Massachusetts and New Hampshire have been experiencing a tremendous boom in ADU construction. Local and state legislation has positioned them as a feasible alternative for families and individuals who have been seeking affordable housing options. But, before you commit to an ADU project on your property, it’s essential to understand your local housing regulations, as well as your intended use for the structure. 

This tiny house trend has encompassed many different names that regard to the type of residences homeowners have been building. Some people label these secondary dwellings as guest houses, but in many municipalities these are referred to as ADUs, otherwise known as accessory dwelling units. Although they share many of the same characteristics, there are several clear distinctions that determine the difference between an ADU and a guest house. 

What’s The Difference Between An ADU And A Guest House?

To the outside world they may look the same, but there are several defining characteristics that make ADUs different from guest houses. ADUs normally include their own kitchen and bathroom, making them fully independent living spaces, either attached or detached from the main dwelling on the property. A guest house is a secondary dwelling that’s separate from the main house on the property, typically not including a full kitchen or the necessary electrical and plumbing infrastructure to make it a legal independent dwelling unit. 

In most situations, for a structure to be an ADU, it requires a full kitchen, as well as a full bathroom. A guest house doesn’t include a full kitchen, and it only has to have a basic bathroom facility. Essentially, a guest house is a space dedicated to sleeping, while an ADU is a space dedicated to living independently.

There’s a subdivision of accessory dwelling units called JADU, otherwise known as the junior ADU variety, which occasionally falls somewhere in the middle between ADUs and guest houses. Typically, these junior dwelling units are much smaller than a traditional ADU and are generally made by subdividing a part of the existing property, whether by adding an exterior door to an existing bedroom or by converting an attic into accessible living space.

One of the main differences is that a guest house is always a detached and permanent structure. ADUs can be either attached to the main house, like a home addition, or built as a separate structure. ADUs are designed for long-term everyday living while guest houses are not. 

The purpose of an ADU is to build an accessible, affordable dwelling unit. While they’re smaller than a traditional home, they have all the important amenities for any typical living space, including full bathrooms and kitchen areas with all the necessary appliances. Based on the design, a guest house is meant for short-term visits. Similar to hotels, guest houses normally don’t have full kitchens. Being limited in functionality, guest houses are not permitted by most building departments to be used as a permanent residency.

To be labeled an ADU, as mentioned before, the residence needs to either have its own personal bathroom or a way to directly access a bathroom in either the main house or within the unit itself. When building a guest house, homeowners have the choice to decide whether they want to build a full bathroom or only a half bath. 

What’s A Guest House?

If your property has a secondary dwelling unit not meant to be occupied by long-term tenants, without a kitchen or full bath, then that is defined as a guest house. The idea of a guest house is that they’re a temporary residence for friends and family of the properties owner, 

Whether paying or not, guests are permitted to stay in a guest house for short periods of time. Lots of guest houses are used as vacation rentals, sometimes considered to be a step up from your typical bed and breakfast, but still not quite the same as a luxury hotel.

Unfortunately, they do not come equipped with their own kitchen, sometimes even opting not to install a sink, ensuring they’ll be reliant on the main property for certain amenities. 

At most, a guest house is allowed to have its own full or half bathroom, but that’s about all. Most local towns and cities will approve guest homes in more zones, including urban and rural areas, much more often than they permit accessory dwelling units or any other kind of additional structures on a property. In certain jurisdictions, guest houses have a strict limit on the maximum square footage and height, varying based on the local zoning laws in your municipality.

What Is An ADU?

As an acronym for an accessory dwelling unit, an ADU is a secondary dwelling unit that’s separate from the primary residence on a property. There are many styles of ADUs, including detached ADUs (DADUs) which are completely separated from the main house to attached ADUs that are connected to the main residence, usually converted from an unused garage, basement, or attic space.

A detached ADU may go by different names, such as a backyard cottage, tiny home, in-law suite, or even a granny flat. Attached ADUs are tied directly to your home, acting like a large-scale addition, tying into your home’s electrical and plumbing systems, while sharing the walls and requiring upgraded fire safety measures. 

