Spare Sanctuary

Make room for Granny flats

When my mom comes to visit, she likes to maintain her daily routine, which includes yoga at 6 a.m. Our guest room does not provide adequate space for downward-facing dog, so she moves to the living room floor where she places her palms to the floor and lifts up her butt to the sky.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to say my mom is a 70-year-old yogi, but I don’t care to see her tushie every  time I sip my morning coffee. By day 5, I’m weeping on my husband’s shoulder: “Why didn’t we get the house with the granny flat?”

You may know the granny flat as a “guest house,” an “in-law apartment,” a “companion unit,” an “accessory dwelling unit” or maybe a “casita.” Basically, it’s a second living quarter on the lot of a single dwelling unit.  It can be detached or attached, but it must have its own entrance, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living space. The two units cannot be owned or sold separately, and in most cases, the owner must live on the premises.

Even if you don’t have a family member in mind to occupy it full-time, the advantages of purchasing a home with a granny flat, or having one built, are manifold. The space can:

  •  provide your guests with extra privacy.
  • bring in supplemental revenue via long-term renters.
  • Or, if you live in a highly desirable area, such as a beach neighborhood or near a great ski resort, you can take advantage of peak seasons and earn some short-term rental income.

If you plan to build a granny flat on your property, the main thing you want to recognize are the rules and regulations surrounding the dwellings. . Every location will have different codes and ordinances regarding these companion units.  For example, one location might have a maximum floor area of 700 square feet, whereas another cannot exceed 30 percent  of the floor area of the primary dwelling, up to 600 square feet. In some areas, the unit must include one off-street parking space per bedroom, or even, yes, a tree. For example, one section of the San Diego municipal code for companion units reads:

One 24-in box tree shall be planted in the required front yard of the premises or in the abutting parkway. Existing trees that are at least 15 feet high and 15 feet in width may be used to satisfy this requirement.

Other specifics for granny flats include requirements for height, building materials, and location of entrances.  It’s important to become familiar with city and county codes and ordinances prior to purchasing or building the accessory unit because violations can not only cost you money by way of fines, but if serious or dangerous enough, you could be forced to remove the entire unit.  In some historic neighborhoods, companion units might not be allowed at all.

If built to code, a granny flat can add value to your home should you decide to sell down the road..  Even buyers not looking for the extra space for their families will still recognize it as a potential source of additional income.

Once you’ve gotten all the legal stuff out of the way, the fun begins.  Today’s “tiny house” trend makes it super easy to find chic ideas for decorating small spaces. With the abundance of interior design and decorating resources, the possibilities are limitless—even if your target tenant is a highly discerning 70-year-old yogi.




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Elizabeth Salaam
Along with her work as Senior Contributing Writer for Girl's Guide, Elizabeth Salaam writes for the San Diego Reader. Her work has also been published in Elle Magazine. | Most inspired by: Contradictions. | Favorite room in my home: The Master suite. The windows have views for days! | Best design idea I may never do: Adorn my enclosed toilet room with library book wallpaper and a chandelier. | Will never: Bungee jump. | Have always been: Rebellious. | Dying to: Live in a Paris flat with herringbone wood floors.
78 of 90 in Investments

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