1. Know the Difference Between An Accessory Structure and an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). Both are commonly referred to as casitas or granny flats. In recent years, cities and counties throughout the United States loosened restrictions for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs, casitas, granny flats). These changes were made in response to housing shortages. Typically, “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) are more lenient in regard to property setbacks and sizing, but will require a small kitchen in order to qualify as an ADU. ADUs are typically assigned a separate address from the main residence.
2. Know Your City, County and HOA’s Regulations for Accessory Structures and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Each jurisdiction will have their own regulations governing accessory structures. Informational handouts are usually available online including restrictions on height and size. Researching these regulations is highly recommended prior to purchasing or designing plans for an accessory structure.
3. Know What Style Would Best Compliment the Design of Your Existing Home or Structure. Typically, accessory structures are meant to compliment the main structure on the property and are meant to be an extension of the habitable space. Accessory structures typically match the materials, roof pitches and details of the main house or building. These design details result in the accessory structure reflecting a modern, Spanish, craftsman, traditional, etc. style. On larger properties, owners may choose to differentiate the accessory structure from the main house, especially if the accessory structure will be a rental ADU. Home Owners’ Associations may have rules and regulations requiring specific materials or styles. Checking with your HOA is always recommended before purchasing or designing plans for an accessory structure.
4. Know What Size Floor Plan Suits Your Needs and Goals. This will vary based on the intended use of the structure as well as area restrictions. Will the accessory structure be a rental or used for personal use such as a guest house or pool house? Budget will also play a factor in the size of the structure. Talking with a contractor about costs is always a good idea when considering building an accessory structure.
5. Know What to Do with the Floor Plans Once You Purchase Them. Since each property is unique and each jurisdiction has their own set of regulations, a draftsman is typically hired to prepare the site plan showing the location of the proposed and existing structure(s) on the property. You can easily find draftsmen by consulting with your contractor or doing a web search for local draftsmen. A draftsman can make final preparations and add any local requirements to the plans before submitting for permits. The permit process and costs can vary greatly from location to location. Once submitted, a permit may take a couple of weeks to obtain or in some cases up to 6 months. A draftsman or permit servicer can help guide you through the permitting process. Once a permit is obtained, construction can begin.
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