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The Ins and Outs of a Mother-in-Law Suite

To understand the role of the mother-in-law suite, we first have to understand its recent resurgence. There’s a paradigm shift in living arrangements in the United States. The 2020s are seeing a revival of the multi-generational, or extended family household, in which three or more generations of a single-family live together under one roof. All over America, homeowners have their grown kids or aging parents, or both, move in with them. Did you know that more than 65 million adults care for an aging parent, and 20% of the population lives in a multi-generational household, compared with just 12% in 1980?

There are lots of reasons for this. One is the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting formation of family pods. Then, there is the desire to keep aging parents out of community living facilities and the high cost of living for kids fresh out of college.

A mother-in-law suite is a great way to welcome additional family members into your home. Instead of taking over a spare bedroom, they benefit from having their own separate, customized living suite while close to their loved ones. (And although the name suggests it, don’t get confused–you don’t need to be a mother-in-law, or have one, to reap the benefits of a space like this.)

Read further about mother-in-law suites to break down what they are, cost factors to build one, and whether it’s a good investment as part of your home remodel.

The Basics: What is a Mother-in-Law Suite?

A mother-in-law suite is an additional private living space located on the same property as a single-family home. It typically has a kitchen and living area with a separate entrance, and garages, basements, and stand-alone guest houses can become mother-in-law suites. You can also build an entirely new structure on your property.

How Is a Mother-in-Law Suite Different From an ADU?

An ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) is also called a multigenerational dwelling unit or a secondary suite. In this blog, we outline zoning regulations, cost implications and whether you can legally offer that space for rent.

We consider a mother-in-law suite an official ADU if it is a secondary housing unit that is entirely independent of the main house but on the same property, either as an attached or detached space. While people usually build ADUs to rent out for extra income, mother-in-law suites are guest houses meant to house actual in-laws. Don’t have a mother-in-law? Don’t despair (or rejoice!). You can rent the unit out to bring in additional income or use it for a nanny or a home office. In other words, you don’t need your mother-in-law to move in to create one.

Mother-in-Law Suite Bedroom
This recently completed investment property remodel consisted of a main house with a detached garage that was converted into a proper mother-in-law suite. Both structures were completely redesigned with a more modern aesthetic, and have since been listed as short term rentals on AirBnB (no mother-in-law required).

The Cost of Building a Mother-in-Law Suite

Because all jobs are specific to the client’s exact space, it’s hard to pinpoint a figure when it comes to adding on a mother-in-law suite. However, there are some aspects that definitely contribute to the overall cost such as the scope of the work, the age of the home, the level of finish, the design/detail considerations, if it’s an existing space or a brand new footprint is being created. So, before you believe one figure or another, remember that it is dependent on many factors.

Seeking out advice from a reputable company, like us at ReVision, should be able to help create a customized plan for your specific needs, lifestyle factors, and level of investment.

While the design and construction of a functional mother-in-law suite is a considerable investment in your time and resources, consider the annual cost of living in an assisted living facility. According to Genworth, which has tracked the cost of long-term care services nationwide for 17 years, the monthly median cost for assisted living in North Carolina in 2020 is $3800. It is $8,060 for a private room in a nursing home facility.

convertible space,” which means we designed the room for multiple purposes. Several common examples are a living room or home office that’s guest-friendly, a home bar that can serve as an entertaining space and a clean-up space, and mudroom-laundry room combinations.

To spice up the entrance to the detached other-in-law suite, we added geometric wallpaper which is visible from the new kitchenette.

Complying with Local Laws

Before going forward with your mother-in-law suite plans, check what local ordinances apply to your project. In Mecklenburg County, a mother-in-law suite of any kind will require permitting to ensure it’s code compliant regardless of whether or not the unit is part of the existing structure or separate from the main home. Depending on the setbacks and zoning requirements, you may discover you cannot proceed with your project or need to apply for a variance, but don’t worry – a reputable design-build contractor will be able to assist you through this entire process so you’re not trying to navigate it alone.

Don’t forget, if you live in a development or neighborhood that has a homeowners’ association, your design team will have to factor their rules and regulations into their plans as well.

The main bathroom of the main house features a floating vanity, crystal wall sconces and more statement wallpaper to give the small space personality.

The Benefits of Adding a Mother-in-Law Suite

to add one to your home:

Added Value: The addition of a mother-in-law suite to your property can result in a higher selling price. Many buyers have indicated that they would pay more for a home that has one. It could also open up a new group of potential purchasers: baby boomers with elderly parents.

Rental Property: You may be able to rent it out in the short and long term to make some extra income. Become the AirBnB host of your wildest dreams (check with your local municipality or HOA to see what’s required for renting).

Stay Close to Your Family: Once your in-laws move in, they have the comfort of knowing you are available if they need immediate assistance, while also maintaining a level of privacy and independence.

Use of Extra Space: You can use the apartment for personal reasons, including a guest room, home office, work-out space, yoga studio, storage, or epic teenager hang-out.

Once you navigate the local zoning laws and determine the level of investment that’s right for you, you may discover that a mother-in-law suite is an excellent option for your situation. You will end up with the peace of mind of having your loved ones close and might even get a volunteer baby or dog sitter in the process.

Due to their small footprints, mother-in-law suites typically feature open floor plans like this kitchen and dining room.

Are you thinking about building a mother-in-law suite?

ReVision Design/Remodeling has extensive experience working with clients in the Charlotte area to help design and build mother-in-law suites. Contact us to learn more about how we can customize a proposal tailored to your specific needs, or fill out the contact form to get in touch with one of our remodeling experts.