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“We’re using our ADU as a short-term rental mainly because we want to use it for family to visit, use it ourselves, and use it for entertaining. We’ll see how that goes.” –Stew Hulick
Stew Hulick first learned about ADUs when he read an article about them in the early 2000s. When he bought his house in Portland’s Arbor Lodge neighborhood in 2006, there were requirements that an ADU be a conversion of an existing space and an additional off-street parking spot be provided. However, Portland’s regulations regarding ADUs have been relaxed since then, most recently in December 2015. (For more on that, check out How Portland Became ADU-Friendly (And How Your City Can, Too).
Stew was particularly intrigued by the possibility of renting both the house and the ADU, because it meant he and his wife Lisa wouldn’t be tied down to their house or forced to sell if their lives required more locational flexibility. They decided it was time to build their ADU when they heard about the expiration of the System Development Charge Waiver. They pulled together their savings and decided to get serious.
“I took Kol’s ADU Class for Homeowners and toured an ADU that Willie Dean was building. I knew it was similar to what I wanted to do, so that’s why I hired him to be our designer.” –Stew Hulick
(The ADU Stew toured was Tom Hudson’s ADU: The Newest House on The Block.)
As Stew, Lisa, and Willie worked through the design considerations, the relationship between the ADU and the primary dwelling was of utmost importance.
“I wanted there to be a good flow with the existing house. I’ve seen some that look clunky and out of place. It worked out with a saltbox style roof and when you stand at the street, it looks like the ADU is attached to the house. I’m really proud of the overall design. It fits with the front house from the exterior and from the interior it’s the best use of that amount of square footage. It’s open and it feels a lot larger than it is.” –Stew Hulick
Part of making the ADU feel larger than it is, was careful attention to natural light. (Check out ADU Designer: Ground Up Design Works for more on Willie Dean’s philosophy about lighting.) But an equally important part, in Stew’s opinion, was creating a place for everything by providing adequate storage.
“We thought of storage in every aspect of the build. We built storage into the stairs and provided two closets. Still, it would require someone wanting to live small.” –Stew Hulick
Fortunately, during permitting and construction they didn’t encounter any roadblocks.
“Everything flowed smoothly. There weren’t any hiccups. We didn’t have to upgrade the water, even when we went back after the design was approved because we’d added a half-bath upstairs.” –Stew Hulick
Their smooth sailing during the design, permitting, and construction process was due, in large part, to their creation of a great team. Lisa and Stew acted as their own general contractors and they relied heavily on the expertise of their designer Willie Dean and their builders Pat Hickey & Callum Clark.
During the build out they incorporated the sustainability features they’d designed in: a ductless mini-split heat pump, high insulation levels for walls and ceiling, and lots of high-efficiency windows which provide passive heating and reduce artificial lighting.
For Stew the highlight of the build was the first time he saw the framing up.
“It went from this concrete slab on the ground to a three dimensional house. That was the first visualization of what it was going to be like. It’s amazing when the entire thing is framed. That happens in a couple weeks and then the whole things slows way down.” –Stew Hulick
Lisa and Stew live in the primary dwelling and they currently rent their ADU out as a short-term rental, which wasn’t their original plan. While they were designing their ADU they anticipated that it would be a long-term rental. (Check out Options for ADU Owners: Rent One, Both, or Neither.)
“The short-term rental idea came farther along. I was looking at the viability and also considering the usage. I realized if we turn this place into a long-term rental my backyard would be gone. We have had a few short-term renters at this point. We want the renter to dictate the level of interaction we have with them. Our philosophy – because we use Airbnb a lot when we travel – is that we won’t bother you or even acknowledge your existence unless you need something from us. Want it to feel like it’s your apartment, so we’ll be as hands-off as you want us to be.” –Stew Hulick
However, Stew and Lisa were thinking about another future use of their ADU while they designed it, too. It may someday be a true mother-in-law unit. (See how ADUs Work for Multigenerational Families.)
“My mother-in-law is only parent the two of us have left. She’s in her early seventies and really healthy, but we do at some point plan to use this place as an actual in-law suite. Our house wouldn’t be big enough for her to live with us. In the ADU the bedroom is upstairs with the ½ bath, but downstairs there’s a full bath and the space is big enough for a studio.” –Stew Hulick
Stew’s least favorite aspect of having an ADU is that they don’t have as much backyard space as they used to, but he believes it was a “better use” of the backyard. They have an artistic gazebo in the back corner of their property which serves as the porch for the ADU. Stew and Lisa have loved that space in the summertime and they know that since summer is when vacation rentals will be in full swing, that space will often be used by their guests. They are planning to add a front porch to their home to provide a new hang out space for their own home in the summertime.
Overall, Stew and Lisa are very pleased with their ADU and there’s just one thing they’d do differently:
“I think if I could do it over again, I’d consider some different options to make it feel less invasive for my neighbor. I didn’t tell him about it beforehand because ADUs are allowed in Portland without checking in with the neighbors. But when he expressed his opinion about the ADU I thought maybe I could have figured something out that would have made it easier for him. I could have said, ‘Hey, neighbor, this is what’s happening. If you want to give me input, I’ll consider it.” –Stew Hulick
So what advice does Stew have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Before this whole tax issue, I’d say ‘Go for it! Now that’s going to be another part of rents going up in Portland as homeowners taxes go up and they have to pass that on to renters. Now I’d say ‘Do it while the fee waiving thing is still there.’ If you look at it in terms of return on investment, it’s easy to see that ROI. Look at the important things to spend more money on and avoid things that are expensive and don’t make it look cooler. Some of the finishes I went above and beyond to create a space that will excite people.” –Stew Hulick