Why a Granny Flat is a Smart Feature to Look for in a Home

A granny flat or an in-law suite is the most common name for a small dwelling located on the same property as (and perhaps attached to) a single-family home, where an aging family member or others can live with privacy and independence. Often referred to as accessory dwelling or multigenerational units, secondary suites or granny flats, they’re a desirable feature in a home that can come in handy in many ways beyond providing a place for mom alone. Here, Realtor.com tells you everything you need to know about them and more.


What is an in-law suite?

The traditional in-law suite can be either connected to the main dwelling of the home, or an external structure like a small cottage on the property or a converted garage. Minimally, an in-law suite has a bedroom and full bath. It also can have additional rooms, such as a sitting area or a small kitchen.


Alternate uses for in-law suites

When not in use by an aging parent, an in-law suite has many uses, making it a wise investment. Among some uses to consider: a home office; guest quarters; residence for adult children who may need to live at home while establishing themselves financially; or short- or long-term rental apartment to bring in added income.


What’s the cost of an in-law suite?

The cost to add an in-law suite varies depending on the size, amenities and whether it will be an addition to an existing home or a stand-alone structure. When adding an in-law suite to the existing home, expect to spend an average of $32,700 to $63,000. If you’re building a new structure, it can cost as much as $125,000.


In-law suites as a sales feature

Due to their usefulness, in-law suites are attractive features to look for when buying a home—or play up in your home if you’re selling. An-in-law suite or even the potential of one can make your home more desirable to buyers, especially with multigenerational living on the rise. If buyers are frustrated because they can’t find a home that meets their needs, they likely will start looking at homes that can be easily modified into a residence with an in-law suite. So, advertising a ‘potential in-law suite’ opportunity can generate a lot more buyer traffic. If you’re considering building an in-law suite you’re your existing home out of necessity, make sure it offers an open floor plan. That way, It will be easier for buyers to envision the suite as something else if they don’t need to use it for its original intention.


Are in-law suites legal?

Local ordinances differ when it comes to the amenities in an in-law suite and its use. To find the laws specific to your property, go to the zoning office with your lot and block number to find out if having such a suite on your property is permitted. If zoning laws do not allow an in-law suite, it may be possible to obtain a variance. You also will need to obtain building permits, which could limit what the suite can include or how it may be used.  Some zoning laws do not allow full kitchens because of the risk of stove fires, while others don’t allow the suites to be rented out once it’s no longer being used for an older relative. Bottom line: Before investing in a home with an in-law suite with the intention of it being a money maker, know the local laws.