ADU's: Should You Convert That garage?

ADU's: Should You Convert Your Garage?

Everybody's Talking about ADUs

Auxiliary Dwelling Units, or ADUs, are popping up everywhere? It's easy to want extra space, potential income or caretaker quarters, but should you convert your garage? Plenty of people are (see Santa Barbara ADU's graphic above with new pending and completed permits.) But the cost (especially now with contractors and materials being in high demand), may be prohibitive - no matter how high the rents go.

PROS: Most two-car garages in our area offer approximately four hundred square feet of living area. It’s already roofed, has electricity and three walls and it may have water too.

With new state laws and super high rents, income for a well-done 400sqft home can gross over $30,000 a year in our area, but then there are taxes, vacancy losses and maintenance and a $300-400K conversion could take fifteen to twenty years to break even.

Flexibility of use as a guest unit now and a caretaker's unit later may allow you to stay in your home longer as you age.

CONS: Unless you remodel the garage from the outside and landscape the driveway, it will look like a garage, but you are paying the price for an inhabitable dwelling.

The garage floor elevation could be lower than the rest of the house because it’s a concrete slab. Typically, it isn’t insulated like the rest of the house, so there will be a noticeable difference in sound absorption and temperature.

The conversion will cost you. I'm hearing bids of up to $1000 a square foot by the time you have designed, permitted, built and finished the small space.

Privacy is always an issue when you put two homes on lots smaller than a 1/4 acre.Cars are investments with prices averaging around $35,000. Do you really want to park on the street?

Nonetheless, the county is besieged with requests - to date 725 permits have been issued for ADU's and fewer than half are completed. That means more homes, and more density, for Santa Barbara. What are your thoughts and experiences with garage conversions?