Building a home – even a small home – is a major decision, and we pride ourselves on coaching our clients through it carefully. If you’re thinking about adding a backyard cottage to your property but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. There are a lot of factors to consider, from choosing the right contractor to figuring out how you’re going to pay for your new build. Follow along as we take you through the top six considerations you should make when planning to build a DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit).
What are you allowed to build?
This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s important to start with the basics: based on your city’s rules, are you allowed to build a DADU? What are the local limits on size, location, and setbacks from property lines? Will you need to add parking? And does the property owner need to live on-site? (This is true in most cities except Seattle, Burien, and Kirkland).
Most of the cities around the Puget Sound allow DADUs (everyone’s looking at you, Bellevue), but until state-level legislation passes to legalize ADUs and other “missing middle” housing more broadly, every city’s rules are slightly different. We don’t build everywhere, but we’re happy to give you a quick eligibility review to see if your property is suited for a backyard cottage.
How would you use a backyard home?
How large should your backyard home be? What level of fixtures and finishes is best? Your intended use will make a big difference in overall design and details. If you’re planning to sell the DADU or use it as a long-term rental, we recommend maximizing the square footage and number of bedrooms (we just added a 3-bedroom unit to our lineup for that reason). But if it’s going to be a place for guests to stay or an extra office, you might not need as much space. In some cases, a DADU might not be the best use of your property. For example, if your zoning allows for greater density (think townhouses or row homes), we might tell you that we don’t think we’re the best fit.
How will you pay for it?
A backyard home is a big purchase. The most common financing approaches that we see are cash, refinancing the existing home to withdraw extra equity, and construction (renovation) loans. We prefer to focus on what we do best – building homes – so we don’t currently offer financing ourselves, but if you don’t already have a preferred lender, we are happy to recommend some local lenders who understand ADUs and our process.
Choosing a contractor
In today’s competitive building market, you have many options when it comes to choosing a design and build partner. To ensure that you have someone best suited for the job, consider these factors:
- Experience: Ask prospective designers and builders how many ADUs they have completed in the region, and how familiar they are with local rules and codes.
- Reputation: Are they reliable? Make sure to check out their online reviews (Google reviews are always a good place to start) and don’t hesitate to ask for referrals.
- Clear communication: There are many decisions to be made and details to discuss, so having a contractor that walks you through each step of the process and is in regular communication with you is essential. Communicate your expectations from the start, and they should do the same.
- Portfolio: It goes without saying that a beautiful and functional DADU is the end goal. Visit their website and check out their portfolio of past projects. You can find ours here.
- Values alignment: Be sure to tell your contractor about the other factors you care about – for example, many of our clients prioritize supporting local and regional businesses, which is why it’s so important to us to partner with Washington businesses and suppliers for the majority of our products and materials.
Curious about what sets MyKabin apart from the rest? Take a look at the systems we have in place to provide you with a seamless experience from start to finish.
How many DADU projects has your builder completed locally?
As we mentioned earlier, every city has different regulations around building DADUs. As such, the more experience your contractor has building locally, the better equipped they are to handle all the fine details such as building permits, city codes, size limits, and more. At MyKabin, we recently reached a milestone of over 100 units sold! Backyard cottages are all we do and we’re the largest builder of DADUs in the Puget Sound Area.
Do you have other project goals at the same time?
For many of our clients, building a backyard home is just one piece of a larger vision for their property. If you’re looking for additional site or landscaping details – driveways, fences, decks, trees, bushes, etc. – it can be easier to coordinate that work through a single contractor. That’s why we have an in-house team of experts who can work with you on all the additional details.
Building a DADU shouldn’t be a daunting process. Putting in a little due diligence ahead of time to research contractors and find the best fit for your project will set you up for success and spare you unnecessary stress. If you’re located in the Seattle area and are looking to build a DADU on your property, we’d love to hear from you. Get started today by submitting our contact form and we will be in touch.