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What is a DADU? Why Build A DADU or ADU?

What is a DADU, the preferred designation, versus ADU? Are they the same thing?

An ADU is an Accessory Dwelling Unit, a DADU is a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit.  The ADU is an actual “attached” unit, actually adding onto the existing home through the process of remodeling.  Many people use the term as the main reference point for everything that would be an extra living space on a piece of property, in addition to the existing dwelling.  The DADU is more of an extension of code in the municipality’s code, they use the term “DADU” to differentiate between the two.  The DADU is literally stating it is separate from the existing house, with the term “detached”.  This is based on the City of Tacoma.

So, essentially they aren’t the same thing, but people have made them very much the same.  And in all reality, it doesn’t really matter because people like to come up with different ways to pronounce “DADU”!

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What drew you to DADUs initially? Did you have personal experience building/designing DADUs before you officially started your Tacoma business?

Great questions!  I love building.  I love finances.  I  have a degree in Business Finance from the University of Washington and I’ve been in our family construction business most of my life.  In 2020, I was building a 26,000sf commercial building.  My dad, Ken, informed me that Tacoma had changed their code, so that DADU’s were more friendly to build in the city.  Specifically, they had changed the designation, allowing investors, or non-owner occupied properties to put a DADU on the premises. 

This had not been allowed prior and was a game changer.  You could build ADU’s and DADU’s prior but they were very limited and only if the owner lived in the home as their personal residence. 

Knowing rentals, growing up owning, managing, building and really just being around them all the time, this was a game changer. 

It was the first time I wouldn’t need to truly sell an opportunity.  The city had opened a path for investors to make money by building something new, on property they already owned!  I could be the conduit of building people, almost instant equity in an investment property.  I was beyond excited for this opportunity, to educate people to the potential they had in their properties.

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You list a number of different DADU types/models on your website. What factors should a potential client consider when deciding what model is right for them?  

Ha!  My models are about to change.  The code changed, in February 2022, and some of my models won’t even work in the city.  The models for me are just an idea for people to see.  Almost every single lot in the city of Tacoma is unique.  Every house is situated different, there are different factors in almost every one.  So, instead of just having stock plans, we customize to the lot.  We might take a plan we’ve already used, but so far, I’ve customized every single one.  

With me, people should know I will be designing the best unit to work on their specific lot.  They don’t have to guess if it’s right, I’ll explain and make it the best unit possible to get the most value from it.  

On the other hand, some people want custom DADU’s for their own use.  We do those as well, as in the case with the Hjalseth’s.  They had very specific desires and we did our best to make sure their dream for entertaining became a reality!

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What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I love helping people.  I had my real estate license for 12 years.  But I sold real estate from 19 years old till I was 38.  I had a team of 16 agents at one point.  I loved helping clients and I loved mentoring my team of agents.  I’d been searching for that similar situation again.  

The DADU’s allow me to do both.  I get to educate people about the financial possibilities as well as the construction side of walking through the process.  A lot of people in Tacoma are sitting on a gold mine!  If they’ve owned their property for over 5 years, most have enough equity, if they haven’t already refinanced, to build a DADU with that equity and cashflow right off the bat!  Rents continue to increase all over Western Washington.  In Tacoma, we have a shortage of housing.  This is a great way to not only make money but help solve the city’s problem of housing and it can make a person income as well!  That’s something I can get behind and makes it beyond rewarding!

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What do you find to be the most common misconceptions about DADUs/building DADUs?

People think they won’t cost very much.  I know that’s a relative statement, but what it means is people think they’re building a “shed” of sorts.  These are houses.  Full houses, with sewer, water, electrical and HVAC….they are a house and treated as such by the city.  They also take awhile to build.  Between design, finances, permits and building itself, they can take up to 8 months to complete.  

The other misconception is that DADU’s have to be small.  We build anywhere between 250 square feet, all the way up to the maximum of 1000 square feet.  There are a lot of fixed costs within a DADU, so building bigger can essentially save you money if your lot and existing house allow for it.

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Do you have any words of advice or “pro tips” for people interested in beginning the DADU process?

Know your finances.  Know the equity in your home.  How would you finance this project?  As in looking for a new home, this works a lot the same.  Financing comes first.  

A true professional in the DADU space will know the rules, but also know people at the City of Tacoma and will always be able to answer any questions by going to the source.

Cheap is not always good.  We have been building for 40 years in the Pierce County area, if the price is low, it may be too good to be true.  

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Do you have any funny or unique anecdotes related to working on DADUs with clients?

It’s a win-win-win!  The client makes money, Tacoma DADU makes money and the city makes money!  No one loses!  Oh and the most beautiful part, is that we keep on building much needed rentals in the City of Tacoma!

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