Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

Martha Metzger’s ADU: Rent Now, Move in Someday

Martha Metzger's ADU

Martha Metzger’s ADU

Quick Facts

  • Setting: urban
  • Neighborhood: Roseway, Portland, OR
  • Type: stand-alone detached unit
  • Use: furnished rental
  • Square Footage: 642
  • Year Built: 2011
  • Owner: Martha Metzger
  • Designer: Beverly Scott, Karen Bilsing & Martha Metzger
  • Builder: Multiple
  • Total Cost: $200,000
“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 Metzger lives in one half of a duplex and her sister lives in the other half, so she’s especially fond of living arrangements that provide flexibility and the opportunity to have family close by. Her rental properties include two other duplexes, a single family home, and a home with an ADU in the backyard.
Martha's ADU Living & Dining 2

Martha’s ADU Living & Dining Room

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's ADU Kitchen

Martha’s ADU Kitchen

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
Martha's ADU Bedroom

Martha’s ADU Bedroom

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.

Although they initially conceived of the ADU as a rental property, Martha soon decided it was the sort of place she might like to live someday, so they designed the small home accordingly. They were committed to incorporating green building components, including well-insulated walls, Energy Star appliances, on-demand hot water, radiant heat, and plumbing for a grey water option. If they had it to do over again they would have learned more about green building standards, but they feel they did pretty well for their first ground-up project. They also considered aging-in-place as they developed the design.
Martha's ADU Shower

Martha’s ADU Shower

“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 biggest challenge they faced in creating the ADU was a breakdown of the relationship with the general contractor. They ended up doing some of the later stage general contracting and enjoyed working with the subcontractors, so they plan to general contract the next project on their own.
“The highlight was seeing the finishes come together and the hands-on experiences we had at every step.” -Karen Bilsing
Since it was completed in 2011, Martha has used her ADU as a guest house for visiting friends and family and as a furnished rental. Karen believes they included adequate storage within the ADU for everyday belongings, but she notes that storing outdoor equipment such as bicycles and camping gear is more challenging.
“My favorite features of the ADU are the interior trim and moldings, radiant heated floors, and serene atmosphere.” -Karen Bilsing
Martha’s favorite thing about having an ADU on her property is that it’s an infill housing option that helps protect the urban growth boundary while creating community with close-set homes. She notes that the downside is that the ADU took up garden space, but so far the ADU is serving her needs well. She still thinks that someday she will probably live in the little home she and her daughter designed and built.
So what advice does Karen have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their property?
“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

About linamenard

Hi. My name is Lina Menard and I'm a small house dweller, designer, blogger, and builder. I'm currently collecting ADU Case Studies for Through my company Niche Consulting LLC, I help people design and build the home (and life) of their dreams! I also tell my stories about simple living in small spaces - like a travel trailer, a yurt, a backyard cottage, and tiny houses on wheels - at Niche News.
%d bloggers like this: