A Beginner’s Guide to Granny Pods

A Beginner’s Guide to Granny Pods

Are you interested in increasing your living space and property value? If so, you might be ready to build a granny pod. 

Granny pods are part of a fast-growing trend of small space living.

These units allow homeowners to expand their living spaces while providing functionality to the whole family. They’re great for those needing to house loved ones, provide guests with privacy, or bring in extra income. 

This article will explain how these little dwellings could benefit you and your family.

Keep reading to find out:

  • What granny pods are, and why they’re so popular
  • How zoning regulations affect tiny home builds
  • How much granny pods typically cost
  • How to design the perfect add-on unit to your home

What Is a Granny Pod?

A granny pod is a small dwelling on the property of the main house. 

These pods – often referred to as accessory dwelling units or ADUs – are built to extend the living space of a home with a private, separate unit.

ADUs fulfill a purpose beyond just creating extra living spaces for homeowners. 

They can:

  • House elderly family members
  • Serve as rental properties
  • Provide on-site guest houses or in-law suites

While researching granny pods, you may encounter the popular tiny house movement. 

The National Fire Protection Agency defines tiny homes as single-family dwellings intended for permanent occupancy. These homes typically range from 400 to 800 square feet, depending on the design.

All granny pods are tiny homes, but not the other way around. 

People tend to use tiny homes in place of traditional houses. On the other hand, people use granny pods in addition to full-sized homes.

Accessory dwelling units can be stand-alone or attached to the main home.

Some popular ADU setups include:

Detached
  • An independent dwelling on the property of a traditional house.
  • Example: A tiny home or guest house situated in a property’s backyard.
Attached
  • A dwelling space attached to the main house via a garage door or exterior wall.
  • Examples: An apartment above the main home’s garage; a tiny home attached to the side of the central home.
Interior
  • A less common option that involves building an ADU into the primary home.
  • Example: An apartment built into the basement or attic of the main home.

Are Granny Pods Legal?

The legality of granny pods can be confusing, even for seasoned real estate agents and longtime homeowners. The pods are, by definition, included on a primary home’s property and, therefore, owned by one person.

This can create some contention for real estate agents trying to sell a single-family home with an entire, independent dwelling on the same property.

Nonetheless, you may be wondering why ADUs would ever be illegal in the first place.

Exclusionary zoning laws gained traction in the early 20th century. These laws dictate lot size and the type of dwelling allowed on a lot.

Unfortunately, restricting dwellings to single-family homes on large lots led to urban sprawl and land waste. It forced people who can’t afford these homes and lots out of an area. 

Luckily, many cities are reworking zoning laws to permit granny pods

The updated consensus is that ADUs create a more equitable housing market while benefiting single-family homeowners. 

The rise in housing costs forced many people into rental properties, especially in high-demand areas like cities. As the demand for rental properties and apartments increased, their prices increased too. 

The Raleigh Planning and Development Department says ADUs meet and improve this crisis by integrating small rental units into pre-developed land and neighborhoods – thus, preventing renters from moving elsewhere for affordable housing.

Today, city governments have moved toward permitting and even encouraging the production of granny pods. However, there are still regulations around the pods’ design, size, and construction. 

Some municipalities restrict ADUs from exceeding a percentage of the main home’s square footage. Other zones regulate the height and style of ADUs to make them fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. 

Some states prohibit prefab granny pods, but these restrictions are loosening as modular homes become sturdier and more high-tech.

The key to building a permissible granny pod is to research your local zoning laws ahead of time. 

Knowing your area’s rules will keep you out of trouble and help you create an ADU you can use.

Why Are Granny Pods Becoming Popular?

Don’t just thank the housing crisis and rental prices for the rising popularity of granny pods.

In addition to their contribution to the affordable housing movement, these little homes have numerous other benefits.

Functioning as an On-Site Guest House

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a granny pod is that it expands a home’s usable space. 

Granny pod is one of many names for accessory dwelling units. Some people build ADUs specifically for guests, calling the units “in-law suites.” 

On-site guest houses eliminate the need for a pull-out couch or guest bedroom in your home. Instead, guests can enjoy their visit in their very own private unit. 

Providing Care to a Loved One

A granny pod is an excellent choice for homeowners seeking care options for aging parents.

Such homeowners might face the difficult – and costly – decision of finding their parents in-home care or relocating them to a nursing home.

Building an ADU for elderly parents solves this issue by giving them a house right in the backyard.The parent can maintain a sense of privacy and independence, knowing that help is close by.

Even if a homeowner cannot be their loved one’s primary caregiver, they can hire someone to do the job from the granny pod. This provides adult children with a way to monitor their parents’ care and be nearby in emergencies.

Some granny pod designs, such as the MedCottage, are compact hospital rooms that allow treatment and care for individuals right where they live. Such cottages allow elderly folks and immunocompromised individuals to measure their vital signs and receive medication without risking exposure to germs in a medical facility.

Serving as a Rental Property

Accessory dwelling units can serve as an additional income stream for homeowners. 

Some people transform their ADUs into rental homes to profit from the space, especially if it isn’t in constant use. Many people list granny pods as vacation homes or month-to-month apartment rentals, allowing them to make money from the unit off-season and use it for themselves when family visits.

The owner will pay for the construction, furnishing, and maintenance of the property but eventually make that investment back through rentals.

This rental benefit also applies to homeowners interested in aging in place

“Aging in place” means remaining in one’s home and community comfortably and independently, regardless of age or abilities. 

An aging homeowner can move into their granny pod and lease out the main house to caregiving family members or renters. This provides the individual with a smaller home to maintain while keeping them in a familiar environment.

How To Design and Furnish an ADU

Despite their small size, granny pods overflow with design possibilities. How you decide to outfit your pod will depend on its designated function.

Many tiny house builders opt for an open floor plan to avoid using up space with walls. Traditional home spaces like living rooms and kitchens flow into one another, creating an open, airy feel. 

Like studio apartments, these layouts are entirely open save for the bathroom, which is a small, separate room. The house will include a kitchenette, living space, and a place to sleep.

Don’t let their small square footage fool you – these tiny homes are often chic, charming dwellings. 

Your in-laws will love staying in their designated cottage with the perfect amount of privacy and family fun just steps across the lawn.

Designing a Senior Care Cottage

When outfitting a granny pod for an older person, you’ll have some extra design considerations.

While creating a comfortable, stylish living space for a parent or loved one, remember to install safety features to make their home useful. 

We recommend adopting universal design techniques when preparing a granny pod. Universal design is the concept of building things with people of all ability levels, health statuses, and needs in mind. 

Even if your loved one is in good health now, they may need an open floor plan and accessible living spaces down the road. Design the home with these concepts in mind so the house can benefit them through any stage of life.

When designing a home care pod, consider adding these features:

  • Grab bars and handrails – Install bars around seating areas, toilets, and bathtubs. Grab bars provide stability as one stands up or lowers themself down.
  • Wheelchair ramp – Opt for a wheelchair ramp to lead into the pod. A ramp improves handicap accessibility and reduces the risk of anyone tripping on stairs.
  • Handicap accessible bathroom – Design a bathroom to accommodate those with mobility devices. Include a wider entryway and lower appliances to help the tenant reach the faucet and light switches.
  • Lighting – Intentionally light the house to reduce trips and falls. Place light strips on hallway floorboards or set timer night-lights to come on in the dark. Otherwise, reduce the danger of falls by opting for softer floor materials.

How Much Does a Granny Pod Cost? 

The price of an ADU primarily depends on the model you choose. 

Modular and prefab models are usually the priciest options because they’re pre-constructed. Once the home arrives, you’ll simply have to place it on your property and hook it up to sewer and water lines. 

Prefab models, such as those from Studio Shed, range from about $40,000 to $90,000. This price is just for the home’s structure. You’ll tack on another $40,000 for interior walls, flooring, cabinets, and fixtures.

According to a 2020 report from Brigham Young University, the average cost of a DIY tiny home is around $60,000. In this case, you won’t get the convenience of a pre-built home or installation services, but you’ll save money by building the home yourself.

Apart from the cost of the house itself, you’ll need to consider a couple of other cost factors. 

If you’re installing a granny pod for an elderly loved one who would otherwise live in a care facility, you’ll save money in the long run. Nursing homes can cost over $100,000 per year, so building that backyard pod may be worth the investment.

Most granny pod models share the same sewage, water lines, and electricity as the property’s primary home. 

Consider how this will affect monthly utility bills for your family. While the investment is still likely worth it, you’ll undoubtedly face heftier sewage and utility costs each month.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article helped you learn about all things ADU.

These functional little homes are the perfect ways to house out-of-town guests, create an extra income stream, or care for a loved one.

Remember that your granny pod doesn’t have to be a stand-alone unit in your backyard. You can incorporate the pod into an existing garage or as an add-on section of your main house. 

No matter what kind of accessory dwelling unit you settle on, we hope it creates a better living situation for you and your loved ones.

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