ADU Cost 2024 Insider: Spend Less, Get More on Your Project

ADU Cost 2024 Insider: Spend Less, Get More on Your Project

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small home that can be added to a lot with a single-family house. These units, often called granny flats, in-law units, or backyard cottages, are a smart way to use your property for extra living space or to earn some rental income.

With the need for more housing in many places, ADUs are becoming quite popular. If you’re considering building one, knowing what it might cost you is super important. Building an ADU comes with various expenses.

From the start of design and planning to construction and the final touches, the costs can add up, and they change a lot based on where you are, how big the ADU is, and what materials you choose. This guide will walk you through the costs of ADU construction in 2024, helping you figure out what to expect financially.

Overview of ADU Costs

Thinking about building an ADU? It’s a big financial commitment. The total cost will depend on whether you’re building from scratch or transforming something like a garage into an ADU. For a brand-new ADU, prices range from $146,500 to $216,500.

If converting a 2-car garage into an ADU, costs are usually lower, about $111,750 to $158,750. These prices cover everything from the design phase to city fees, building costs, and materials. Keep in mind that these numbers are just averages. Your actual costs can shift based on factors like your location, local building rules, and your own choices in design and materials.

Detailed Cost Breakdown

Design and Planning Costs

The first step in creating an ADU is planning it out right. This includes getting architectural drawings, engineering calculations, figuring out energy needs, and checking the land. These services can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $14,000, depending on how complex your project is and who you hire to help.

The size of your ADU and the local rules play big roles in these costs. It’s wise to hire pros who know the local laws and can handle the permit process without any hiccups, keeping your costs in check.

City Fees

No way around this one—city fees are part of the deal. These fees are for the city to review and approve your ADU plans. They can vary a lot from one place to another and usually cover things like plan checks, impact fees for big projects, costs for connecting utilities, and building permits. Expect to pay between $3,000 and $11,000, depending on how big and fancy your ADU is. Bigger and pricier units tend to have higher fees.

Construction Labor and Material Costs

Here’s where most of your money will go: building the place. The total cost here depends on who you hire, the quality of materials you choose, and how much labor costs at the time. Building a brand-new ADU might cost you $250 to $350 for each square foot. Turning a garage into an ADU could cost you less, about $175 to $225 per square foot. This is because, with conversions, you’re already halfway there with things like plumbing and wiring.

Finish Materials

The final touches on your ADU, like flooring, doors, windows, and cabinets, are all about the finishing materials. These are a big part of the cost and can vary greatly, usually running $50 to $75 per square foot. If you’re looking to keep some cash in your pocket, you might want to go with more budget-friendly materials that still look good and do the job well. With this breakdown, you’ve got a clearer idea of what building an ADU could cost you so you can figure out where to put your money wisely.

What Affects ADU Costs?

The price tag of building an ADU can swing up or down depending on several factors. If you’re planning to build one, understanding these can help you budget better and avoid surprises.

• Design and Plans: The more complex and unique your ADU design, the higher the cost. If you opt for a custom design with fancy architectural features and top-notch engineering, prepare to pay more than you would for a basic, straightforward design.

• Structure Type: The kind of ADU you choose affects your budget. Stand-alone structures typically need more construction and utilities work than units added onto existing homes or converted from spaces like garages. Conversions often cost less since they use existing walls and foundations.

• Size: Generally, bigger ADUs cost more overall, but the cost per square foot might drop as the size increases. This is because fixed costs like design fees and permits are spread out over more square footage, reducing the average price.

• Property Conditions: If your land has issues like uneven terrain, weak soil, or tricky access, these challenges can increase construction costs.

• Existing Structure Conditions (for conversions): The state of any structure you’re converting into an ADU also matters. A garage in bad shape might need a lot of work or even a complete teardown, which increases costs.

• Utility Connection Distance and Location: How far your ADU is from the main house or utility connections can raise the price of extending services like water, sewage, and electricity.

• Material Costs: Building materials costs can vary based on market trends and supply issues. Choosing between standard materials and high-end finishes will definitely affect your final budget.

By understanding these factors, you can plan better and keep your ADU project within budget, ensuring it meets your expectations without any financial shocks.

Calculating Your ADU Costs

If you’re looking to get a clear idea of what your ADU might cost, using an ADU cost calculator can help. These tools ask for details like how big your ADU will be, where it’s located, and what kind of finishes you want to give you a more tailored estimate. Here are a couple of examples to show how different choices can affect the total cost:

New Construction ADU (499 square feet)

  • Design and Planning: $7,500 – $9,000
  • City Fees: $4,000 – $5,000
  • Construction Labor and Materials: $112,500 – $157,500
  • Finish Materials: $22,500 – $45,000
  • Total Estimated Cost: $146,500 – $216,500

2-Car Garage Conversion ADU (360 square feet)

  • Design and Planning: $6,500 – $7,500
  • City Fees: $4,000 – $5,000
  • Construction Labor and Materials: $78,750 – $101,250
  • Finish Materials: $22,500 – $45,000
  • Total Estimated Cost: $111,750 – $158,750

These examples highlight just how much the type of ADU project can influence the costs. Whether you’re building a new or converting an existing space, it’s crucial to nail down a detailed plan and budget. That way, you won’t be caught off guard by the expenses.

Budgeting for Your ADU

Budgeting for Your ADU

Setting up a solid budget is critical to keeping your ADU project from becoming a financial headache. Here’s how you can get your budget sorted and stay on top of it:

Start with Detailed Estimates: Start with the cost breakdowns discussed. Contact contractors, designers, and pros to obtain accurate, up-to-date prices.

Set Aside a Contingency Fund: Things don’t always go according to plan. It’s wise to stash away an extra 10-20% of your estimated costs for those just-in-case scenarios, whether a surprise repair or a design tweak.

Choose Cost-Effective Options: There’s always room to trim costs without sacrificing quality. Consider less pricey finish materials or a simpler design—these kinds of choices can really lower your expenses.

Monitor Spending Closely: Monitor your spending closely throughout the project. Regular check-ins on how much you’re spending versus what you planned can help you adjust on the fly and avoid overspending.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your ADU project remains financially manageable and avoids any nasty surprises.

Choosing the Right ADU for Your Needs

When it comes to ADUs, picking between a brand-new build or converting something like a garage can influence both the costs and the final product. Here’s how to decide what’s best for your specific situation and budget:

Evaluate Existing Structures: Got a garage or another outbuilding? Take a good look at its condition. If it’s still in decent shape, converting it into an ADU could save you a bundle compared to starting from scratch.

Consider Your Space Needs: If you need a bigger space for a family, you’ll probably need to go with a new build. But if you’re just looking for a small spot for one person, converting an existing space might do just fine.

Think About Long-Term Value: It’s not just about upfront costs. Consider how much value the ADU will add to your property over time. New constructions might be pricier, but they often come with modern features that could boost your property’s overall value.

Local Regulations: Always check your local rules. Some places have strict guidelines on what kind of ADUs you can build, like limits on conversions or specific requirements for new builds.


Building an ADU is a big financial move, but with the proper planning and budgeting, you can handle it without too much stress. Whether you go for a new build or a conversion with Levi Construction, the key is to prepare thoroughly and keep a close eye on your budget throughout the project.

Understanding all the factors that come into play will help ensure your ADU meets your needs now and adds value to your home in the future.

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