Everything You Need to Know About ADUs

They’ve been colloquially referred to as “granny flats” but, these days, granny and grandpa are staying in their family homes for longer and Angelenos are using these back houses as rentals, retreats, creative office spaces, and more. People with existing extra spaces have been getting good use out of them; plus, other homeowners have been jumping on the bandwagon by building their own Accessory Dwelling Units. An additional unit on your property could be really useful and it could also be a lucrative long-term investment. Does that pique your interest? Not sure how to get started? Luckily, we’ve done the research ourselves and compiled information from many sources to break down the basics for you.

What is an ADU?

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, “An ADU is a dwelling unit with a full kitchen and bathroom, which is an accessory use to a primary or main single-family residence. The ADU can be used as a rental, but cannot be sold separately from the primary or main single-family residence. The existing residence must be a legally established structure.”

ADUs can provide an easy source of rental income for homeowners and low-cost housing for renters. They also add manageable density to single-family areas where new apartment complexes would be difficult to construct. – Curbed

Citywide, there are an estimated 50,000 secondary units on residential lots, from mother-in-law cottages to converted garages. But many of them lack permits, and many more potential ADUs have never come to fruition because of issues like the cost to build extra parking that outdated city codes required.

A series of state laws enacted in January 2017 lifted many of those barriers. As a result, about 2,000 permits were requested in L.A. last year, a 658 percent increase from the average between 2012 and 2016, according to city data. With half a million single-family lots citywide, the mayor’s office once argued there’s room for an even greater increase, which is where city hall’s Innovation Team comes in. “If we permit them, families build them,” says its director, Amanda Daflos. – Los Angeles Magazine

Why would someone want to do an ADU?

  • If you’re looking for an additional unit for a multi-generational family so they all live on the same lot but in their own homes.

  • If you’re looking for a rental unit with income potential

  • If you’re looking for a guest house

  • Or if you just need more space

Am I allowed build an ADU on my property? What are the rules and requirements?

In general, an ADU is permitted with a Site Plan Review if:

  • The property is zoned R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, R-A, A-1 and A-2, or another zone where a single family residence (SFR) is allowed by right with a plot plan (ministerial review).

  • Only one legal SFR exists on the property or is proposed to be built concurrently with the ADU.

  • You propose to convert an existing guest house, mobile home, or caretaker’s residence to an ADU.

An ADU is not permitted if the property:

  • Is not zoned to allow a SFR by-right

  • The ADU is intended for sale separate from the primary SFR.

  • Contains other habitable structures beyond the primary single-family residence, except a pool house accessory to an existing swimming pool.

For more details, see this document specific to Los Angeles County.

How much does it cost?

Based on our team’s conversations with some local architects, it seems that the cheapest someone could build an ADU for would depend on if it was from the ground up or from an existing structure. It would also several other factors (i.e. where is the sewer line, power, gas line, parking etc.) If it was as simple as converting an existing 2 car garage and all the utilities were close you’re talking maybe $125k-$175k for a very basic, simple unit. 

What kind of a return on investment can I expect?

If you were to build an ADU — a 650 sq ft 1 bedroom, 1 bath unit for $200,000, assuming you could rent it for approximately $2500/month in Venice or Mar Vista ($30,000 per year), it would take you 6.6 years to pay yourself back for the cost to build ($200k/$30k annual income = 6.6 years). After 6.6 years, it would be pure profit $30k annual rental income. That would be a 15% return annually on your initial investment of $200k over time.

7 Reasons why Fall is the best time to Buy or Sell

Silver medal. Runner-up. Fall. These are all considered to be the second choice, but there are so many benefits to buying or selling a home in fall that I can’t help but push back on any thoughts that the season should be dismissed as subpar. After all, vanilla is the top-selling brand of ice cream, but does that make it better than other frozen treats? I think not! Consider these seven reasons to buy or sell this fall.


Reasons to Sell Your Home in the Fall


Spring may have higher demand, but it also comes with higher inventory. Your home listing in the fall means less “competition” for you and possibly a better offer. Make sure you have done a great job of addressing curb appeal, staging, and cleaning to help your home really shine.


Buyers who are shopping for a new home in the fall or even in the winter usually have a strong reason to do so. Their motivations could include a recent job transfer, a desire to have their kids in a new school prior to mid-year breaks (or, if it’s early enough in the season, before school starts), or wanting to celebrate the holidays in a new space.


With more families wanting and needing multi-generational living spaces (think of the sandwich generation with both teens and aging parents sharing a home), the search for a home could be a longer process, pushing the process beyond spring’s peak.

Often times, sellers will be encouraged to pull their home off the market for the winter holidays. This means inventory will drop and then surge again in the spring. Shopping for a home in the fall will allow you to see houses before the flood of showings after the holidays.


Sellers who keep their listings active in the fall usually have a motivating factor behind their decision, which can benefit you. While it isn’t fully a buyer’s market, because they likely have less showings, they may be more open to accepting your offer.

Buying a home in the fall has several time-sensitive benefits. Your first mortgage payment won’t likely hit until the new year, and you may celebrate the winter holidays in your new space. 

