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7 things to know when looking for an ADU builder in San Jose, California

January 11, 2021

What is the difference between an ADU, in-law unit, and an addition?

These 3 terms are used interchangeably but sometimes can mean different things. To be clear, we will define the following terms:

ADU: also known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit. This is a structure that is detached from the main structure on the property. This structure has a fully functional bathroom, living space(s), and kitchen or kitchenette.

In-law unit: attached to the main structure, an in-law unit is a space - typically the garage or  second living room -  repurposed into a private living space with a fully functioning bathroom, living space(s), and kitchen or kitchenette. 

Additions: attached to the main structure but additional square footage is built on. Additions can either extend the exterior walls of the property or built on top of the property.

Why might people in San Jose might want to build an ADU or in-law unit?

With the heart of California’s tech industry just a short commute away and the incredible demand for housing that comes with that, building an ADU or in-law unit in San Jose is a wise financial investment. With the myriad of available financing options to build an ADU onto your home - which we will go over in this article - the only thing stopping most people is determining if they are allowed to do so onto their property in San Jose.

How much does it cost to build an ADU in San Jose?

This cost will differ for each building company and the complexity of a project but at Home Quality Remodeling, we have built ADUs with a budget of $250 per square foot. The most significant cost driver in building an ADU or any structure for that matter is the type of finish material that the homeowner chooses. For example, going with a herringbone style kitchen backsplash versus a sheet of prefabricated tile will drive the costs of a project way up.

Quotes received from construction companies only include the cost of rough materials; rough materials include things like framing materials, standard insulation, drywall, mudding, electrical outlet covers, recessed light fixtures, labor costs, and demolition costs. So choose your finish materials wisely!

At Home Quality Remodeling, we connect our client with pre-approved vendors so that they can get better than market price (and better than Home Depot), for common finish materials. We don’t get a kickback or commission for referring clients to vendors so that we can pass on the savings to our clients.

What ways can I finance building my ADU in San Jose?

The good news is there are a ton of ways to finance the construction of an ADU in San Jose. We’ll cover the common methods our clients have used but also a few methods we have found to be great options if you qualify for it.

Traditional ways to finance an ADU construction in San Jose:

  • Credit card - most remodelers will accept this payment method but keep in mind that the remodeler might have to pass on the fee they incur from the credit card company to the price of the project. 
  • HELOC - otherwise known as a ‘Home Equity Line of Credit’, this allows the homeowner to borrow against the equity of their home up to a certain amount determined by the lender. Once approved for a HELOC, the homeowner can draw the amounts you needed to pay for each stage of the project. Clarify with the lender what the terms of the loan are. Typically, HELOCs have variable interest rates and payments are not fixed.
  • Home Equity Loan also known as a ‘HEL’ - is a loan secured by the equity of a property. The difference is that a HEL borrows a fixed amount of money at once with a fixed interest rate and scheduled payments. Once approved for a HEL, the homeowner can spend the money to pay for each stage of the project.
Other great options to finance the construction of an ADU in San Jose:
  • The Housing Trust Construction loan program offers financing to homeowners for the construction of ADUs in Santa Clara County and the city of East Palo Alto. For details on the loan terms visit the Housing Trust Construction website.

Getting permits for your ADU with San Jose’s building permitting department

With paying for the construction of the ADU out of the way, the most challenging part when building an ADU is getting the design and plans of the structure approved by the San Jose building permit department. 

The not-so-good news: due to the large amount of permits they receive, San Jose’s building permitting department is always swamped. It takes them 2 week to 2 months to begin the review process on submitted plans. If they deem that there must be changes made, the process can take even longer.

It helps to work with an experienced company like Home Quality Remodeling to get your ADU plans reviewed and approved. We’ve been through the process enough times to know how to do it right the first time.

How long does it take to build an ADU in my home in San Jose?

In a case where all the necessary steps go as planned, building an ADU in San Jose should take 1 month for every 100 sq ft. There are many cases where projects drag on and the costs grow uncontrollably when the builder fails inspections or worse, they have to redo the work.

It serves both our business and the general public for us to say, work with an ADU builder who knows what they’re doing and has experience navigating San Jose’s building permitting department. 

What is the process of building an ADU in San Jose?

In summary of what has been said above, here are step by step processes of building an ADU in San Jose. 

Scenario 1: Do-it-yourself ADU

  1. Get select your finish materials and get designs for the ADU from a licensed architect.
  2. Get structural plans based on the designs from a licensed structural engineer.
  3. Get those designs and structural plans approved by San Jose’s building permitting department.
  4. Once those designs and plans are approved, begin collection quotes from ADU builders.
  5. Sign a contract if the builder you choose and begin construction.

Scenario 2: Hiring Home Quality Remodeling to build you ADU

  1. Select your finish materials and get 3D designs from our in-house designers.
  2. Receive a quote for the construction and finish materials.
  3. If the quote we give you is acceptable to you, we’ll begin construction as soon as we get the designs and plans approved. If any revisions on the plans are needed, we’ll take care of that too. 

How to start your ADU build

Building an ADU can be a wise financial investment considering the rental revenue it can generate or the money it can save a loved one. At Home Quality Remodeling, we’ve been building homes, additions, and ADUs across the Bay Area for over a decade so we know how to finish your ADU on time and on budget. 

As a professional building company, it behooves us to make sure that we finish each project we take in a timely manner and leave each customer satisfied by staying on budget.  Read more about our process for building ADUs and additions on this page.

If the property you'd like to build an ADU on is under the jurisdiction of San Jose's building department, get started with this 'ADU Universal Checklist' the city of San Jose publishes: https://www.sanjoseca.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=39038

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