Looking for a property with a unique feature like a mother-in-law suite can make it a tad more difficult to find the perfect home. As you begin the process and get an idea of the options available, consider what your must-haves are and what you can be more flexible on. To help you, I have compiled a list of questions about mother-in-law suites so you can more easily discuss your needs and wants with your Realtor.
Want a Mother-in-Law Suite? Ask Yourself These Questions
How do you intend to use your mother-in-law suite?
While the name of a mother-in-law suite implies that a parent will be living with you, they have plenty of other uses. Some families house an au pair in their mother-in-law suite, use it as a guest room, or even rent it out. Others use it to house grown or college-age children. And of course, many people want a mother-in-law suite to keep an elderly parent close by.
Each of these scenarios may require different things. For example, in the case of an older parent, you may want a more accessible mother-in-law suite so they can maintain as much independence as possible.
How large do you want the mother-in-law suite to be?
Mother-in-law suites come in a variety of sizes and formats. While some may be similar to a second master suite, others are practically small homes, detached from the main property. Your needs may differ based on who will be occupying the space. Also, keep in mind that the larger the suite, the more space there is to clean, cool, and heat.
Do you want the mother-in-law suite to have a separate entrance?
If the occupant of your mother-in-law suite is independent or will be receiving guests, consider whether it is best to have a separate entrance for them to come and go as they please without disturbing you or your family.
If a separate entrance is important to you, but the properties you are seeing do not have one, consider whether it is feasible to add a second entrance.
Do you want the mother-in-law suite to have a kitchen?
Having two kitchens can be useful. It provides a sense of independence for the occupant and ensures the mother-in-law suite has the amenities of a small apartment. If your aim is to have a parent or parents reside in your mother-in-law suite, consider whether they will be able to and will want to use a kitchen. If you want to house guests or use your mother-in-law suite as a rental property, then a kitchen may be a necessity.
Also, consider the costs. If the kitchen is unfurnished, you will need to purchase appliances. You will also see an increase in your utility bill from the additional refrigerator.
Do you want the mother-in-law suite to have its own laundry area?
If you want a laundry unit in your mother-in-law suite, you will need to keep an eye out for a property with an existing connection or a property where there is a place to install one. There are small units that can be installed in a closet, kitchen, or bathroom.
Do you want your mother-in-law suite to be connected to the main house?
A connected mother-in-law suite makes it easy to check in on whoever is staying with you. If you want a mother-in-law suite so you can care for an elderly parent, having the suite connected to your home will likely make offering care simpler. Rather than trekking out to a separate building, you can use the connecting doorway to deliver medication and meals and to offer companionship.
A detached mother-in-law suite provides more privacy for both its occupants and your family. However, it also means two of everything. Two roofs to maintain, two HVAC systems, two water heaters, etc. This can increase the cost of maintaining your mother-in-law suite. When using a mother-in-law suite as a rental, though, this may be a necessary cost. Many renters prefer separate units so they do not feel like they are constantly being monitored by the homeowner.
Can You Add a Mother-in-Law Suite After Purchase?
Yes, in many cases, you can add a mother-in-law suite after you purchase a home. However, you will want to check with your zoning office to learn more about what you can build and whether it will meet your needs. If your goal is to build after purchasing, check zoning regulations before you buy.
Will a Mother-in-Law Suite Make it Harder to Sell Your Home Later?
Because a mother-in-law suite is a unique feature, it can make it more difficult to sell your home. However, this feature is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people take on caring for an elderly parent.
Mother-in-Law Suites: Additional Considerations
If you want a home with a pre-existing mother-in-law suite, be prepared for an extended search. Few homes will have this unique feature. When you do find properties with a mother-in-law suite, verify that they are up to code at the beginning to save yourself heartache later down the line.
Got Your Answers?
Once you have poured over these questions and thoughtfully considered them, you should have a better idea of what type of mother-in-law suite will best suit your needs. Share this information with your Realtor so she can help identify possible properties that fit the bill. Also let her know what features you can be flexible on. For example, if you do not care whether the mother-in-law suite is attached or detached from the main building but definitely require a separate entrance, let her know! This will ensure you have a larger list of properties to choose from. Ready to get started? Let’s chat.