Is an ADU a Good Investment?

Discover Your Next Wealth-Generating Opportunity: Unleash the Potential of ADU Income. Take the leap and transform your property with an ADU.

July 3, 2023

In the vast world of real estate investing, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have emerged as a compelling option. For those unfamiliar with the term, an ADU is a smaller, secondary housing unit situated on the same lot as a larger, primary house. These compact structures have gained considerable popularity in the past few years, particularly in areas like California, where housing demand is high and space is at a premium. 

But what makes them such an attractive investment opportunity? Let's delve into the details.

<span id="blog-callout" class="kool-class" style="background-color: #F9F9F9; border-radius: 4px; color: #646A96;">TLDR: 1) Key benefits of an ADU include potential rental income and increased property value. A well-placed ADU can provide substantial monthly income, and homes with ADUs are priced 35% higher on average than homes without one. 2) Two important metrics for ADU investment are the 1% rule and Cash on Cash Returns. The 1% rule suggests a property should rent for at least 1% of its total cost, and Cash on Cash Return compares the annual pre-tax cash flow to the total cash invested in a property. 3) The current high demand for housing, especially in California, makes now an excellent time to invest in an ADU. </span>

The Double-Edged Advantage of ADUs: Rental Income and Property Value Increase

One of the key benefits that ADUs offer is the potential for rental income. This isn't just about earning a few extra bucks on the side - it's about creating a significant and steady stream of revenue. Let's illustrate this with an example: suppose you decide to build an ADU that costs $100,000. Following the 1% rule of real estate investing, which we'll explore in more depth later, you could aim to rent this ADU for about $1,000 per month. That's $12,000 per year, a substantial amount that could offset your initial investment over time.

The benefits don't stop at rental income, though. ADUs also provide a considerable boost to your property's value. In America's biggest cities, a home with an ADU is priced 35% higher on average than a home without one (source). So, if you own a property worth $500,000, adding an ADU could potentially increase its value to $675,000. That's an increase of $175,000, which is a significant financial gain.

Understanding the 1% Rule for your ADU

To determine if an ADU is a good investment, we use the 1% rule in real estate investing. This rule suggests that a rental property should rent for at least 1% of the property's total upfront cost. For instance, if you purchase a property for $400,000, you should aim to rent it for at least $4,000 per month.

Applying the 1% rule to an ADU investment, consider both the cost of building the ADU and the potential rental income. For example, if your ADU cost $200,000 to build, you would aim to rent it for at least $2,000 per month.

Understanding Cash on Cash Returns

Another critical metric is Cash on Cash Return. This measure compares the annual pre-tax cash flow to the total cash invested in a property. It's a straightforward way to understand the return on the actual cash invested, making it easier to compare the profitability of different investment properties.

Getting Rental Comparisons in Your Neighborhood

Before you take the plunge and build an ADU, it's wise to estimate the potential rental income you could earn. The best way to do this is to look at similar rentals in your neighborhood or city. Websites like Zillow or Rentometer provide rental price data for different types of properties in various locations. You can use this information to get a ballpark figure of what you might expect to earn from renting out your ADU.

The Payback Period: When Will Your ADU Start Paying for Itself?

The payback period is the timeframe in which the accumulated rental income offsets the initial investment cost of the ADU. Let's explore this further.

The payback period for an ADU can vary depending on various factors such as the cost of construction, rental rates in your area, and any financing options you may have utilized. As an investor, it's crucial to calculate this payback period to evaluate the profitability and return on investment of your ADU.

To determine the payback period, you'll need to consider both the initial investment cost and the monthly rental income. Let's say you invested $100,000 in building your ADU, and you expect to earn $1,000 per month in rental income. In this scenario, it would take 100 months (or approximately 8 years and 4 months) for the rental income to equal the initial investment cost.

However, it's important to note that this calculation does not account for expenses such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and potential vacancies. These additional costs can impact the overall payback period. Conducting a comprehensive financial analysis that considers all relevant expenses will provide a more accurate estimation of the payback period specific to your ADU investment.

Keep in mind that the payback period is just one aspect of evaluating the financial viability of an ADU investment. While the payback period provides insight into when the initial investment will be recouped, the long-term financial benefits extend beyond this timeframe. As rental income continues to accrue after the payback period, you'll start generating positive cash flow and potentially significant returns on your investment.

Conducting a Simple Financial Analysis

Before making an investment, it's crucial to evaluate the financial implications. Here's a simplified step-by-step process you can use:

  1. Estimate Costs: Start by estimating the cost of building an ADU. This includes construction costs, permit fees, and any additional expenses such as landscaping or furnishing.
  2. Estimate Potential Rental Income: Use rental comparison data from your neighborhood to estimate the monthly rent you could charge.
  3. Calculate Gross Yield: Divide the annual rental income by the total cost of the property (including the ADU). This gives you the gross yield, an indicator of the rental income you can expect relative to the property's cost.
  4. Consider Other Factors: Remember to consider other factors such as maintenance costs, property taxes, and potential vacancy periods. This will help you calculate net yield and better understand your potential return on investment.

Why Now Is a Good Time to Invest in an ADU

With housing demand continually growing, especially in states like California, now is an opportune time to consider investing in an ADU. According to the National Association of Realtors, ADU rents in California can often be higher than the national average. This high demand, coupled with limited supply, means that ADUs can command competitive rental prices, thereby enhancing the potential return on your investment.

Furthermore, ADUs offer a flexible solution to the housing crisis many cities are facing. They provide affordable housing options while allowing homeowners to earn income from their property. Plus, they can contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive community, creating housing opportunities without the need for additional land.

In Conclusion

Investing in an ADU isn't just about building an additional structure on your property; it's a strategic decision that could yield significant financial returns. Besides the potential for generating rental income, it's an opportunity to increase your property's value and contribute positively to your community. With careful planning and a clear understanding of the principles of real estate investment, an ADU can be a fruitful addition to your investment portfolio.

At Dwellito, we understand that every investment decision is a major commitment, and we're here to guide you every step of the way. With our expert knowledge and dedicated service, we aim to make your ADU investment journey a seamless and successful one. Reach out to us today, and let's explore how an ADU could enhance your property and investment potential.


  • "2021 Study: How Much Value Do Granny Flats and other Accessory Dwelling Units Add to a Home?" (2023),
  • "The 1% Rule of Real Estate Investing - CommercialCafe",
  • "Cash on Cash Return: A Guide for Real Estate Investors - FortuneBuilders",
  • "How to find rental comps so you can charge market rent",

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