In an analysis of over 30 million home sales spanning 15 years, RealtyTrac(r), found that home buyers who purchased in October paid nearly 3% less than in other months. You can also get into your new home right in time for the end-of-year sales on appliances and electronics - bonus!

If summer was for home repairs and vacations and you are now ready to buy or sell, give me a call for a market analysis and information to get moving this fall!

Elliman Magazine Fall 2018

On the pages of the fall 2018 issue, you’ll find a sampling of Douglas Elliman’s amazing portfolio of resale, new development and rental properties from coast to coast—Montauk to Malibu, Boston to Boca—and around the world. Our regions come alive through engaging stories that dive deeper into not only the homes themselves, but the way of life they offer. Read about what drives classic car collectors; embrace yachting in Fort Lauderdale; discover the most distinctive florists in Los Angeles; visit independent bookstores in the Northeast; get expert advice on investing in a vacation home abroad; and much more!

Visit Issue here!

Millennials put pets first when buying a home

  • A full 73 percent of millennials currently own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.
  • A whopping 89 percent of millennials who bought a home so far this year own a pet, according to Realtor.com.
  • For this demographic, 79 percent of pet-owning homebuyers who closed on a property this year said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn't meet the needs of their pets, according to a Realtor.com survey.

Per this article from CNBC: Millennials are having a love affair with pets — so much so that they're often putting their furry friends' needs at the top of their list when shopping for a home.

Luxury landlords have been catering to this millennial trend for years, putting in dog runs on rental tower roofs and pet salons off lobbies. Now more millennials are buying homes, and seeking the same amenities.

A full 73 percent of millennials currently own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. That is a larger share than any other demographic. For buyers it's even bigger. A whopping 89 percent of millennials who bought a home so far this year own a pet, according to Realtor.com.

Thirty-one-year-old Jessica Evans lives in a single-family row house in Washington, D.C., with Lucy, a dog, and Casper, a cat. She calls them her "fur children."

"I don't have kids, and I've intentionally decided that while I want to have kids one day, I'm not at that point in my life, and I think a lot of millennials here in D.C. are kind of in that same boat, but you still enjoy having something to take care of," she said, feeding Lucy some treats.

But taking care of her pets, especially Lucy, meant selling her condo and buying a single-family home.

"I loved living in the downtown area in a condo. It was great, very convenient, I didn't have housework, but the one thing that was really missing was my dog's happiness," said Evans.

Keeping pets happy appears to be a millennial priority. For this demographic, 79 percent of pet-owning homebuyers who closed on a property this year said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn't meet the needs of their pets, according to a Realtor.com survey.

Evans knows this firsthand, because she is also a real estate agent with mostly millennial clients. On their wish lists: first and foremost, outdoor space — a yard or at least a park within walking distance.

"The big thing with cats is where is their litter box going to go? I think with any house or condo, that's a big decision," she added.

And owners with older pets often have concerns about stairs. More affluent buyers want a dog grooming station in the mud room. Also, being near pet-friendly restaurants and pet supply stores is a big plus, especially for young urban buyers who might not have a car.

And once millennials purchase a home, they often put big bucks into upgrades for their pets. Evans put $12,000 into her row house, adding a higher fence so her pets couldn't jump out and other pets couldn't jump in. She also added a modern pet door and renovated the basement bathroom for Lucy, even though the basement itself is unfinished.

"I wanted her to have her own shower so that I wouldn't have to clean mine after washing her in it," said Evans.

She just wanted her house to be pet-friendly overall, not just for herself but for her friends, most of whom also have pets.

"I think I tend to connect more with other people with pets because we can do pet-friendly things together," said Evans, adding that some of her clients who don't have pets are also interested in pet amenities because they've been waiting to own a house first, so they can get a pet.

***As many of you know, I too, have a furchild at home - my dear sweet Kobe. For us millennials who are deciding to have children later, pets are who we take care of in the meanwhile and definitely, from experience I can say that some of my clients do take in huge consideration if their future property has everything they need and also for their pets. 

Basically this meme sums it up pretty well...

Rent or Buy: What’s Right for You?

With talks of a shifting market in the next 18th months, I'm sure those on the fence are asking themselves rent or buy...

When considering a move, it’s always important to evaluate whether renting or buying makes sense for you at the moment. There are pros and cons to both, so how do you know what the right decision is for you and when? We compared the two options to help lead you in the right direction.

Benefits of Renting

Ability to “Test Drive” A Neighborhood—Maybe you want to try out an up-and-coming neighborhood, or just somewhere you’ve always wanted to live before you decide to make a long-term investment there. Give it a year to see how you like the area, it’s conveniences and your commute before making a purchase. 

Maintenance Costs and Repair Bills—There are certain expenses that renters are not responsible for because they fall on your landlord, such as water, sewer, garbage pickup, leaks and more. And if your super lives on site, they will take care of any small repairs that may come up, like unclogging a drain, replacing an outlet or patching or painting a wall. 

