I started a building blog in 2016 to chronicle the construction of the new Dwell Well building in North Park. I thought I’d share some of the humorous and tedious experiences, decisions, cost overruns, photos, and videos. I didn’t. My husband, Broker Bob, took over project management and handled nearly all of the decisions, while I watched the building grow with pride, excitement and some fear. Yet, I didn’t write at all. However, we’re back at it and this time around, I’ll be documenting the entire thing.
Bob and I have now embarked on another project. This time I’m gonna blog about it. We just opened escrow on a home in La Mesa, CA with the sole purpose of adding an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit). The home is on a pretty street, is beautifully remodeled and ready to lease. It’s on a big 6,800 sqft. lot with alley access. The ADU will be a completely new structure, which means we won’t need to convert the garage, so the front house gets to keep it.
A new ADU law was enacted September 2016 throughout the state to make it easier for homeowners to add secondary dwellings on their existing lots. The hope is that this law will help with the housing crisis in California. Before the law changed, homeowners had to be in a multi-family zone to do this legally. Luckily, the landscape has changed, literally. While some cities have added a few restrictions, in general, adding ADUs, or Granny Flats, has gotten much simpler and more cost-effective. Which means it is the perfect time for us to jump in.
Here’s how it began. I heard of the law change and had been waiting to see how San Diego would implement the new rules. Confused and without the time to investigate all the rules myself, I decided to host an event at Dwell Well Realty on the topic. I reached out to Jared Basler of Basis Studio, who I had heard was a great resource, to speak at our event. He not only educated me on the topic, but I was even more motivated to look around and see how we could participate in this exciting investment opportunity while creating housing.
My first step was an MLS search I created for what I called “Small not Tiny”. These are homes up to 1,100 sqft on lots 5,000 sqft or larger. I wanted a rentable house with enough room to add the ADU. Bob and I decided we didn’t want a property where the main house needed work in order for it to be rentable. Luckily, we found the perfect house in La Mesa, so we submitted an offer. Unfortunately, we got beat out by a much higher offer, so we thought it was dead. A week or 2 later, I got a call from the listing agent letting me know that the other Buyer had walked away. If we were interested, we could move forward at our offer price. Ok then, let’s do this!
On day two of escrow, we sent in our deposit and met our ADU resource architect, Jared, the Godfather of Granny Flats, to take a look at the site. I’m getting excited to delve into what I hope is a step toward helping alleviate the housing shortage in San Diego.
So, here’s what we’re hoping to do with this property.
I want to create a beautiful, small, but not tiny, home at a reasonable price. We’re thinking about $1,500-$1,650/mo depending on the size. The front house is a three bedroom, two bathroom and should lease for $2,500.
The cost of constructing the ADU is the key to whether this investment will work or not. It needs to be attractive, fit nicely with the architecture of the main home, and not look like a crowded afterthought.
Without careful design consideration, an ADU can hurt the overall property and that is not what we want to do. Jared agrees our site is perfect and uncomplicated for what we want to do.
What are the next steps? We’ll complete the physical inspection of the front house, sign the design contract with Basis and get our money together.
We are also working closely with Caitlin Bigelow, who is the creator of Housable. She’ll be along for the ride documenting the process.