What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU?
In 2010 changes were made to Denver’s zoning code to allowed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) — also known as granny flats, carriage houses or casitas. As Denver struggles with growth, ADUs are an option to add housing without scraping existing homes and changing the architecture of neighborhoods. They are smaller homes built in the alley that have proved to be a successful strategy in other booming cities such as Seattle, Austin, and DC facing housing shortages and rising prices.
Finding ADU Zoned Properties in Denver
LivingRoomDenver.com is the only website that identifies ADU zoned properties. To qualify for to be able to build an ADU, your property must have the right zoning and lot size. There are 26 zoning codes and for each zoning code there is a specified lot size requirement that must be met. Most real estate agents don’t even know what an ADU is, let alone the specific zoning codes and lot size. On this website, we’ve done that work on the backend to sort through all 26 zoning codes and cross referenced them to the lot size to give you all ADU zoned properties for sale in Denver county.View Listings Zoned for an ADU
BluePrint Denver and ADU Zoning
In 2018 the city went through a large scale planning process with the community to inform the future of Denver’s land use. The outreach resulted in a visioning document and recommendations. Recommendation number four says “Diversify housing choice through the expansion of Accessory Dwelling Units throughout all residential areas”. For now, the city will approach this recommendation by allowing variances for ADUs not properly zoned on a case by case basis. The BluePrint Denver plan states, “Until a holistic approach is in place, individual rezonings to enable ADUs in all residential areas, especially where adjacent to transit, are appropriate. These rezonings should be small in area in order to minimize impacts to the surrounding residential area.”
Uses for ADUS
There are many benefits of buying a property that enables you to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit. You can use the unit to generate rental income with long term tenants or short term AirBnB guests. ADUs are a great option for aging parents or teens who you want to keep a close eye on, but still need their own space. For some families, an ADU may help them accommodate loving grandparents or a nanny who assists with childcare. While others may use the additional space as an office or studio for art and hobbies.
Interested in Purchasing an ADU Zoned Property?
There are many intriquises about ADUs that a buyer should beaware of when purchasing a property zoned for an ADU. Working with a Living Room agent who specializes in these properties will protect you. Living Room also offers a special “feasibility study” by a licensed architect who also specializes in ADU to verify that the lot will accommodate your dream ADU before purchasing.
- ADUs must be built 5 ft from the southern lot line if it is over 17 ft tall to minimize the shadow on your neighbors property.
- The second level of an ADU must be 75% of the ground level.
- Depending on lot and design, your ADU can only cover 37.5% to 50% of the lot.
- The city will require you to repair or build sidewalks when you pull a building permit for an ADU.
- Building an ADU usually costs $200K to $300K depending on the size and finish level.
- Traditional 30 year loans are not available to finance ADUs. Common ways to finance ADUs include cash, HELOC, Home Renovation Loan, or a one year construction loan.
- In most cases, you cannot repurpose an existing garage and utilize it as an ADU depending on the foundation. Foundations requirements on habitable space are different than requirements for garage
- In order to be approved for a permit, the request to build an ADU must come from the primary resident who lives in the main dwelling in single unit zoned districts.
- Most of the city does not allow decks on ADUs.
- There are no parking requirements for ADUs unless you want the lot coverage exception (if you want to cover 50% of your lot, 80% of the ground level needs to be parking).
Helpful Articles about ADUs
Check out this article to understand the history of Denver’s zoning changes, learn about Kassidy’s ADU journey, and other people and initiative around building ADUs in Denver.
5280 Magazine does an annual issues about Real Estate. Their 2019 reporting included 11 predictions about the Denver real estate market. Prediction #8 said, “Granny flats—also called mother-in-law suites or accessory apartments—will become more popular, as long as local municipalities ease up on regulations.” The journalist showcased Kassidy’s vision for the future of Denver.
showcased how Realtors are working to make a dent in the housing gap using multiple approaches: teaming with builders to create more inventory, overcoming not-in-my-backyard mindsets, or becoming stronger voices for the zoning and regulatory changes many governments are weighing as a way to increase housing density and affordability.
