the estimated appraised value after construction is complete.
So, you’ll be able to get approved for more cash upfront and be able to afford anything you desire in your new ADU.
Why Do People Choose to Build Accessory Dwelling Units?
The sky is the limit when it comes to an ADU - from small, cottage homes to spacious suites.
Homeowners in California are facing new challenges and are looking to get more out of the property they already own. With rising housing costs, more ADUs are being built now than ever before.
There are many different reasons to choose to build an ADU. Read on to learn more.
Good Financial Sense: Some of the Most Affordable Housing Around
In the past, these structures were intended for an older generation only. However, as housing costs rise, student debt mounts, and it’s harder, in general, to get your foot out of the door into adulthood, an ADU’s purpose is becoming two-fold.
Recent empty nesters are adding ADUs to their backyards to make their homes more welcoming to returning adult children. Whether they are just starting a family and need the extra support of Grandma and Grandpa, or simply need somewhere they can save money and build up a nest egg, more parents want to provide this opportunity for their kids.
Offering them a solution that is cost-effective, while also maintaining everyone’s space and independence so no one feels put out by the situation. The small homes have everything a young adult, new family, or newlywed couple need for a nice little life prior to launch.
Since the ADU is on the main property there is no additional expense of rent or mortgage necessary to sustain the additional space. So, parents can choose to abandon rent as a gift to their kids and not lose money.
A Safer Place with Accessibility For An Aging Generation
The traditional vision of these units still stands. A place where an aging parent or relative can be brought to live at home in safety while maintaining independence and not feeling like a burden.
Having Mom here at home allows for everyone’s peace of mind but, just like in the case of adult kids, it also allows everyone their space. Our ADU options are able to be made completely accessible for any sort of disability.
Wider doorways accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, ramps replace stairs for accessibility, kitchen counters and sinks can be lowered for ease of use. This becomes their own little home custom-tailored to their needs and lifestyle.
The ADU also offers a comfortable place for the family to gather as loved ones require more constant care and medical equipment. Things like a hospital bed have space in the living areas and the bedroom remains available for nursing staff or family members taking up the mantle of the caregiver.
It separates this necessary but emotional time from the main home but allows for the comfort and warmth that a hospital cannot provide.
Offering Privacy and Comfort to Visitors and Guests
In addition to being a great place for family, your new home in the backyard becomes a welcoming oasis for out of town guests.
These units send the message loud and clear that you are welcome and stay as long as you like. It doesn’t inconvenience anyone to have guests visit for a weekend or even a month as they will have their own home away from home to enjoy.
This leaves you looking like the “hostess with the mostest” and avoids uncomfortable sleeping and awkward bathroom lines within your main home. Your guests are welcome to stay as long as they like and you can keep your sanity.
Gone are the claustrophobic kitchens and cluttered spaces of having company. The holidays will be a cinch with your home away from home right in the backyard.
Starting Out is Easier: ADUs are Great Starter Homes
As we pointed out, ADUs are incredibly affordable. Due to the inexpensive option, more people are choosing to build an ADU as their first home over a traditional build.
All you need is a friend or family member with a yard and the sky is the limit. There are also affordable land purchase options where you can place your ADU and live a low impact, tiny home lifestyle, without sacrificing a large yard.
With the smaller footprint of the ADU, you’ll have the space for your own vegetable garden, play space, and more all while doing your part for the environment. The rising costs of California real estate is no longer a factor when you start tiny.
Building Out the Equity: The Long Term Investment Benefits of Adding an ADU
With so many other benefits, the choice seems clear that an ADU is a great idea for your property. But, we would be amiss if we didn’t mention the financial benefit you’ll get on your property investment by adding an ADU.
This new space adds to the overall usable square footage of your home, adds at least one bedroom and bathroom to the floorplan, and is a very attractive selling feature when the time comes to cash in down the line.
Then, there’s also the possibility of converting into an income portion of the property when the immediate need for the space is unclear.
ADU Rules in California
This new movement of ADU building is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping. But, with almost 500 cities in the state how do you keep all those regulations straight and stay caught up with the continually changing codes?
While previous versions of the California State law made it difficult to build these structures the legislation is changing with the times. In 2017, new ordinances went into effect to lift restrictions on parking space, lot size, and other things that made building an ADU hard to accomplish.
All of this helped in the fight of making housing more available for more of California’s citizens in a time of booming real estate prices. Instead of leaving the less than wealthy in the lurch, California stepped up with more flexible terms to get people into homes.
However, just because the regulations are less restrictive doesn’t mean they are particularly easy to navigate. This makes it imperative to work with a professional team of contractors on the design and construction of your ADU.
Teams here at Acton ADU understand the intricacies of navigating housing codes and permitting and making sure you get to exclaim, “That’s it! My ADU I’ve been dreaming of!”
Choose The Right Team and Get Your Project Done The Right Way, The First Time with Acton ADU
We hope this has all explained the value in thoroughly vetting any team you consider hiring for your construction project. To recap, here are the top things to remember when picking the right ADU builder:
- The cheapest isn’t always the best option
- Make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured
- Ask about their specific experience with ADU construction and permitting
- Discuss their process and the in-house team they utilize
- Ask if they offer a warranty
- Ask if they offer financing options for your ADU build
After you have properly vetted the companies you’ve chosen to bid on your project, listen to your intuition. Go with the builder that gave great, honest answers, has a bunch of experience, and has been a pleasure to deal with so far.
This process is a potentially long one and it’s also very intimidating. You’ll be working closely with this team to bring your vision to life. If you don’t get along with them it makes a cumbersome project and you can end up with a final project you aren’t in love with.
So, have you been saying “I’m ready to build my ADU!”? We are ready to help you. Let the professionals here at Acton ADU build the unit of your dreams.
Contact us today and we will be happy to provide a quote and talk about our process with you. We look forward to creating your little piece of paradise in your own backyard.