So You Think You Want an ADU…

Learn about a cheaper, quicker alternative with all the same benefits

Here at SQFT Studios, so many of our inquiries are about ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units). We love it because we love building ADUs. ADUs are a unique opportunity, they bring families together, increase property value, and so much more. But there is an alternative to the ADU that does all the same things that is cheaper and easier to get into and most people don’t know the opportunity even exists:

The Guest Suite

Below, are examples of requests we frequently get and explain why we like to offer our clients the option to build a Guest Suite.

“We want to build an ADU for Short-Term Rental (e.g. Airbnb, VRBO, Vacasa, etc.)”

This is a very common request. Likely our most common. Building a short-term rental unit can be a fantastic source of additional income, can connect you to people from around the world, all while adding value to your property. Using ADUs for short-term rental is 100% legal, but due to a recent change in permitting requirements for ADUs, is now a bit more expensive. If you are building an ADU and plan to use short-term rental services within the next 10 years, you will have to pay the System Development Charges (SDCs), which average $12,000-$17,000 on top of your building permit. (These charges are waived if you sign a covenant, recorded to the deed, that states you will not use the ADU for short-term rental over the next 10 years).

In these cases, we like to introduce people to our Guest Suite. We’ve designed these structures to work perfectly for short-term rentals. Not only that, but they are not subject to the SDCs. No waiver, no nothing*. That means you automatically save the $12,000-$17,000, which can then be added to your build budget.

*Occasionally, a water meter needs to be up-sized to support the Guest Suite. If that is the case, a small SDC is attached to that service. Hundreds rather than thousands of dollars

“We would love an ADU, but our yard is so small”

There are some small lots in Portland. Not everyone has space to build an 800sqft ADU. This is where our Guest Suites excel. Our Guest Suites start out at 12’x18′, or 216sqft. They can fit in virtually any backyard.

We’re currently working on a Guest Suite on a 25′ wide lot!

“I would like a home office/hobby space in our backyard”

This could be our favorite request. We’ve built home offices, offices with waiting rooms, and a music studio. It’s so fun for us to build a bespoke building for a specific task. While these spaces are incredibly fun and creative, thinking of a single use like this may not have long-term flexibility. In this case, we like to make the suggestion of adding a bathroom to provide the flexibility to turn these buildings into Guest Suites.

Not only is a bathroom great to have in an accessory structure (saving you rainy, muddy trips back and forth to your home), but it adds flexibility for future uses. We call this “Future-proofing”. We know these buildings can last 100 years or more and that your home office will only be a portion of this building’s use over time. Adding a bathroom allows the building to be used in various ways moving forward. It could be a detached bedroom, a short-term rental, or even be converted to an ADU in the future (plumbing is already in the building and easily expanded). We’re always lo

“We’d like to build ASAP!”

Permitting an ADU can be a lengthy process. As the City of Portland sees it, you’re building a “New Single Family Residence”, aka a house. That’s right! It even gets its own address. That being said, it goes through the same permitting process from the City as a new house. This takes time. Typically permitting ADUs takes 8-12 weeks.

Guest Suites are different. They are fairly simple structures that are extensions to your home. Our Guest Suite permits can typically be received in 1 day! Not only that, but we’ve done 90% of the design work already. The design phase is streamlined to focus on the customization options. Finally, as the buildings are typically smaller than ADUs, they can be built quickly; in as little as 60 days!

You will not find a quicker design/permit/build timeline than that!