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Granny Flats in San Diego

Granny Flats in San Diego

Recently, granny flats have been popping up all over California due to leniency in the laws that generally limit homeowners’ ability to build them. Because they are so versatile, they can be adjusted to fit just about any property and are seen as a great asset to many property owners in San Diego for various reasons.

What Are Granny Flats?

What is a granny flat? A granny flat, also known as “accessory dwelling unit” is a self-contained unit that is typically constructed in addition to an original single family home on a residential property. The granny flat can either be constructed as an attachment to the main house or in the back or side yard. There are three different ways to implement a granny flat in a property. For instance, it can be attached, detached, or in the homes existing structure depending on its purpose and the allotted space the house offers. The granny flat may be constructed 1200 square feet in size or half the size of the original home; whichever is smaller. It typically is comprised of a single room, bathroom, kitchen, and small living area which makes it perfect for one or two people to live in.

What is it Used for?

So what is the granny flat best used for? Although granny flats can be used for numerous reasons, there are a few most popular and noteworthy. The best place to start is by thinking about your family’s current and future needs. Do you often host friends for long periods of time? Is your family outgrowing your current home? Do you have elderly family members who will soon need to live close to you?  

Housing family/friends

Hence their name, granny flats are known for being the perfect living quarters for our elderly parents and grandparents in their retirement without sending them to a retirement home, which can be costly and lonely. Because they are structurally a separate unit from the main home, they allow enough privacy for our elderly loved-ones to live comfortably without being too far out of reach. Overall, granny flats are seen as a great way to keep relatives independent but close to the family and create a convenient, multi-generational living arrangement.

The granny flat can also be seen as a short-term haven. Another great use for the granny flat is finding a space for our children as they make their way through their teen years. A granny flat without a kitchen would be the best option for this because teens will be given their own private space, while the kitchen remains a common ground for families to come together.

Our college graduates are also perfect candidates for the granny flat as they make their transition into full-time jobs. This allows them to save money before buying their own place which can be hard to do especially in San Diego County. This way they are able to remain independent, but still close to home.

If you don’t find your family needing an extra space as your kids get older, think about the granny flat as a perfect  to host family and friends when they travel into town for a quick visit. As common as it is to deploy the guest room in these times, understand that an accessory dwelling unit can be much more practical. An ADU can double as a casita or guest house. This way, guests and visiting family members have a separate living space to retreat to at night.

Earning Extra Income

Rental properties are great investments for homeowners looking for an additional steady income. However, purchasing a rental property, renovating it, filling it with tenants, and managing it can be a pretty difficult task for anyone who hasn’t done it before. Additionally, one of the best ways to earn an extra income is by renting out a space in your home. It can be significantly easier to manage the process of landlordship when the space you’re renting out is right under your nose. On the other hand, it is a much more cost-effective way to do things than purchasing a rental property and waiting for a positive ROI after factoring in an entirely new mortgage. Therefore, perhaps one of the best uses for an ADU is to rent it out to tenants.

California Granny Flat Law

California homeowners know that in the past it has been almost impossible to add a granny flat onto an existing home due to stringent granny flat regulations in San Diego that have been set in place to protect against overpopulation. Zoning laws in California were put into place on goodwill and were intended to preserve public health, safety, and welfare. For example, California granny flat laws required the homeowner to reside in the main property and provide proof that only a relative or family member lives in the granny flat. This made it impossible to build ADUs for rent. On the other hand, regulations included issues regarding restrictions on parking, fire sprinklers, buffers between property lines, and utility limitations.

Fortunately, due to the housing shortage in California, a series of laws took place to make the building of granny flats much more relaxed. The intent is to ease the stress of the housing crisis and high rents for low to middle-income workers quickly and in a cost-effective manner to create more affordable housing options. Fees that initially matched the cost of building a granny flat in the first place have been brought down drastically. The purpose of this is to encourage homeowners to take advantage of building one at this time. However, in order to eliminate the chance of accessory dwelling units being listed as a vacation rental, there is a minimum of 30 days lease agreement required.

Cost of Building a Granny Flat

Most people see a granny flat as more costly per square foot than a larger home. This is because it is much smaller than a typical home, but still requires most of the large ticket items that a single family home has. For instance, the cost of a dishwasher and stove is dispersed among far fewer surface area in a smaller home.

However, if you look at it more in depth, the cost of building an accessory dwelling unit is dependent on various aspects. The type of accessory dwelling unit and whether your home already has existing structures to support it are probably the most obvious factors to alter the price. However, it is also dependant on who you choose for your builder and their areas of expertise. Lastly, the cost of materials required to build the accessory dwelling unit can drastically alter the price alone. So depending on what structures your home already has set in place and what alterations your home requires, you will see a fluctuation in price.

Taking all these factors into consideration, it’s clear to see that it isn’t black and white to explain how much a granny flat will cost to build.

As for a general price range, detached granny flats are typically the most costly. Because they aren’t attached to any current structures in the home, you must factor in excavation and framework. You may also be required to run plumbing and electricity to an area in your yard that previously didn’t have it. However, the detached granny flat is one of the most cost effective ways to recoup the cost of the initial investment. How so? The detached granny flat is perhaps the easiest to rent out and can be put on the renters market at the highest price. Therefore, the higher the rent, the quicker the return on investment and the quicker the investment can be paid off.

At the lower end of the pricing spectrum, we can consider having the accessory dwelling unit above an existing garage. Because it falls on the less pricey side of the construction spectrum, building this type of ADU is great for elderly family members and growing families. This way, the increase in property value from the new space will help pay for the investment alone.

Building a Granny Flat vs. Buying a Larger Home

Whether the home you live in currently was your first starter home or is just too small to fit your lifestyle, it is natural for families to outgrow the space that they live in. Because of this, families tend to upgrade in home size to fit the demands of new babies and eventually teenagers. That said, going through the process of moving is stressful no matter which way you look at it. After having lenders assess what you can “afford” based on your monthly income, credit score, and current debt ratio, you’ll be left with a home loan that somewhat fits your budget. However, most people don’t take into account that a larger home comes with larger expenses all around. On the other hand, moving all your belongings, getting to know new neighbors, and settling into a new part of town is never an easy task. So, rest assured that no matter the reason you need an increase in square footage in your home, there are better options out there.

Accessory dwelling units are a great way to add square footage for a growing family without having to go through the hassle of purchasing an entirely new home.  With the right building team, construction can take place on your property without disturbing your everyday life. You can also customize an accessory dwelling unit to fit your specific needs. For instance, you may want to leave out a washer and dryer, since the occupant is family and therefore will be sharing the laundry with the primary residence. You may also build a granny flat with a small kitchenette, but only incorporate a small fridge and no stove.

From a financial standpoint, a granny flat is a viable option for a homeowner who needs extra space for their teenagers. It can be used to house them until they eventually go off to college and find a place of their own. Then, with minimal updates, the granny flat can be rented out as a way to help pay for the expense of college. Whatever the needs of your family are, implementing a granny flat into your property can be a much better option that simply upgrading to a larger home.

Wrapping Up

Granny flats in San Diego have been popping up at a steady pace since recent legislation passed involving more lenient requirements for building. Due to the decrease in affordable housing, many San Diegans have chosen to rent them out as a way to earn extra income in the time of increasing rent prices. Therefore, accessory dwelling units are perhaps one of the least common yet best wealth building investments that most people shy away from. The granny flat is a tried and true way to adjust to an increasing family size or to house elderly family members who can no longer live on their own. Whether you choose to rent it out or build it to fit the needs of your dynamic family, the ADU is a viable option.



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