Casitas, often referred to as ADUs (accessory dwelling units), are becoming increasingly popular among homebuyers and homeowners for a variety of reasons. There are some huge benefits of owning a casita, and a few downsides as well. Whether you're thinking about purchasing a home with an existing casita or building one on your property, it’s important to consider the benefits, costs, and regulations surrounding these units.
A Self-Contained Dwelling
Spanish for “cottage,” a casita refers to a small, self-contained dwelling that's (usually) detached from the main home but on the same property. Sometimes referred to as an in-law unit, guest house, or granny pod, casitas are typically equipped with full kitchens, full bathrooms, and a living and/or sleeping space.
They range from roughly 300 to 1,200 square feet, but each state maintains its own laws on just how large an ADU or casita can be. California, for instance, passed a law in 2020 that limits ADUs to no more than 500 square feet. If a casita is built attached to the main house, it may be subject to a different set of rules than an unattached structure. In this case, the casita would be included in the square footage of the entire home.
Benefits of a Casita
There are many benefits of having a casita on your property. Many people profit financially from these units by renting them out either long-term or short-term. People who live in areas where rent is high or areas where people like to vacation can make thousands a month by renting out their casitas.
Another benefit is that guests will have their own private space while staying with you and will likely be more comfortable while you maintain your own private space. The drawback, of course, is that they may be a little too comfortable and stay longer than desired. For the most part, however, owning a casita is a wonderful option for those who want to earn additional income or would like a comfortable space for visiting guests.
Active adults may find casitas an attractive option for enjoying hobbies and activities in a private, personal setting. They may use their casita as a hobby room, library, private office space, music room, art studio, fitness area, or pottery studio. Active adults may also enjoy the additional, mostly passive income a casita can bring by renting to tenants and/or vacationers. Additional income opportunities may be found by running a small home business out of a casita, such as a small yoga studio, photography studio, tutoring space, or catering kitchen.
The Price of a Casita
Keeping in mind all the benefits of owning a casita, it’s also important to be aware of the costs associated with them. Casitas do come at a price, whether you purchase a home with an existing one or build one on your current property. They can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $300,000 to build, depending on your area and the cost of labor and supplies.
Typically, a casita will run between $100 and $500 per square foot to construct. Building a casita can be a tricky process as there are many rules and regulations to adhere to and they vary by location. You’ll want to be sure to get the right permits when building a casita, or you run the risk of heavy fines and may possibly be required to dismantle or move the casita once it’s already built.
Prefab casitas, or modular homes, may be a less expensive route, as construction costs are mitigated considerably. Even so, prefabricated casitas can be pricey, running anywhere from $15k to $150k.
Buying a Home With a Casita
Homes with existing casitas are typically priced higher than those without. Homes with existing casitas can usually be found where home prices are high, but yards are big enough to accommodate them, such as in California suburbs, Hawaii, and the Southwest.
When buying a home with an existing casita, you’ll want to find out if the structure is permitted, and consider what you’ll use the space for. For example, casitas located above garages may have too many stairs to climb if a buyer has bad knees, and a casita attached to a house may not work well for renting out unless there’s a separate, private entrance.
Casitas are a wonderful option for active adults to earn additional income, enjoy indoor hobbies, and benefit from comfortable visits from family and friends. Whether you purchase a home with an existing casita or plan to have one built on your home, a casita can raise your property value and is normally well worth the additional expense.