What Do You Call a Small House in the Backyard?

When looking to purchase a home, many people look for a variety of different things. For example, a pool, an extra half bathroom, or perhaps even a spacious kitchen. Others, however, specifically look for homes that have an extra addition to them hidden in the backyard. But what do you call a small house in the backyard?

People call these small additions many different things, depending on where they live. But if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that these tiny “homes” are ideal for large families, earn extra cash or simply for storage.

Accessory Dwelling Units

Some people may refer to these tiny homes in a backyard as accessory dwelling units (ADU). ADUs may be attached to the principal dwelling or be entirely separate units.

Accessory dwelling units don’t always have to be a second, smaller house. It can also be an attic that’s been converted into a living space or even a basement apartment.

In general though, technically ADUs have to have a separate entrance, a bathroom, and a kitchen. So most tiny homes you see in backyards may not be considered accessory dwelling units.

ADUs were popular many decades ago but were eventually left behind. Nowadays, ADUs are most common in older houses as opposed to those that have recently been built. However, these functional spaces are starting to make a comeback.

The video below from 30X40 Design Workshop goes over most questions you may have about accessory dwelling units. 

Granny Flats and In-Law Units

These are additional nicknames for these tiny backyard homes. Some call them granny flats or in-law units.

The name comes from the idea that someone’s in-laws or grandmother would end up moving in with them. Instead of living inside the main house, you would give them the privacy of their own space while still being close enough to keep an eye on them.

Pool Houses

Many times, people with pools in their backyards refer to their additions as a pool house.

Technically, a pool house is modeled after the main home and is a place for people to change out of their swimsuits, eat and drink, use the restroom. People also use pool houses to take a break in while enjoying the water.

Of course, if you call it a pool house is because you have a pool near it. Some people refer to this type of house by the Spanish name of “casita” (small house.)

Guest Houses

People may try to downplay their additions by calling them things like casitas. Others, on the other hand, are quick to refer to their additional dwelling as a guest house. Bear in mind that for you to truthfully call it a guest house, it must have a bathroom and a fully functional kitchen.

But some people may still like to use the term “guest house” to make it sound a bit more luxurious even though it may lack all the necessary requirements.

A Shed

This is perhaps one of the most common names for these small “houses” that are located behind a person’s primary residence.

However, a shed is much less luxurious than an ADU, a granny flat, or even a pool house and you typically use it for storage, not to live in. However, this isn’t to say that you couldn’t convert the space into a livable unit.

Why Do People Build Them?

As mentioned earlier, people built small dwellings for a variety of reasons. One main reason why they are built is to house a family member. Grandparents and in-laws often live here, but parents may often give these dwellings to an older sibling looking to gain some freedom and independence from their parents.

Other times, people may build them for the sole purpose of renting them out. Those looking to make a little extra cash will find these the perfect way to get it. In California, accessory dwelling units have recently been reintroduced to citizens in an attempt to create more affordable housing.

Storage is yet another reason why some people may have these in their backyards. Instead of paying for a pricey storage unit, these additions make the perfect space to hold any extra furniture, luggage, clothes, and more.

Building Your Own Unit

The many benefits of having these tiny houses in your backyard make some people build their own.

If you are planning to do this, however, be sure you do so correctly. For one, you will need to make sure you have all the proper permits necessary to start construction.

You may also want to consider hiring a professional to get the job done, as this can end up being a pretty tricky task for someone with no construction experience.

How big you can build your unit may also depend on the type of jurisdiction you live in, yet another thing to consider.

If you are simply converting a garage or a basement, however, you won’t need to go through as much trouble as if you were building an entirely new space from scratch, no matter how small it is.

Converting an extra room may simply be easier than adding a new dwelling, but it all boils down to what your needs are.

A Jump in Demand

As mentioned earlier, these small housing units are once again regaining popularity. In fact, research has shown that many cities and states (like California) are starting to develop more and more of these units and allowing people to add them to their homes.

This may be because you can easily use them to rent out to smaller households, which are becoming more common these days. Just a few decades ago, people married and started large families right after college or even high school. But these days, most households are limited to just one or two people and, therefore, eliminates the need for so much space.

Instead of buying an entire home for just themselves, couples may opt out to live in an ADU instead. Not only is it smarter financially, but it just makes sense given the fact that they don’t need as much space.

Regardless of what they are used for, these additional dwellings make for a great use of space, particularly in a large backyard.

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