The main benefit of building an ADU is that it can give you long-term housing for family members such as aging in-laws, kids, and people with disabilities. ADUs can also provide rental income to the homeowner, as renting out your ADU to a grandparent or postgraduate child can help them save money while also assisting the homeowner with paying their mortgage, property taxes, and other costs associated with owning a home.

For tenants looking for a permanent residence, an ADU is a great way to take advantage of the space you already have. For example, converting an unused barn or garage into an ADU is an effective way to optimize the space you’re not currently using. Realize you’ll likely lose space to store your car and various miscellaneous items if you convert an existing space into an ADU.

ADUs Vs Guest Houses: Which Is The Best Option? 

Different Styles Of Tiny Homes

Choosing between building an ADU and a guest house comes down to how you want the space to function, but there are some obvious advantages to ADUs that can benefit you in the long run.

Benefits Of Building An ADU

  • ADUs Increase Your Property Value. Besides adding a secondary dwelling to your property, ADUs contribute to the total square footage of your home. When the time comes to sell you can expect an ADU to increase your property values by tens of thousands of dollars.    
  • ADUs optimize your existing space. If you want to convert a basement or old pool house into an ADU you’ll utilize space that you may not access regularly. While you’re changing the functionality of the space, you’re also investing into the total size of your home, giving you the ability to pursue your favorite hobbies and interests.
  • You can gain lots of long-term value from an ADU. Whether you’re looking to earn consistent rental income from a long-term tenant or run a vacation home for visitors using Airbnb, an ADU can become a highly profitable money-maker. Particularly in the housing market where the demand has skyrocketed, an ADU can be an effective way to offer affordable housing options to a growing pool of eligible tenants.
  • They can help empty nesters age in place. When ready to downsize, empty nesters shouldn’t need to move far away from home. When you build an ADU on your property, they can move into the smaller dwelling while renting out the main home, generating passive income while they’re retired.
  • ADUs give you more space for activities. Whether you need a home office, a painting studio, or a place to bang your drums, an ADU can give you the space to inspire and cultivate your creativity.
  • There are tons of ways to build an ADU. Once you’ve figured out your budget, space requirements, and functionality, there are plenty of ways to build an ADU that fits your unique needs. For example, converting an unused space into an ADU is much more cost-effective than building a detached ADU (DADU), but a DADU can be a better long-term investment and income generator. 
  • There are ADU contractors who specialize in ADU design. The best ADU companies help you stay organized, and on budget, and ensure you’re complying with the local zoning laws in your municipality. Some ADU contractors use prefabricated models to keep your project’s costs predetermined, and they make the permitting process easy, that way the construction of your ADU corresponds to the deadlines in your project’s timeline.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Building A Guest House

  • Guest houses are an awesome way to host your short-term guests. Make your guests want to come back for another visit by offering them a private place to rest and unwind. You’ll also find peace, knowing you still have the privacy of your own home while also being a great host to your guests. However, while guest houses are perfect for a brief stay, they’re not usually the best solution for a long-term rental, especially if your guest house has no kitchen.
  • Guest houses offer a personal retreat. Your own personal sanctuary and a private room for your guests – how great is that? A guest house can be your own slice of paradise, personalized to your unique needs, only steps from your backdoor. Though it’s important to remember that guest houses don’t have their own full-scale kitchen facilities, so you may find yourself taking frequent trips back to the main dwelling. 

ADUs Are Better Than Guest Houses

the perry brothers construction team

ADUs are more flexible and offer a greater variety of functional uses than a guest house. Intended for long-term, everyday living, ADUs create opportunities to generate income from short and long-term rentals on your property. With Perry Brothers Construction you’ll have the right ADU contractor on your side to design and build your dream ADU. 

For Perry Brothers Construction, the average time to complete an ADU is less than a year, sometimes even as quickly as 4 months. Our studio and two-bedroom ADUs in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are designed by a top-of-the-line modular construction expert, so no details are missed when designing your ADU. Your dream team is at Perry Brothers Construction, with a team of professionals who can help guide you through your choices, even handling the permitting process. Whether you plan on using your ADU for a backyard studio, guest house, or a long-term rental property, take a seat and relax while we carry on the heavy lifting.