With today’s affordable housing crisis, it feels more prudent than ever to look to ADUs as one possible solution.
According to a case study by Redfin, the median price for a single family home in Sacramento was around $441k in November of 2022, compared to roughly $315k nearly five years earlier. As prices continue to rise, homeowners are struggling to keep up with the housing market’s financial demands. Young adults buying for the first time are especially at a disadvantage.
Given these conditions, homeowners are eager to build an ADU on their property. As a result, ADUs have quickly gained in popularity in recent years. And with new and improved regulations taking effect this year, we expect this trend to continue.
So, ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
Are accessory dwelling units legal in Sacramento?
In 2017, California passed their first ADU laws. At the time, these laws were complicated and confusing for a lot of homeowners. Fortunately, there has been a lot of clarification done to help simplify those standards and make them easier to understand.
Even better? With the State of California passing more laws that lift ADU restrictions, it’s becoming easier and more affordable to build one than ever!
How much does it cost to build an ADU in Sacramento, CA?
The price range to build an ADU in Sacramento is generally between $130,000 – $430,000. While $130k is on the low end of the spectrum, it’s likely that your ADU will cost more.
The price of your ADU depends on:
- Type of construction (above-garage ADUs are typically the most expensive to build, while garage conversions are the cheapest)
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Quality of finishes
- Lot characteristics
- Availability of material and labor
If these numbers seem shocking to you, you’re not alone. Homeowners often underestimate the cost to build an ADU. But it’s important to understand that building an ADU is not all that different from building a traditional, 2,000 square foot house. Both require the same elements; ADUs simply have a smaller footprint.
People often try to use the cost per square foot method to arrive at an estimate for their ADU. Our advice? Avoid it! That method is notoriously deceiving, and here’s why.
Any home comes with fixed costs, regardless of size. Take design fees, for instance. These fees will not vary dramatically, regardless of how big or small your ADU is. Similarly, all ADUs are required to have a kitchen and bathroom, and that is expensive square footage no matter what. At the end of the day, building an ADU that’s 400 square feet versus 1,200 square feet will not really alter these fixed costs.
Keeping this in mind, be extremely wary of anyone who claims they can build your ADU for under $100k. We monitored hundreds of projects last year and saw the real numbers come through. While there are certainly ways to cut costs, it’s unlikely that your project will come in under six digits.
But don’t be discouraged! One of the simplest ways to keep costs down is by limiting the number of bells and whistles you add. The fancier you get with your design choices, such as vaulted ceilings or top-end appliances, the larger the price tag. It’s worth thinking about your must-haves versus other areas where you could be more flexible.
What kind of ADU can I build in Sacramento?
It’s up to you! You have several options to choose from. The trick is figuring out which one makes sense for you and your property. Each type of ADU has different factors to consider before you make a final decision.
Here’s a quick rundown of your choices.
A detached ADU is a stand-alone build that is separate from the primary residence but on the same property, usually situated in the backyard.
If you’re looking to rent out the ADU, this is a great option given its ability to provide you and your future tenants with privacy. Detached ADUs are also great for housing adult family members or college-aged children. As you can see, there are so many ways to maximize a detached ADU.
An attached ADU differs from a detached ADU because it is connected to the primary residence. They are sometimes wholly or partly created from an existing space, like an attached garage, attic, master suite, or rec room.
Garage Conversion ADU
Hands down, this ADU is the most popular option amongst homeowners. With a garage conversion, you can transform a once dingy, cluttered garage into a gorgeous, usable space.
As if that wasn’t enough incentive, there’s more! Garage conversions are also financially advantageous given that they utilize an already existing space, which cuts down on construction costs. You can either choose to keep your ADU within the footprint of the original garage or expand beyond it.
Over the years, we’ve seen homeowners truly redefine innovation with their creative designs, like these 37 garage conversion ideas you’ll drool over. Everything from adding a deck or sunroom to using the garage door to provide additional natural light are all possibilities in store!
Some homeowners relish the storage and parking space their garage provides and aren’t eager to do away with it. In that case, above-garage ADUs are a highly desirable option. But it’s important to note that most garages aren’t built to withstand the weight of an upstairs unit. So, it’ll need to be structurally enforced, making this option the most expensive type of ADU to build.
