Return of the Carriage House?

The Accessory Dwelling Unit

For many, the mention of a carriage house conjures up images of Downton Abby and similarly luxurious, impossibly pricey estates of a bygone era.  No surprise. Wikipedia defines a carriage house as “an outbuilding which was originally built to house horse-drawn carriages and the related tack.”  Yet, today’s homeowner might benefit from adopting a more modern classification.  

Whether it’s an in-law apartment over the garage, or a separate structure that evokes the nostalgia and charm of traditional carriage houses -- accessory dwelling units are making a comeback. With good reason.  According to a study conducted in Portland, Oregon, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) can increase your home’s value by 25%-34%.  ADUs also offer homeowners: 

  • The potential to collect rental income  
  • A way to help parents “age in place” with family vs. costly facilities
  • An autonomous living space for adult children as they enter the workforce
  • Artist studios and private office spaces

Building an ADU assumes no land purchase, so the configuration of the existing property is an essential consideration. Legally, an ADU is part of the same property as the main home. An ADU cannot be bought or sold separately. There are also variations among municipalities in the zoning of ADUs. Consultation with a local building or real estate professional may help you to determine if an accessory building is right for you. 

In Rhode Island, Richmond Gardner Builder offers a customizable ancillary building design based on Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) that qualifies for energy tax credits and solves a number of issues confronting families today. 

Pictured below is a stand-alone ICF structure at Richmond’s house. The space serves as a guest suite when the family has visitors, and as a kids' TV room and recreational space when they don’t. It costs less than $400 annually to heat and cool, and reinforces our belief that accessory living spaces are an old idea that will continue to gain a lot of new traction.