What is an In-Law Suite?

If you spend much time in the world of real estate, sooner or later you might hear mention of an in-law suite or maybe a mother-in-law suite. Maybe you have some idea about what this term entails, or maybe it’s completely new to you. Either way, we invite you to join us in a quick survey of what an in-law suite is and why it might be beneficial… even if you don’t live with your in-laws!

Defining the Term

An in-law or mother-in-law suite basically refers to a separate dwelling space that’s on the same property as a single-family home. Sometimes, it may be a detached building, like a guest house or a pool house. More often, it’s under the same roof, maybe located in a basement or garage. Sometimes it can be referred to as a guest house, granny pod, grandmother suite, Ohana suite, pool house, or secondary suite.

The in-law suite is a self-contained living unit, meaning the floor plan has its own bedroom, bathroom, in addition perhaps even a kitchen or kitchenette. The idea is that aging parents or family members can move into this extra space when they’re ready to downsize, but perhaps not keen on moving into an assisted living community.

Of course, you don’t have to use the in-law suite for your in-laws, and in fact there are countless ways in which this space can be useful… for putting up out-of-town guests, for providing older children with their own apartment space, for letting your college-age son or daughter come stay with you during summers, etc. The in-law suite may also work well as a home office environment. In some instances, you can even rent out this extra space, whether short-term or long-term.

Note that, from a legal standpoint, you shouldn’t refer to any space as an in-law suite in your real estate listing unless it has its own bedroom and bathroom. Kitchen space and other rooms are nice, but not strictly necessary.

Adding an In-Law Suite

An secondary suite can add a lot of utility to your home, and it may also add to the home’s resale value. For these reasons, many homeowners wonder about having in-law suites added on. This is often possible, but of course it comes with a cost. The average cost of building a suite addition onto your current home ranges from $32,000 to $63,000. And if you’re building a whole new, separate building, you can anticipate a cost of at least $120,000, often more.

Using an In-Law Suite to Sell Your Home

So let’s say you already have an in-law suite, and you want to use it to help sell your home. What’s the best strategy here?

As you try to get your home sold, we’d recommend configuring your in-law suite with an open floor plan. The idea is to emphasize its versatility. Let potential buyers see how easily the  additional space can be adapted as a rental property or a home office, but also how much value it adds for intergenerational families.

By all means, play up the in-law suite in your real estate listing, but only if you’re sure the floor plan meets all the legal qualifications to be designated in this way (see above).

And it goes without saying that you’ll want to present your in-law suite to buyers as clean and as clutter-free as possible. Make it seem spacious and accommodating.

Are There Downsides?

While there aren’t necessarily downsides to having an in-law suite, there can be some legal complications. Certainly, if you plan to add one to an existing lot, it will be crucial to check local zoning ordinances and building codes. Depending on your plan, remodeling a garage or existing space might be a possibility for a suite. You’ll also want to double check your zoning before you use the in-law suite as a rental space.

If you live in an area that’s not zoned for an in-law suite, you can sometimes obtain what’s called a variance. Doing so may require you to do some planning-get written permission from your neighbors, and there may be some added legal fees.

Get Your House Sold

An in-law suite can be a boon, both in your day-to-day living and as you seek to sell your own property.

If you have additional questions about how to get your place sold, we hope you’ll claim a free seller’s report. In it, we’ll give you an individualized recommendation for selling your property. Get your seller’s report from the team at SOLD.com today!