Portland ADU Tour: Lessons Learned

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been telling you all about our adventures on the Accessory Dwellings Fall 2015 ADU Tour.  As a couple interested in converting our garage into an ADU, it was eye-opening. We definitely had a lot of assumptions going in – some were debunked, others we found to be very true. We also learned that there were a lot of things that we hadn’t yet even begun to consider.

Overall, these were our main takeaways:

  1. Cost.  Honestly, there are so many reports out there these days of people building their tiny dream homes with little more than the change in their pockets that it’s been tempting to think that we can do this on a super slim budget.  Of course, we also know that we value quality.  And, if we might house a friend or family member in our ADU, we expect a certain level of comfort, which means space and modern amenities like actual plumbing, not compost toilets.  These things don’t come cheap.  Yet, we can certainly be disciplined about keeping our budget in check with various steps along the way.
  2. Overestimate.  Regardless of what our budget ends up being, I think the most important budgeting lesson of the tour was to overestimate at pretty much very step.  I believe this is true of any remodeling project, but particularly so when building a distinct structure that shares land with an existing home.  Building a cushion into your budget will likely come in handy at some point, if not every point, during the process. As one homeowner said, “If you don’t use it during the build, you can use it to celebrate completing the project.”  Very good point!
  3. Research.  As much as I’m ready to dive head-first into this process, there are so many elements that go into design, permitting, and construction that it’s important to put in work up front that will save time and money later on.  As great as it was to tour ADUs in Portland, I’m now even more motivated to seek out ADU homeowners in Seattle before embarking on building our own.  There is no better way to learn than from experience…and if it can’t be from your own, from others will do just fine!
  4. Plan.  This goes hand-in-hand with research, of course, but we definitely saw that it’s an area with a tremendous impact on timeline and budget. My hope is that we can find a great designer and contractor during the research phase to help us map out the most efficient plan of attack.  This is the point where I would also want to factor in our sweat equity and determine what skills or equipment we would need to make that a reality.  Almost all of the ADUs we toured benefitted from owner sweat equity – some light, others heavy, all valuable.
  5. Have Fun!  As with so many things in life, at some point, you just have to dive in and trust that it’s all going to work out. All of the homeowners we talked to on the tour were clearly proud of their ADUs. And, despite a few blown budgets and timelines, we didn’t meet a single person who appeared to regret their decision to build. Some had even given up their homes in favor of their ADUs. My single most important takeaway was to just have fun the process knowing that it will all be worth it in the end.

Additional Reading/Snooping:
Fall 2015 ADU Tour Preview – more pics of ADUs on the tour
Spring 2015 ADU Tour Profiles – detailed ADU info/pics
And, in case you missed the original posts…
Portland ADU Tour: Part 1
Portland ADU Tour: Part 2
Portland ADU Tour: Part 3

Now Available…Portland ADU Tour 2016
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

7 thoughts on “Portland ADU Tour: Lessons Learned

  1. Pingback: Portland ADU Tour 2016 – Part 2 | year of months

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  4. Pingback: Portland ADU Tour – Part 3 | year of months

  5. Pingback: Portland ADU Tour – Part 2 | year of months

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  7. Pingback: Portland ADU Tour 2016 – Part 3 | year of months

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