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The Casita Craze in California Continues

New casitas opening possibilities for custom home design at lower cost

Building small secondary living spaces or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) is still very popular in California. As I write this, we have about ten or eleven of these projects on the boards, either being permitted, constructed, or newly completed. The most common reasons to build a casita are:

  1. Providing a place for extended family or graduate offspring to live with you, but with some separation and privacy

  2. Housing elderly parents who need support, but want to stay close to family and age at home

  3. Creating a rental unit to produce income for the owner, which also benefits the community’s need to provide more housing options

There is also a variation on the third method that we’ve seen emerging: Owner’s building a casita, moving into it, and renting out their main house. There are some very obvious advantages to this strategy, especially for someone living alone, or with one other person.

A detached ADU is typically limited to 1200 square feet in size. For a larger family this may not be enough space, but it can often comfortably accommodate one or two people. Empty-nesters often find the idea of downsizing into a smaller home appealing, however, they don’t want to give up the garden, neighbors, location, investment, and history they have with their existing home. Similarly, a smaller family or single person who is living in a home too big for their needs might also consider moving into a smaller ADU on their own property. The rental income from the main house is often larger than they could ask for leasing out the casita.

Building a new casita also opens the possibility for building a new custom home for yourself at a much lower cost than buying land and starting a new home project from scratch. This is the scenario for one of our current clients. She had been living in a bungalow that was too large, and sharing it with roommates. By building a casita, she is able to rent out the entire main house, and live in a new space completely tuned to her lifestyle and privacy needs. By converting her backyard into a walled courtyard and allowing her interior spaces to open out into the inner courtyard, she gains an expanded private space, while staying under the 1200 square foot maximum size limit. She often works at home, so we created a small office space that doubles as a guest room. We added a wet bathroom and a Murphy bed to give the room more flexibility.

She can now keep her charming bungalow, allow the rent from it to help her pay for her casita, stay in the neighborhood she loves, and live in her dream home.



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