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In-Law Home Additions

Apartments, suites, and cottages added on to a main home as additional living space are nothing new. They can be created from attics, basements, garages, additions, existing space in the home, or as freestanding structures. Many call them in-laws, since they often house an elderly parent; if they're for renters (or illegally built), they're called outlaws; and those ever-colorful bureaucrats call them ADUs (accessory dwelling units).

In these post-recessional times, however, the in-law suite has taken on a new appeal for families who are downsizing, simplifying, or who want to earn extra income with a rental apartment. Some homeowners even rent out the main house while living in their lower-maintenance in-law housing. In another sign of the times, they're also being used for adult children who return home after college until they can find employment and get on their feet.

A Coldwell Banker survey of agents found that a third of homebuyers want properties with potential to house multiple generations. As accessible housing close to care-giving family members is so desirable for older Americans, the AARP and APA have been active in easing zoning regulations to help more of these secondary living spaces get built. A survey by the AARP indicated 36 percent of Baby Boomers would add an ADU if they needed one as they aged.

Michael Lichtfield, founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine, wrote the book "In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House Into Two Homes," which features case studies of many innovative secondary living spaces.

Litchfield lives in an in-law himself, on a former dairy farm in the greater San Francisco area. He says it's what he wants at this stage: to live more simply, enjoy life, get more exercise in a seashore area he calls one of the most beautiful places on earth. Click ahead to see clever examples of what happens when homeowners turn "this old house" into two homes.

By Colleen Kane
Posted 7 April 2011

Photo courtesy: In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats " published by The Taunton Press in 2011