Press Club

Backyard Homes: Building a Second Home on Your Property

Did you know, as an Arlington property owner you can now add a small, completely detached second home to your property as a matter of right? Backyard.Homes, a local builder, is here to help you unlock that right.

The County Board approved detached Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) last summer. As such, all Arlington property owners are now eligible, provided you can fit the home on your property within setback and lot coverage requirements, and the owner occupies either of the two homes.

Backyard.Home offers several ADU models designed and built specifically to meet Arlington’s requirements (as well as the District of Columbia). Each property and situation can be a little different, so please reach out to Backyard.Homes for a free consultation.

Why build a second home on your property?

Small, second homes can provide a host of benefits to property owners, especially where space is tight or you’re looking to add a new income stream. Here are a few ways an ADU could benefit you and your family:

  • An ADU can provide a perfect home for aging parents or family members. This keeps your loved ones close and comfortable, while still maintaining their independence. The homes can be single-story and accessible for improved safety, and equipped with cameras and smart-home devices for improved monitoring, if needed.
  • An ADU can be rented for extra income, either with short or long term leases. Renting an ADU as opposed to a bedroom or basement provides separation and privacy, and yields higher rents.
  • An ADU provides extra space for visiting guests or family visits.
  • An ADU can house a returning college student while they get their feet under them, or can be part of your childcare solution by providing space for an au pair.
  • You can personally downsize and move into the ADU and rent out your primary home.

Is an ADU a good real estate investment?

Building an ADU can be among the best investments you can make. You already own the property so there’s no land cost, and unlike buying a condo to rent, there are no monthly condo association fees that erode your rental income.

While rental rates depend on a variety of factors, for a typical unit and site in Arlington it’s very achievable to meet or exceed the one percent rule of thumb (monthly rent equals or exceeds 1% of your total cost to build). That’s very hard to find in comparable real estate investments in this area. Plus, your up-front cost is going to be significantly lower than, say, buying a newly constructed condo.

How big can a second home be?

In Arlington, if your property is zoned R-5 or R-6 (and most homes fall into one of those two categories), you can have up to 560 SF on the first floor, and 750 SF total. All other residential zones can have up to 650 SF on the first floor, and 750 SF total. ADUs are limited to 1 ½ stories or 25-feet. With good design, you can get a well-appointed second floor or loft space in your ADU.

I have a small backyard, will it fit?

Typical lots require setbacks of at least 5-feet from your side and rear lot lines, and 8-feet from the primary home. Corner lots require at least 25-feet from any public street right-of-way, and at least 10-feet from any rear property line. You also need to stay within your lot coverage maximums when adding an ADU, which vary by zoning district. This requires a detailed analysis and should be confirmed by a professional.

How long does it take to get approval for an ADU?

Multiple Staff reviews and a covenant are needed for an ADU to be approved. With proper design, documentation and efficient management of the process, permitting should take about 30 days +/- from submission.

Are there differences between how an ADU is constructed?

An ADU can be fully built in the field, fully built in a factory, or a hybrid of the two. Backyard.Homes uses a hybrid approach, where the walls, windows, electrical and plumbing are fabricated in a high-tech controlled manufacturing facility and delivered to the site in prefinished structural panels, and then the home is finished in the field.

How much does it cost to build a detached ADU?

Backyard.Homes is offering a range of introductory price points for a finished home depending upon model that start as low as $149,500, plus site development costs. We are happy to provide a free consultation and estimate.

If you are considering adding a small, second home to your property, please reach out to us with any questions, we are here to help.

Michael Novotny | Principal
202-866-HOME (4663)

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