There is a time when a child eventually becomes a caregiver for their aging parents. This is typically when a parent needs to live with you as they advance in years. Though you may be offering some extra assistance, it’s still important to maintain boundaries and have some personal space. This is also true for older adults who still want to maintain a level of independence and not give up on the things that are important to them.

A mother-in-law suite is a perfect way to achieve this balance. It allows you to be in close proximity with your parents, while still allowing everyone to lead their own lives or have a certain level of privacy. If you are wondering, “Can I build an in-law suite on my property?” then these tips should be able to help you plan and build a design that fits with your San Jose property.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Unlike a guest room, a detached mother-in-law suite allows you to let your parents stay with you for an extended or permanent amount of time while allowing them to continue to live their own lives independently.  A mother-in-law suite is also referred to as an accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) and can be built and utilized in a similar way to a rental space on your property. They may include a bedroom, living space, kitchen, and bathroom. However, unlike an addition or suite within your home, an ADU has a separate entrance and operates as a functional house. 

A build-in law suite in San Jose can be added to your home as an extension or you can convert an existing part of your home like the garage. But they will most likely be a detached building with fully operational services and independent living quarters. This makes an in-law suite the perfect option for older adults who still have good mobility but can benefit from having family nearby.

Backyard mother-in-law suites offer a variety of benefits for families looking to welcome a parent into their home in San Jose. If your parents are still mobile, this can be a smart financial decision instead of transferring them to a senior home or community. Many senior complexes come with significant fees like condo fees and rent. A mother-in-law house eliminates these costs and makes it more affordable in the long run. 

Detached mother-in-law suites also mean that your parents can live an independent and comfortable lifestyle while still having you close by to help with daily tasks or errands. They also increase your overall property value, making it a space that you can use or rent in the future. This makes them a great way to increase your resale value in the future too. Tiny homes have never been a hotter commodity in a real estate market that has limited supply and high demand. A mother-in-law suite is a perfect option in San Jose for people who want the potential for rental income in the future or to use it for children or a live-in nanny or housekeeper.

You don’t need a huge property to build an in-law suite. Your in-law suite builder will be able to help you find the right location to fit the size and services you want to provide in the San Jose.

Remember, if you are building a mother-in-law suite from scratch then you will have to allow for digging of services such as plumbing, electrical, and sewer.

The amount of space required for your unit will vary depending on the size of your property. As we have mentioned, there may be some restrictions on size due to the size of your yard as well as height restrictions depending on the density of the area you live in. 

Check with your local municipality about the guidelines and building codes required for building an ADU on your property in San Jose. Some communities may have special programs to help cover the costs associated with building a unit.

The cost of your project will vary depending on the size and services required for your structure. Keep in mind that this project is similar to building an extension or ADU on your property so you can expect to incur some building permit fees and possible legal fees to get your project off the ground. The size of your project will determine the material and labor costs associated with your ADU. Adding services may also increase the cost as it will have to have electric lights and plumbing added to make it a usable living space. 

Landscaping the space to accommodate a dwelling may also be required particularly if your property has sloping land or hills. Your contractor will be able to provide you with a detailed budget of costs associated with building an in-law suite on your property that meets any required codes or guidelines. It is always wise to allow for cost overruns or delays that may increase the price of building an ADU on your property in San Jose.

Traditionally an in-law suite was designed to allow parents to live with their children when they can no longer take care of themselves or require some assistance. However, today ADUs can be used by anyone such as your children or renters.  They make a great ‘starter space’ for older adults who may not be able to afford to rent their own place yet while allowing them their independence and privacy. It also gives them an opportunity to learn how to live on their own. 

For homeowners looking for an investment property, this is a great step on the real estate ladder. It will allow you to build up your equity while paying off the cost of building an ADU. Many young people are looking for a great starter space to live in and an ADU is a great choice for studies, young couples, or singles.

Tips for Building a Mother-In-Law Suite

There are many great small mother-in-law suite ideas that you can incorporate into your design to make it functional and comfortable for your parents or tenants in the San Jose. These tips will also help to make the building process go more smoothly and keep you on budget and on track.

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Get Early Approval

Changes to your home design or property will require approval from your local municipality. It’s important to get approval as soon as possible to keep your building project on schedule. Start by consulting with your contractor so that they can validate that your project fits into your property allowance. From there you can create a budget and secure any necessary financing. Finally, you can go to your municipality for approval. Items like sewage, plumbing, and electrical will require professional engineers and contractors to install. It is important to get all the necessary approvals and paperwork together before starting any significant changes to your property to avoid fines or other complications that may slow down the project or hinder its completion.

