It feels like just yesterday we embarked on our ADU exploration. From discussing the many benefits to navigating the bureaucratic maze, we've been on quite the journey together. Now, as we prepare to close this chapter, there's still more to unveil. Today, as we put the finishing touches on our ADU series, let's bring it all home.
Reflecting on our ADU adventure, I'm reminded of the incredible potential these units have in reshaping our housing landscape. The appeal of ADUs isn't just in their compact design or affordability. It's in the versatile solutions they offer—from addressing housing shortages to providing independence for our aging population to paving the way for more sustainable living. Yet, as versatile as they are, ADUs come with their own set of questions and challenges.
What if you want to build a new structure for the ADU? And what about down the line, when an ADU isn’t needed in the same way? In this month’s final installment of my ADU series, we’ll take a look at all of that and more. Join me as we wrap up this ADU adventure!
We’ve already learned a lot about what preparations go into turning ADU dreams into reality. We’ve seen that building a team of professionals that are experienced in your local area is a must. We’ve seen that there are cumbersome paperwork processes that need to be in line before the first application can be submitted. Rather than retread old ground in this article, check out the rest of my articles in this ADU series:
A REALTOR®'s Unexpected Stance
Ever wondered why a REALTOR®, whose bread and butter is helping folks to move, would champion ADUs - a solution aimed at helping people stay put? It's simple. I see beyond the transactions and commissions. For me, it's about community. Chester County's increasing property values, evolving health concerns, the desire to age in place, and the daunting reality of inflation racing ahead of fixed incomes are pushing our neighbors out. And that's heartbreaking. ADUs offer a ray of hope, a solution to ensure those who make our county vibrant can still call it home. Because at the end of the day, isn't that what real estate is all about? Building and sustaining communities.
Where things do start to change is when it comes to actually doing the building. Converting an existing space has certain challenges, and building new likewise has its own hurdles. I can help you find trustworthy professionals to help you navigate these challenges.
In Westtown Township, there are regulations allowing for the building of ADUs throughout most of the area. The Statement of intent clearly notes the regulations exist “to address directly the housing needs of small households to make more efficient use of the Township’s existing building stock and infrastructure,” an intent I support. These regulations allow for the building of new structures, so let’s take a look at what’s different between building new compared to converting.
Just as with conversions, new construction benefits from all the same prep work. Time and time again, I want to stress how being prepared helps make the entire process easier. When we get through all of the prep work, things start to get interesting. While the concept of converting a space and building new are similar, the particular expertise of your general contractor comes to the forefront with something like this. Do they recommend dropping in a prefabricated unit, or suggest stick-built? Are there “neighborhood character” considerations that could influence what’s allowed? Even in Westtown, there are enough nuances that a comprehensive overview is outside the scope of a blog article.
Through all the nuance and regulations, one thing is vitally important when requesting an ADU exception in Westtown: the structure must initially be occupied by family members of the owner of the property, or for the medical needs of that family. This is not the case everywhere that has ADU regulations, though fits clearly within the stated intent of Westtown’s regulations. Expect the township to verify the family connection before the final stamp of approval.
At the same time, Westtown Township has in place several mechanisms for converting an ADU that’s served its purpose into a new functional space. From greenhouses to commercial space, the specific zoning and use and occupancy regulations of different districts within Westtown take over when an ADU is no longer a dwelling.
More recently, the township added additional standards for converting an existing ADU into a rental option. These newer standards look to the future and create opportunities to better use the space and structures in the area. The structure will be there even after its initial need has been served, after all.
Here is where I put my REALTOR® hat back on and talk a little bit about how ADUs affect real estate markets. Though we don’t have enough data, let along long-term data, to evaluate how ADUs increase property values, we do know a few things already:
- ADUs in areas with more options for space uses draws from a wider pool of buyers.
- The appeal of ADUs is not regional, though what they are called can be.
- As additional regulations are put in place, the impact of ADUs on value will become more apparent.
- The presence of an ADU does not decrease a property’s value.
All in all, adding an ADU to your property to address your needs is not a bad investment.
Thank you for joining me these past 5 months on this investigation into Accessory Dwelling Units! I hope you’ve learned something along the way. The world of ADUs is vast and ever changing – so please keep in mind that this series only gets at the basics of ADUs in our area. For a more comprehensive conversation about ADUs in your area, or an area you’re interested in, please reach out! I’m always happy to chat.