L&D Construction – Sarah Senderhauf
Troy Williams – Loan Officer, NMLS 1526857
C: 303-359-5156, O: 720-577-4103
Will & Annie Martin
Part 1: How to find a property zoned for an ADU in DENVER
Where to look:
Understanding the zoning code:
We’re about to get really technical regarding the Denver zoning code. Any citizen can find the entire 1300 page zoning document online. Here is a link to the Denver Zoning Code. The people most well-versed in the zoning code are trained architects.
We recommend: StudioBvio
Ideal ADU lots:
Project Guide for Detached Swelling Units
Help finding an ADU:
Hiring an Architect
I purchased my home with an ADU zoned lot in March 2017. From day one, I started researching building an ADU. In August 2018 I engaged an architect to complete a feasibility study which was an important first step. By October 2019 after over two years of research, I finally had a deep enough understanding of the complicated Denver ADU regulations to hire an architect.
Step #1: Feasibility Study
I engaged architect Will Martin, owner of StudiObvio, for a feasibility study to understand what I could build on my lot. This process was foundational for me to understand the basic size and layout of my ADU in the beginning. This gave me a concrete understanding of my end goal and always kept me motivated to push forward. A feasibility study costs $1500 and ideally is done during the buying process so you can make an educated decision when purchasing.
Step #2: Interview Architects
Who you choose to build your ADU project is extremely important. There are many different architects with different specializations. I narrowed my search for an architect to only those architects who are experienced in building accessory dwelling units. ADUs come with a whole lot of special architectural considerations including bulk plain requirements, 75% on the second level, and special considerations for the water and sewer. I interviewed three architects before making a final decision.
Will Martin – StudiObvio
I initially talked to Will because he did the awesome feasibility study for me. Unfortunately after many conversations with them, I simply could not afford their fees. They were charging around $25,000 for the design and supervision during construction of the ADU. I also didn’t choose to work with Will because of his work schedule did not accommodate my ADU design within my timeframe.
Carrie Baron Architect, LLC
I also spoke with an architect Carrie Baron Architect, LLC. She has built several ADUs in Denver and I’ve actually seen many of her designs in-person after construction. Carie is a very lovely person and I feel like she would be great to work with because she’s a great listener and has the right experience with this type of project. Her design fees were affordable.
John Schwarz, SimpleHomes
I eventually decided to use my friends at SimpleHomes to design the ADU. SimpleHomes is owned by David Schultz, the owner of L&D Construction who has led a public education campaign for Denver homeowners to understand this complex building form. They have built 30+ ADUs in Denver and are well-versed with ADU Construction and design. I decided to use Simple Homes to design the ADU because the technology they use during the design process is integrated into the programs necessary for the structure to be built in a factory efficiently. SimpleHomes architect John Schwarz designs the building plans in 3D for visualization of scale, material, and colors. Once finalized, the design can be plugged into their system to program the design in the factory to build it exactly to your plan in the factory just north of downtown Denver. A big factor in the decision to use SimpleHomes was their wonderful Sales Manager & Broker, Sarah Senderhauf who provided counsel for many years and helped me understand the ADU building process.
Paul Minor, Blackstone Architecture, Inc.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and it is worth mentioning here that I really regret not picking an architect based on their building style. I wanted a traditional look with elements of the very popular farmhouse style. My architect and I had very different styles and that became a problem during the design process. Make sure to read my next blog chronicling the design process with SimpleHomes that includes a review of my experience and the lessons I learned. I took a photo of a home Paul designed and I kept trying to get my architect to recreate that style. I ended up going back to the home many times and eventually ran into the owner and he told me the architects name. I highly recommend vetting your architect’s style first and foremost
2700 Jackson Street ADU Has Broken Ground.
Appraisal, Financing & Construction update.
Construction Loan for an ADU