Working From Home? Build Your Own Office In Your Backyard!

 The Covid Pandemic has shifted the way the world works – when it comes to the workplace, maybe that shift is for the better.

Gone are the days where employees have to commute miles to work every day[i] – in California, commutes average about a 30-minute trip each way – Sure, there are onsite careers or hybrid approach options, but with the taste of remote work, a lot of employees hope work from home options are here to stay[ii].

If you are one of the lucky people working from home consistently, you’re also probably lucky enough to realize remote work also has its challenges. Dog’s barking, kids needing attention, laundry in the other room – trying to carve out a quiet, private space for your “job” and you aren’t always easy. Then again, maybe you are one of the even luckier people who has that quiet space but has got bogged down, unable to separate work from home, because, well….they happen to be one and same. Whatever degree of luck and remote work you find yourself with, you just might benefit from a little extra space without that lengthy commute.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) might just be the perfect long-term solution.

Can You Build An ADU?

If you live in California…. If you own your home and aren’t just renting…. If your space isn’t a condo or townhome…. The answer is most likely a resounding YES!

Think you don’t have space? Think again! ADUs come in all shapes and sizes. You can build ADUs, whether attached or detached, in your own backyard!  (In California, the maximum size is 1,200sqft and varies by city[iii]) If you don’t have much of a yard or want to keep as much of it as you can, you could convert existing space into a garage. You might even be able to put an above garage unit (depending on height restrictions).  Working with a custom design can tailor-make an extra living space to your property and stay in line with city requirements.

Think you don’t have the money? If you have a mortgage you aren’t maxing out and successfully paying every month, some equity due to the incredible housing market, or own your home free and clear, you’ve probably got what it takes to make an ADU space reality. ADUs are becoming much more commonplace, and financing for them is becoming more readily available. “Most homeowners finance ADUs through home equity loans, cash-out refinancings and construction/renovation loans”[iv] and there are plenty of companies that can help you do it! Oftentimes, homeowners can refinance their main residence and an ADU together after the completion of a project to roll the cost into monthly payments – the same way you are likely affording your space now. For an office workspace you may have to eat that cost, but don’t discount the equity of the space for resale (you’ll practically have 2 homes now) or income-producing potential if you ever decide to use it as a rental down the road.

What To Expect

You’ll want to have a little money set aside upfront to get started with your ADU. Your first step should always be to work with an Architect to get your designs and permits going. Designer costs are minimal, but they are in the thousands of dollars, so not something to bat an eye at.

ADUs cost $180k on average to build.[v]  Sure, when all is said and done, that’s a heck of a lot of pennies, but for the price of another home or extra space in the California real estate market you are talking CHEAP at least by comparison. The average price per square foot home in California is around $383[vi], but in San Diego the average price per square foot hovers around $500.[vii]  In a lot of places around San Diego County you’ll find those price per square foot rates even higher! That means your big investment really is a lot smaller than at first glance.

ADUs aren’t an immediate plop-in-the-backyard-and-you’ve-got-that-much-needed-space kind of option. They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “Good things take time” – Both of those statements couldn’t be truer when it comes to ADUs. From the time you start dreaming up your ADU with a designer to the completion of construction, you should estimate around a year’s time before you can make yourself at home (give or take depending on your project). Designers will work with you to get your dreams to paper and through permitting approvals (the popularity of ADUs and greater volume of permit submissions can slow down that approval process). Then, once approved and you’ve got a good contractor[viii] you’re looking at various levels of construction depending on the type of ADU you are doing – pouring a concrete foundation and stick building from ground up is going to be more time consuming than a conversion of existing structure. Throughout construction, the city comes and checks to ensure things are up to code along the way and sticking to permits (you might end up waiting on their scheduling which slows down the build). You’ll get done and you can get a team of exceptional people to walk with you through the process. However, it’s good to keep your expectations realistic and flexible so you aren’t disappointed.

How To Get Started

It’s best to have an idea in mind about what you want in your space. Remember: This is about you. Designers can give you ideas and keep you within the limits of city requirements, but the more you can tell a designer/architect firm what your vision is and bring them on board for the logistical aspects, the better offer you will be.

It’s also a good idea to know a general idea of what you can afford. You don’t have to get all your “ducks in a row” before starting with designs – in fact, it’s a good idea to start designs before having all your lending options dialed in so that by the time you figure out your best funding option, you will likely be a point much closer to build (which is where the more expensive costs fall).

Keep your design firm and your construction firm separate, but make sure your construction company is working with the designer throughout the process to ensure you can stay on budget and can make any adjustments along the way. Why separate? In a lot of design/build firms, you’ll find yourself upsold into construction costs that might not be needed – a designer not beholden to a construction company can help you re-assess and tailor your design to suit both your vision and your budget, rather than simply focusing on you as a dollar sign.

If you are ready to get started, but still have questions, or need a trusted resource, REIG ADU offers free consultations, advice, and care throughout your ADU process – from A to U. We partner with designer/architectural firms that are top-notch in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties and who listen to what YOU want. Our construction division- REIG Construction, can help you when you are ready to build your space and has a reputation for transparency and excellence in work. You can contact us directly through this form (Connect Today) or by calling us at (760) 201-0635.










Are you interested in finding out where to start with your Accessory Dwelling Unit plans? We can help you!