Stick to Your Budget

A good contractor will give you a detailed and accurate budget which you can use to begin moving ahead with your ADU construction. Set aside approximately 10 to 20 percent to ensure that you can pay for any sudden costs or expenses required for completions. Order your materials and book your labor as soon as possible in order to avoid sudden changes in pricing. Consult with your contractor on a regular basis to ensure that all the project requirements are being met and that everything stays within the budget you agreed upon.

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Find Experienced Contractors

Working with a good in-law suite contractor will ensure that you don’t have to worry about your project being completed to your expectations. A good contractor will maintain lines of communication, provide regular updates and help ensure that you are only working with the best tradespeople and suppliers. Review their credentials and only work with a contractor who has the knowledge and experience building ADUs. This type of construction is not the same as a traditional home renovation and requires a high level of skill and expertise to make sure the job is done right. An ADU is a functional home and requires the same level of experience and expertise as a new home construction contractor. Don’t risk your plans going awry by choosing someone who has never built accessory dwellings.

Consider Design Options

An in-law suite should be as functional as a regular home. Your parents or tenants should feel like they have all the amenities and services they need and be able to enjoy them without worrying about compromising on comfort. A well-designed ADU should reflect the current neighborhood in design and complement other structures on the property.



The outside of the in-law suite should be easy to access with its own entrance. Though the style of the in-law suite should match the facade of existing structures to some degree, it can have its own individual look and feel. A great way to do this could be by matching the colour scheme or materials of your home while adding unique design features to give it its own architectural style. This may include design influences such as farmhouses, arts and crafts, and modern, and cottage. If your ADU is more secluded on your property or you live in a more rural area, then you will likely have more design freedom and can let your imagination take over when coming up with a design.



In-law suites, like traditional homes, need to have a kitchen. It should be up to building codes and have the right electrical outlets and services to ensure a safe living space. Though this kitchen will likely be smaller than the one in your home, it should still have a stove, fridge, and countertop that allows for ease of food prep. Your contractor will be able to help you source appliances and materials that will compliment the smaller space and help you create a kitchen that is functional for anyone who uses it. Remember, the better constructed and designed the kitchen is, the higher the resale value of your home in the future. So make the investment in quality materials and excellent appliances.


Living Room

Everyone needs a space to unwind and relax. The living room will likely be one of the most used spaces in your in-law suite, particularly if you are building it for older parents. Make sure there’s enough space for a comfortable and spacious couch and chairs. If you have limited space, then an open-concept design is a great idea that lets you blend your living room and kitchen into a space that is great for guests or entertaining. An open-concept design will also give the illusion of more space.


Bedroom Suite

Another important room to consider is the bedroom. Many ADUs have bedrooms that are small and difficult to navigate. Choose a design that makes it easy for your parents to move around. It is important that it also be up to code and easy to exit in the event of an emergency. Consult with your contractor about the requirement of windows, ceilings, and closets to make sure your structure conforms to building codes. The bedroom area is also a good place to install a bathroom suite too. A walk-in shower or bathtub will make getting ready in the morning safe and comfortable for your parents.



You want the very best for your parents. This includes a space that is easy to navigate and accessible for mobility devices. Many older adults require the use of canes, wheelchairs, or walkers. These may require extra space for them to safely get around. So make sure your ADU has enough floor and door space for easy navigation. Consider adding a ramp, expanding hallways, and adjusting the height of appliances so that your parents never have to worry about being able to lead independent and comfortable lives. Considering these features even if your parents are in good shape, can mean avoiding a high-cost renovation or retrofit in a few years.



We all like a space that is comfortable and safe. So when building your in-law suite, consider what features may help your tenants feel more at home. Perhaps adding a little craft room or workshop so they can maintain their favorite hobby. Do they have a collection or a library? A small space within the in-law suite where they can proudly display their treasures will help make the transition from their current home to their new one easier and more enjoyable. Think about how you can provide them with comfortable outdoor space too like a porch or patio that they can sit out on a warm day or a small sunroom for the colder months.

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Top Home Builders can make the transition to an in-law suite more comfortable for you and your family.

Our experts can help you create a space that reflects your parent’s lifestyle while providing them with the support they need as they get older. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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