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“Martha has a keen interest in small footprint houses that is motivated by her desire to live more simply and more lightly on the planet. By building a small house for herself, she could easily lock the door and go to Mexico for several months.” -Karen Bilsing, Martha’s daughter
Martha became interested in ADUs when her daughter Karen Bilsing, a real estate broker and property manager, discovered that Portland, OR, unlike many other cities, does not have an owner-occupancy requirement for ADUs. This means that, in Portland, a homeowner can rent out both the primary dwelling and the ADU. When Martha and Karen had the opportunity to see an ADU first-hand on the Build It Green (BIG) Tour in 2010, they decided it could be a good option for Martha to create an ADU on one of her rental properties.
Martha purchased a piece of property with a fixer-upper bungalow and decided that she would build an ADU in the backyard while remodeling the primary dwelling. There were several factors driving her decision. First, the ADU could generate additional rental income. It could also provide another family with flexible housing options. She was also motivated to build sooner rather than later because Portland’s waiver of System Development Charges (SDCs) for ADUs was set to expire. (Fortunately, the SDC waiver has been extended though July 2016.) Martha used savings as well as proceeds from refinancing other properties to fund her ADU. Although both Martha and Karen had experience fixing up properties, it would be their first time building a home from the ground-up and they were looking forward to the process.
“Our key considerations were dimension, an open floor plan, loads of light, and a very high caliber in craftsmanship.” -Karen Bilsing
As Karen and her girlfriend Beverly Scott helped Martha design the ADU, they were inspired by ADUs they’d seen on the BIG Tour, small house websites, and their own imaginations. Beverly developed the initial design and they hired an architect to draft up the actual plans. The interior of the ADU is modern. If Portland did not require detached new-construction ADUs to match the primary dwelling, they probably would have made the ADU more modern, too, with a different roof pitch and a different window style.
“Originally we were thinking that we wanted to build with more aging-in-place concepts, but wider doorways and wheelchair accessibility were challenging in a small footprint. So it morphed from being totally ADA accessible to appropriate for aging-in-place.” -Karen Bilsing
“The highlight was seeing the finishes come together and the hands-on experiences we had at every step.” -Karen Bilsing
“My favorite features of the ADU are the interior trim and moldings, radiant heated floors, and serene atmosphere.” -Karen Bilsing
“Choose your contractor very, very carefully, plan as many of the final details and finishes as possible before you break ground, expect to go well over budget, dream big, and let your creativity guide you.” -Karen Bilsing