Nonetheless, these types of ADUs offer great privacy and amazing views. If you’re willing to shell out the extra cost, above-garage ADUs are excellent additions to any property. Learn if an above-garage ADU is right for you.
Even though basements aren’t very common in California, some lucky homeowners have the incredible opportunity to transform theirs into a gorgeous ADU. Much like garages, basements have great bones and are more financially feasible options than other, more expensive types of ADUs.
While there are some regulations for this type of conversion, they are still a fantastic choice for homeowners looking to take full advantage of the rarity that is their basement. Discover how to convert a basement into a living space, and take a tour of this 420 square foot basement conversion!
How many ADUs can I build in Sacramento, CA?
Previously unclear ADU language seemed to imply that you could only build one ADU and one JADU on the same property.
But as of January 2023, new developments now clearly state that you can actually build an attached ADU, a detached ADU, and a JADU, all on the same property! This is definitely an exciting update that homeowners should know about and take advantage of, if possible.
So, what is a JADU? Junior accessory dwelling units are a form of ADUs that are defined by the following characteristics:
- Size – 500 square feet max.
- Ingress and egress – 150 square feet extra – only if your jurisdiction specifically allows it.
- Location – Within a proposed or existing single-family dwelling or attached accessory structure, such as a garage.
- Separate entry – Exterior access (a separate entrance for the JADU) is required from the proposed or existing single-family dwelling.
- Interior entry to primary house – not required.
- Parking – Not required unless you convert your attached garage.
- Bathroom – May have a separate bathroom or shared with the single-family dwelling.
- Kitchen – Must meet “Efficiency Kitchen” requirements:
- Food preparation counter and storage cabinets that are of reasonable size in relation to the size of the JADU.
- Cooking facilities with appliances – 240-volt outlets are permitted.
- No restriction on maximum waste-line diameter.
Unlike ADUs, owner occupancy is required for the JADU. This means that the owner must reside in either the remaining portion of the single-family residence or the newly created junior accessory dwelling unit.
If you’re looking for more information on JADUs, watch this helpful explanation video.
A property that has a duplex or a structure with more than two residences attached to one another (like an apartment building) is considered multi-family. With this property, the state says you must be allowed to build some or all of the following:
- Two stand-alone ADUs subject to height limits of 16 feet and 4-foot rear and side yard setbacks.
- ADUs converted out of attached (non-livable) accessory space. This includes things like basements, attics, garages, boiler rooms, storage rooms, laundry rooms, and community rooms. The number of these ADUs may be as few as one or up to 25% of the number of dwelling spaces in the existing structure.
- Detached ADUs (up to two) converted from a detached structure like a carport.
The regulations around multi-family properties are complex, but if you own one you should definitely be aware of the ADU opportunities! We dive into the details in How to Maximize Multi-Family ADUs.
ADU Designed by Kevin Bussett, AIA, Construction by J. Builds
How big can my ADU be in Sacramento?
State law allows for an ADU to be up to 800 square feet, but every city has the option to allow more.
In Sacramento, it depends on the type of ADU you plan to build.
- A one-bedroom attached ADU cannot exceed 50% of the primary residence or a maximum of 850 square feet, whichever is greater.
- An attached ADU with two or more bedrooms may be 50% of the primary residence or a maximum of 1,000 square feet, whichever is greater.
- Detached ADUs have a size limit of 1,200 square feet. In this case, the size of the primary residence is not a factor.
Most people want to build the biggest ADU they legally can. But that could be a bad idea, from a financial perspective. Why? Development and impact fees.
Most every structure has had to pay D&I fees at some point, as they support public improvements, services, and facilities. Sounds fine, right? Not when it comes to your budget.
These fees can be quite substantial and could cost you thousands of extra dollars. And we understand that the last thing you want is to be blindsided by extra dollar signs.
If you want to avoid these fees, you’re in luck! In California, you do not need to pay D&I fees if your ADU is under 750 square feet. For many, this is enough to reconsider building the largest unit possible. If size isn’t a huge deal and you’re willing to compromise a bit, this might be the ideal route to take.
