Nontraditional housing options are becoming increasingly popular among the younger generations. Tiny homes, homes on wheels, and even RVing are now more appealing than the traditional cookie-cutter house in the suburbs.

And yet, a surprising amount of people are entirely unaware of ADU housing, and it's potential benefits and positive impacts. However, the people in-the-know are ditching their tiny houses in favor of ADUs.

So, what is ADU housing, and how does it differ from other alternative housing options? Let's find out!

What is ADU Housing?

An ADU is a secondary home that is built on a pre-existing single-home or single-family lot. It doesn't have to be physically separate from the main house -- some ADUs are built in basements or above garages!

The thing that defines an ADU is that it is a fully-functional dwelling that exists within the same space or lot as another individually operating dwelling. Also, they are always smaller than the primary home.

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit: ADU Meaning Explained

What does ADU stand for? Well, it stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit. This isn't a glamorous, roll-off-the-tongue kind of name, though, so most people say ADU. The reason why these buildings are called Accessory Dwelling Units is that they're not integral to the main dwelling's functioning.

Imagine that you're about to head out for a night on the town. While you may not need that sparkly purse or sturdy leather wallet with you to leave the house, having those accessories with you certainly helps.

An ADU works in much the same way. It's a super practical, highly functional addition to any traditional residential lot.

How Are ADUs and Tiny Homes Different?

An ADU is a permanent dwelling that exists besides, near, or in conjunction with a larger, pre-existing home. Tiny homes, on the other hand, tend to have wheels like RVs. Those micro dwellings that aren't mobile typically sit on a small parcel of land that does not contain any other buildings.

As such, ADUs can exist nearly anywhere that standard homes already exist, but tiny homes require a special permit or plot of land all to themselves. Consequently, ADUs are far easier to build and approve than the majority of tiny homes.

Lastly, tiny homes tend to be far smaller than ADUs, which can be as large or small as the lot allows!

Different Types of ADU Homes

There are several different types of ADUs. Let's explore some of the most common and popular ones.

ADU

A Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit -- more easily referred to as an ADU -- is perhaps one of the most desirable of the ADUs, especially for those with plenty of lands on which to build.

These are, as the name suggests, not connected to the main dwelling and are standalone homes. They come in nearly endless varieties and are often the most customizable of the ADU types.

Build Ready ADU

These structures are the least expensive of the ADUs. They typically come "pre-approved" for construction and include a detailed list of plans and engineering designs and specifications.

These are easiest on the pocket to get started on, because clients won't need to pay separately for design and engineering plan costs. However, because these ADUs are essentially pre-designed homes, they don't feature many customization options, and the floor plan and size are minimal.

Custom Design ADU

Switching gears, a custom design ADU offers everything that a Build Ready one cannot. You can customize every aspect of this dwelling, ensuring that your contractor perfects your vision.

However, the downside to this flexibility is higher costs. Getting your design created, approved, and put into action is often a lengthy and expensive process. But if you're determined to build a personalized ADU that won't break the bank, there is a third option.

Personalized ADU

If you don't want to spend the time, energy, and money designing an ADU from scratch, but you want more options than a Build Ready ADU offers, a Personalized ADU may be perfect for you!

There are extensive catalogs of designs for clients to browse through and choose from, and reduced costs throughout. You'll have nearly all the personalization of a Custom Design ADU, but at greatly reduced cost.

Garage ADU

A garage ADU is a fully-functional private dwelling that is built inside or above a garage. For homeowners without cars or a need for their garage, turning that space into an ADU can add extra space to a small or cluttered home!

It's also the perfect place for a man cave or a diva dugout!

Basement ADU

For those with unused basements, a refurbishment and ADU permit may be the thing to do. The primary issue with these ADUs is mold and mildew -- two things basements are notorious for.

However, with a little love, care, and some serious refurbishment, any basement can become a successful ADU that brings plenty of joy into your life. That is, as long as your area permits it, of course!

Benefits of Living in an ADU Home

There are a ton of benefits to living in an ADU home. The longer you think about it, the more benefits seem to appear! Here are a few to consider:

  • Keeping elderly loved ones close-by instead of in an expensive, intrusive nursing home.
  • Lower bills and utilities if ADU is your primary or only home.
  • ADUs can be constructed far more quickly than a full-size, traditional home.
  • Customize or personalize your small home, exactly how you like it.
  • Create less environmental impact and consumes fewer resources.

But these benefits are really on the tip of the iceberg!

Wheeled Vehicle Homes VS ADU Housing

Some readers may be wondering what the difference is between wheeled vehicle home and ADU housing. Besides transportability, the main difference long-term quality and habitability, those and of course, legality. Living out of a vehicle is only legal when the owner has paid to park the car at a campground, or if the vehicle is parked at the owner's residence.

Are ADU Homes Legal in California?

Yes and no. The answer depends on where you live, regulations and zoning laws vary from place to place. California is generally friendly to ADU owners and contractors, so be sure to check your city's rules and regulations to find out more.

Explore Your ADU Options Today!

With so many reasons to find out more about ADU housing, there's hardly any time to waste. Though regulations and zoning vary from city to city, you're bound to find a solution that works for you!

You could save money, enjoy being closer with family members, or appreciate living minimally. When asking what an ADU could be right for, the better question to ask is what it isn't suitable for!

Help is only an email or phone call away. Please reach out to an Accessory Dwelling Unit California specialist today!