One House, Two Homes

By Agnes Masnik, Freelance Writer for REALTOR® Magazine

More than 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are turning 65 starting this year, according to the Pew Research Center. And home owners are responding to changes in the economy by exploring the option of turning a single-family house into two homes.

Commonly known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), these dual housing arrangements were quite common up until the end of World War II and the boom of suburbanization.  ADUs are now making a comeback. The “New Urbanism” planning trend includes ADUs in a wide range of affordable housing choices, particularly for the elderly, disabled, empty-nesters and young workers.

Michael Litchfield, author of In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes (Taunton Press, 2011) helps answers the question if an ADU is right for your clients.

From the book: 3 Key Points for REALTORS®
1.  Get to know the various types of Accessory Dwelling Units.
2.  Understand common zoning standards for ADUs to better advise your clients.
3.  Gain an understanding of the family dynamic surrounding a life change and how to best meet clients’ housing needs.

Litchfield walks the reader through the decision-making process from the details of popular designs to tips on how to choose appliances and materials for energy and space saving products, as well as navigating plans and permits.  He chronicles 30 in-law units and personal stories in the U.S. and Canada.  Litchfield offers a richly-illustrated and informative guide to transforming a single-family house into a property with independent living spaces.

From the book: 7 Take-Aways For Home Owners
1.  An ADU allows for family to live close by.
2.  ADUs can provide a safe and independent place for parents.
3.  Create private quarters for adult children with and ADU.
4.  Accommodate out of town guests.
5.  Work from home? An ADU could serve as office space.
6.  Use the unit to generate additional income by renting it out.
7.  Increase long-term value of property.

Prior to starting construction, Litchfield lays out questions to consider for making shared space a positive experience.  He cautions to check local municipal zoning requirements to see what’s allowed in your market.

Michael Litchfield has authored 10 remodeling books, and has been renovating houses or writing about them for more than 30 years.  He is the founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, and he is a Certified Green Building Professional. For more information visit

Blog Contributor

This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Debbie

    Great article! Says a lot about our society today as well as the whats trending in the real estate market. Well done..makes me want to go out and buy the book.

  2. Good article and information! I anticipated that this could become the new normal in housing changes for the next decade at least and beyond – not surprising in the least! I’m looking for such an arrangement for myself and time is of the essence.

  3. Karla Westerfield

    Why is it an ADU in the first half and an AUD in the second?

  4. Alan

    How does a Realtor estimate the value of 2 homes on one legal parcel? Original homes were on separate lots that the assessor merged together.

  5. Blog Contributor

    Hi Karla, Thanks for finding that error. It should have been ADU throughout the entire blog post. It has been corrected.

  6. Judy Wooten

    As a 60 y.o. Realtor, I personally and professionally see a huge need for multi-generational housing! Where can I find some actual house designs?

  7. Can you get a mortgage or mortgages for ADU without being considered an “investor”, requiring 20% cash down at closing. Trying to purchase house next door for either my wife and me to reside, or mother-in-law and adult child to reside. I claim all as dependents. Thanks