Do I need a permit for an ADU?
Yes. Everyone is eager to jump into construction, but you’ll first need to get your building permit approved by the city planning department.
Unfortunately, there’s really no one-size-fits-all timeline for getting your permit approved. Most ADU projects in Sacramento take somewhere between two and four months to get permits but wait times can vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Even though this process can be time-consuming, never skip it. Not only could you face a lawsuit if a tenant got injured inside the unpermitted ADU, but the city could force you to pay hefty fines if they find out. And the worst-case scenario? You have to tear down your ADU entirely.
Long story short, it’s much better to be patient!
Will my ADU need a parking spot in Sacramento?
Good news! You are not required to provide a parking space for your ADU if:
- You are within ½ mile of walking distance of public transit
- You are one block from a car share vehicle or pickup/dropoff location
- You are located within an architecturally and historically significant district
- Your ADU is contained within the existing residence
- A garage, carport, or covered parking structure was demolished in conjunction with ADU construction
- On-street parking permits are required but not offered to the ADU occupant
Check to see if any of these exceptions apply to your property!
How long will it take to design and build my ADU in Sacramento?
On average, ADUs take between 12 – 18 months from design to construction completion.
Why does it take so long? Well, there are a lot of factors that go into making an ADU happen.
There are four main phases: financing, design, permitting, and construction. Each phase has its own timeline, which can sometimes be impacted by factors entirely outside of your control.
Take the supply chain, for example. When the pandemic hit, home renovation projects across the country skyrocketed like never before. This made getting your hands on certain supplies like lumber rather challenging. If you were one such home renovator, this probably sounds very familiar!
Funky lot characteristics can also throw a wrench into things, as well as the backlog of work at your city’s planning department or simply bad weather conditions.
If you’re someone who hates having idle hands, no problem. There are always plenty of things that you can do to help your project keep moving forward like our comprehensive E-course, The ADU Blueprint! Get access to exclusive presentations, cost estimate sheets, calculators, and ADU tours led by some of the top professionals in the industry. Enjoy the first two lessons for free here!
Can I rent out my ADU in Sacramento?
Absolutely! ADUs are ideal for long-term rentals.
But renting out in the short-term (less than 30 days)? That’s a bit more complicated.
According to the city of Sacramento, in order to rent out your ADU in the short-term, you would need to apply for a short-term rental permit. This permit would need to be renewed annually and only applies if you are renting it out in the short-term for less than 90 total days of the calendar year. Extending a short-term rental beyond 90 days would require a conditional use permit.
Regardless of what you choose to do, opting to rent out your ADU is a great way to earn substantial passive income and increase your property value.
To give you a better idea, according to rentcafe.com, the average rent for an 826 square foot apartment in Sacramento costs around $1,855 per month. ADUs usually yield higher rents thanks to their privacy and outdoor space, so we’d estimate you could rent your ADU for about $2,100. Not too shabby!
In addition to the passive income you’d accrue, there’s hardly a better way to afford an early retirement, a trip abroad, and more! And don’t forget the help it provides those looking for more affordable housing options. Truly a win-win scenario!
Consider Kylee and Steven’s success story, for instance. In 2017, they found the perfect property to buy. The only problem was its $1.2M price tag, which was especially daunting for a young couple. But they saw light at the end of the tunnel the moment they considered the 400 square foot ADU above the garage.
The ADU was in dire need of a makeover, and that’s just what Kylee and Steven got to work doing. It wasn’t long before they began renting out the new and improved property and generating substantial passive income, allowing them to use their ADU to pay off their mortgage!
Check out the full video tour of their ADU here.
Kylee and Steven’s above garage ADU
Plan, hire, and manage your ADU project with Maxable!
While times change, the need for housing does not. After providing free valuable ADU resources to thousands of homeowners and helping hundreds complete ADUs, we’re more passionate than ever about accessory dwelling units!
Building an ADU is a big but rewarding commitment. At Maxable, we’re here to walk you through every step of the way. We’re eager to share our knowledge and connect you to designers and general contractors with proven experience in Sacramento. That way, you’ll have the proper support from beginning to end.
Download our free Maxable resources to kickstart your next ADU project today!