Real Estate Taxes—As a renter you don’t pay real estate or property taxes because you don’t own your residence and therefore it’s not an asset. Taxes can be tens of thousands of dollars a year, so avoiding this expense is a huge benefit of renting.

Life Change—If you anticipate a life change like getting married, having a family, or becoming an empty nester within the next 5 years, renting may be better suited for you right now. Until that life change happens and you know what your living needs will be, renting will give you some time to figure it out. 

No Down Payment—If you’re still working towards saving enough money for a down payment, renting is the way to go. Or, if you’d rather have that money in the bank for a rainy day you won’t have to put down an exceptionally large sum of money when you sign a lease. Usually first month’s rent and a security deposit are all that’s required. 

Benefits of Buying

Equity–Instead of paying rent each month, put that money towards an asset that you actually own and gets you equity, such as a home or apartment. Real estate is a great long-term investment. 

Tax Deductions–As a homeowner you are eligible for related tax deductions. Itemized deductions may include things like interest that you pay on your mortgage (the amount will depend on when you took out your mortgage), state and local property and income and sales taxes up to $10,000.  

Customize Your Space–If you’re addicted to HGTV or Pinterest you’ve probably fantasized about a home remodel or redecorating your master bedroom. As an owner, you won’t face the restrictions that you do in a rental. You have the freedom to showcase your style in every room of your home however you choose.

Return on Investment–Purchasing a property is a big investment, but in the long-term you will likely make a good return on your investment. The key is holding onto it for a long period of time. 

No Rent Increases–Unlike rent, a fixed mortgage can’t go up, even if inflation does.

Additional Factors to Consider

Still unsure of what to do? These questions may help get to your answer.

Down Payment–Do I have enough liquid money for a down payment? To avoid paying PMI (mortgage insurance) you’ll need at least 20% of the purchase price.

Affordability–Can I afford the monthly mortgage payment, common charges, maintenance fees, property tax in addition to the down payment? Be sure to run the numbers before you buy to ensure you’ll be able to cover your monthly expenses and still live comfortably and save money for the future.

Life Change–What is my 5-year plan? Do I anticipate any life changes that would require a change in space? Whether you’ll need an extra bedroom, a smaller home, or a change in location in the foreseeable future, renting might be the better choice for right now.

Return on Investment–How long do I need to stay in this home to see a return on my investment? Owning typically makes more financial sense than renting after 5–7 years, and the longer you stay the better your return will probably be.

Contact me today to chat if Renting or Buying is best for you! 

California Roof Decks Perfect for Summer

Summer is the season for relaxation. What better way to unwind and soak up the sun than luxuriating on California roof decks all season long. Whether it has a fire pit, barbecue or simply a breathtaking view, capitalize on the perfect blend of indoor and outdoor living thanks to this striking home.


14380 Mulholland Drive

Price: $5,250,000

4 Bedrooms | 4 Bathrooms

Unobstructed, panoramic city and ocean views make this home on famed Mulholland Drive truly magnificent. The open floor-plan features plentiful oversized windows for a light-filled space that also capitalizes on the home’s striking vistas. In the main room, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open to the backyard to create a seamless indoor-outdoor living space. Upstairs, off the master suite, is a private balcony along with a large rooftop deck that overlooks the backyard and pool with stunning city views.

To schedule a showing, feel free to contact me! 


5 Best International Cities to Live With a Family

Alright, you know how much I love to travel - and yes I too have contemplated where would I live if I were to move internationally. 

Lucky for you & me, my brokerage was able to compile a list for us and the pros & cons. 

If you’ve ever considered moving your family to a metropolis on the other side of the world you may have asked yourself ‘do good places to visit make good places to live?’ That worldly metropolis you’re hoping to call home should indeed have all the short-term wonders that excite your family from the get-go. But there are more important things to consider than allure and excitement. In fact, it’s things like health and well-being, childcare and integration opportunities that will help determine whether a destination will be a good long-term fit.

Top-10 lists of exciting places to live are one thing, but what you will actually experience in those locales matters most. So to help you get a feel for which of the world’s great cities are best for you and your family, we not only looked at numerous lists and data such as HSBC’s Offshore Offspringreport and Mercer Consulting’s “Top 25 Cities for Quality of Life,” we also turned to multiple home owners, jetsetters, expats, and brave world travelers. The result: our—and your—Top 5 Family-Friendly Cities to relocate to, with insights into each city and, most important, connections to resources and expats living there who can help you look before you leap. —by Cameron Swain

1. Vienna


Vienna is a city of neighborhoods. Choosing your municipal district can define your lifestyle. Want to live close to the city’s largest green space and great running paths and have a comfortable space for your young family? Pick the 3rd (Landstraße) or the 4th (Wieden) district. Want to introduce your kids to a hip and happening scene (a place where Mommy and Daddy won’t go mad amid a sea of strollers)? Consider the 6th (Mariahilf ), the 7th (Neubau), or the 8th (Josefstadt). If suburbs and wealth are your thing, head to the 13th (Hietzing), the 19th (Döbling), or the 18th (Währing).

You can read more about the rest of the cities: Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore and Munich on our Elliman Insider by clicking here