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Seattle’s Backyard Cottages

Homes with small detached living spaces or potential to build an additional living space on the property are growing in popularity in Seattle. Since the city has changed the zoning laws to allow property owners to build Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs in 2009 there has been a higher demand for homes with smaller cottages in the backyard.

These ADU dwellings are known by many different names: backyard cottages, mother-in-law home, guest house, granny flat, pool house, etc. They have become more appealing to homeowners who love the option of multi- generational living or added income from a rental property. Building a home in the backyard to keep mom close by in her golden years may seem lofty and out of reach but those who have done the math it could save a lot of money versus assisted care living. It is also a great option for families with adult college age children seeking more freedom. Neighborhoods where ADU dwellings seem to be the most popular are near the U-district and Green Lake where there is huge potential to rent to young up and comers looking for housing near school and work. Seattle City officials love the solution it solves to the need for more affordable housing options without building apartment high-rises.

Though the city has released the okay to build backyard cottages there are some rules that have been set for anyone looking to build an ADU on their property. Cottages have a maximum size restriction of 800 square feet including storage and garage space. For a property with an existing single family home to be eligible to have a second dwelling the lot must be at least 4,000 square feet and the second dwelling plus original home can cover no more than 35% of the lot. There also must be at least one parking space for each residence. For a list of all restrictions and guidelines a 54-page ” Guide to Building a Back Yard Cottage” can be found here.

Attic and basement apartments and converting detached garages are fair game as well opening up a world of possibilities for homeowners and interested buyers. Seattle has a number of fabulous homes with spacious basements and attics ready for a development of a self-contained compact home. Anything 4 feet below grade does not count toward the 800 square foot limit so basement apartments have larger possibilities.

A number of construction companies have hopped on the backyard cottage bandwagon. These companies have wowed interested buyers with how much style can be packed into a small space. This small yet stylish 650 square foot cottage in a backyard near Lake Washington has gained a lot of press. [Source]

To look at homes with ADUs already in place or homes with ADU building potential contact Mary Pong and Associates.