Whether you’re hoping to buy a home with a mother-in-law apartment or thinking about adding one to your existing house, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons first. While having an attached or detached guest suite is a benefit to many, it can also be a waste of space (and money) if not utilized efficiently. In addition, building a mother-in-law suite may mean dealing with red tape and city regulations. On the other hand, having an in-law apartment to house all of your guests could be well-worth the renovation headaches. Keep reading to find out whether building a mother-in-law suite (or buying a home with one) is worth the hassle and costs involved.
What is a mother-in-law apartment?
Oftentimes, a mother-in-law apartment is referred to as a mother-in-law suite, guest house or in-law suite. These spaces could be a finished basement apartment, a converted garage or a detached guest house. They typically include a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living space and a separate entrance from the primary home. It may also be considered an official accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) if it is a secondary housing unit completely independent of the main house (meaning: it has a kitchen, bathroom, etc) and is located on the same property. ADUs can be attached or detached and are often rented out to tenants.
What does building a mother-in-law suite involve?
Building a mother-in-law suite from scratch may mean navigating your city’s confusing zoning regulations as well as various building rules. You’ll need to first find out whether an ADU or rentable property is even allowed to be built in your residential neighborhood. City zoning regulations or HOA rules may not allow secondary dwelling units to be built. When building a mother-in-law apartment, it’s also very important that you hire a licensed and experienced general contractor to assist with any and all necessary paperwork, permitting and construction needs.
What are the benefits of having a mother-in-law apartment?
Purchasing a home with an in-law suite (or building one yourself) has its benefits. Here are the top reasons why owners wish to have a mother-in-law apartment on their property.
The first (and most common) benefit of adding a mother-in-law apartment is to house a live-in nanny, aging parent or other family member. This is an excellent low-cost alternative to having to pay for their pricey housing expenses. In addition, the close proximity and convenience of a mother-in-law apartment allows the owner to live near the occupant while still retaining their own separate living space. If you decide to move an aging parent into your house, you may need to make changes to better accommodate the parent. Depending on the age and health of your parent, this may include adding an electronic stair lift, night lights, safety rails in the tub or ramps. For more tips on prepping a home for an aging parent, check here.
Second, having a separate dwelling on your property comes in handy when hosting guests. If you feel as though your home has become a bed-and-breakfast given the multitude of visitors, then adding a separate guest home to your existing house will certainly make life easier. Guests will have their own private quarters, which means you will have complete privacy as well.
A third benefit to having a mother-in-law apartment on your property is that you’ll have additional storage space. Those without a garage or storage unit will benefit from having a large storage area, where they can place extra furniture, large sports equipment (think: skis and snowboards) and seasonal items.
The fourth benefit to having a mother-in-law apartment is the potential rental income. Many owners rent out these secondary dwellings to help pay for home renovations, family vacations and day-to-day expenses in general. Renting out a guest house is an excellent way to earn additional passive income on a monthly basis.
What are the drawbacks of having a mother-in-law apartment?
Of course, mother-in-law apartments aren’t right for everyone. Here are a few reasons why you may not want a house with guest suite.
One of the main drawbacks to adding a separate guest home to your house is the high utility costs. Think about it: in addition to heating and cooling your own home, you’ll now have to pay to heat and cool your guest house as well. Not to mention, you’re almost sure to have a higher water bill, as well as higher energy costs.
A second reason that many should think twice before building a mother-in-law suite is that it may mean having to deal with city zoning regulations and strict building codes. If the primary home is located in a historic district, this addition will be even more difficult to accomplish.
Insurance costs are a third drawback of having a mother-in-law apartment. You’ll have to check whether or not your current homeowners insurance policy will also cover an accessory dwelling unit. If renting it out to tenants, you may need to purchase additional insurance to properly protect your home.
A fourth drawback to owning a mother-in-law apartment is that there will be more day-to-day upkeep. From cleaning toilets and vacuuming floors to clearing gutters and replacing light bulbs, maintaining a guest home can be time consuming and expensive. Many find that the costs and constant upkeep is not worth the benefits of having a mother-in-law apartment.
Does having a mother-in-law suite increase the value of your home?
Yes, having an in-law suite will almost certainly boost the value of your home. For starters, adding extra square footage to your primary house will result in a higher listing price when you decide to sell your home. Additionally, the extra living space is particularly attractive to buyers with large families or those hoping for extra rental income. The Nest also reports that many home buyers are “willing to pay extra for a basement and an in-law suite.” This is according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. The study found that “a finished basement and in-law suite were the two most desired aspects of a home that buyers would be willing to pay more for.” Bottomline: having an attached or detached mother-in-law apartment is a great way to increase the value of your home and improve its resale potential.
Should I build a mother-in-law suite?
Ultimately, this decision comes down to your individual needs and budget. If you can afford to finish a basement, build a stand-alone guest house or convert a garage, then by all means go ahead. Just make sure you have a solid purpose for the space (think: rental income or housing an aging parent) before blowing money on the renovations and upkeep. If you’re looking to purchase a home with an in-law suite, just be aware that you may have to pay up for this bonus feature.
Moving to a home with a mother-in-law apartment?
Whether you’re moving to a home with a mother-in-law apartment or moving into the guest house, yourself, you may need help with the heavy lifting. To find a reliable and trustworthy moving company, check out Moving.com’s extensive network of movers. We make it easy to compare quotes from hundreds of long distance movers and local movers near you – free of cost. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands.