Recently there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of accessory dwelling units (ADU homes).

You may have heard to them referred to as in-law units, granny flats, secondary dwelling units, or any number of other names.

Are ADU homes appealing to you but you’re wondering whether you should just build an addition instead?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both accessory dwelling units and add-ons.

What Is an ADU?

ADUs are accessory dwelling units. These units tend to be smaller than your main home and are on the same property. They can either stand completely separate from your single-family home or be attached to it.

Examples of ADUs are a tiny house on a foundation in the backyard, a basement apartment, or an apartment over your garage.

ADUs are legally considered to be a part of the same property as the single-family unit, whether it’s attached or not. This means that it cannot be sold or bought separately from the main house.

What Are the Pros and Cons of ADU Homes?

There are a lot of different reasons that people build ADUs, but one study found that the most common goals are to house a family member or to make some extra income renting it out.


Pros of ADUs

There are a lot of positives when it comes to adding an ADU home to your property.

Firstly, doing so can increase your potential resale value and your property value. The return on investment can be very favorable when you consider how much it costs to build an ADU versus how much it can increase your property value.

Another great benefit of ADU real estate is that it can serve as guest house. If you like to have friends or family visit for extended periods of time, but it feels a little crowded to have them stay in your home, an ADU can be a great solution. It takes a lot of the pressure off of both being a guest and a host, with each of you having your own space.

As stated previously, a common reason to build an ADU on your property is for the extra rental income. Whether you furnish it and rent it out short term or offer it as a longer-term rental, doing so can significantly cut down on your own mortgage. It’s good to keep in mind that renting your home out on Airbnb works best for homes in vacation destinations, and different cities can have restrictions on this type of rental.

If you have children that will soon be leaving the nest, an ADU can be a great low-cost housing option for your adult child. This is a great transition space for adult children to save some money while attending school while allowing everyone to have a bit of their own space.

Similarly, if you have elderly parents that could use some looking after, an ADU can be a great way to keep them close to home while they can still feel independent.

Lastly, detached structures can be great as an office space if you work from home. Having your own space can make you more focused and productive. They can also serve as workspaces for your hobbies, and act as a workshop or an art studio.

Cons of ADUs

Depending on what you’re using your custom-designed or prefab ADU for, the cons of the situation can vary greatly.

Mainly, if you’re acting as a landlord or a caretaker for an elderly parent, this can disrupt your daily life.

Sharing your outdoor space with someone else can be an adjustment. As a landlord, you’ll be responsible for maintaining a positive relationship with the tenant as well as house repairs and maintenance.

Luckily, there is always the option to hire a property management company if you so choose.

Another con of ADUs is that they aren’t free. Depending on what type of unit you’re going to be building, the cost of putting in a kitchen, bathroom, and utilities will take some capital. That being said, there are build ready ADU options that can really cut down on costs, like these at

What Are the Pros and Cons of Add-Ons?

Alternatively, some people opt to add-on to their home rather than building an accessory dwelling unit. What are the benefits and drawbacks of doing this?

Pros of Add-Ons

Building an addition to your home can allow you to gain more living space without having to move to a new home entirely. If your family is growing or you’d just like a little more space, but don’t want to leave your neighborhood or the home you love, this can make a lot of sense.

Another positive side to additions is that you can choose to add-on just as much space as your family needs. You don’t have to rely on the market providing you with exactly what you want, rather you can make it a reality for yourself.

Cons of Add-Ons

Adding on to your home is disruptive to your daily life and living space, expensive, and not necessarily good for the value of your home.

With building an addition, the construction zone is right inside your home, rather than an ADU which can be at quite a distance. Depending on how big of a project it is, this means that you could be living with dust, noise, and disruptions for months of your life. You could choose to relocate temporarily while the construction is underway, but this in itself is rather disruptive.

The other important con of an addition is that it might not necessarily be cheaper than moving to a more suitable house for your needs. With the costs of permits, inspection fees, material, and labor, the cost of putting on an addition can really add up.

ADUs Are Often a Better Choice Than Add-Ons


Whether ADU homes or an addition is a better choice for you depends on your specific circumstances. That being said, ADUs are often a better option for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, ADUs offer a lot more flexibility as the nature of your needs and your family’s needs change over time.

If you found this article about ADUs helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more informative content!