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Catherine Butler first learned about ADUs from her real estate agent while looking at properties around Portland. She began exploring ADU options through AccessoryDwellings.org and went on her first ADU tour in June of 2014, visiting 11 of the sites on the tour on her bike. The key factor that convinced Catherine to create an ADU on her property was the potential for rental income. She purchased a house on a corner lot in NE Portland with the prospect of building an ADU in mind.
The greatest inspiration for the project was developing a property that she had a hand in designing and creating. Her plan was to use the ADU as a part-time second home in Portland. She had called the Colombia River Gorge “home” for a number of years, but liked the idea of having a place in Portland, too.
Catherine funded her ADU with a home equity line of credit from her home in Hood River. She spent about a year researching ADUs and looking at designs. After the ADU tour she contacted the builders and architects from her favorite ADUs. She spoke with 3 architects and finally settled on Dave Spitzer as he had done the work on the remodel of the original home on site.
As Catherine worked with Dave Spitzer to develop the design, there were a few major design considerations. First and foremost was storage space.
“I think one of the most important factors to consider when building is storage, how much storage is needed if someone will be living in the space full time. Secondly, privacy between the two homes was a priority for me and I worked hard to create private space between the two homes by fencing around the deck on the main house and using landscaping to create privacy between the homes and the street.” -Catherine Butler
They also considered the benefits and drawbacks of each option as they discussed the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to include in the ADU. Another important consideration was design ideas to give the ADU an open, bigger feel.
Catherine’s biggest challenge in creating the ADU was meeting the water value requirements. Portland gives each fixture (tub, toilet, sink, etc.) a water value and her existing house was already close to the maximum allowed. So Catherine had to decide between using the existing water line from the main house (which would need to be upgraded from the street since it did not have the capacity to include an ADU) or adding a new water line for the ADU. She ultimately decided to provide the ADU with its own water line so that it could have two bathrooms and a washer and dryer.
“The highlight of the ADU building was seeing how well the design fit with the main house and seeing the vision become a reality.” – Catherine Butler
Although Catherine anticipated that she would use the ADU as her part-time residence, it’s currently being used as her primary residence. She anticipates that in the future it will be used as her residence, a rental, or potentially a home for one of her grown children.
“My least favorite thing about having an ADU is the increase in property taxes, but I love that I have the potential for two rental incomes and I enjoy living in a space that I created from the ground up. I love the open space especially the kitchen.” – Catherine Butler
Catherine’s biggest surprise in building her ADU is the number of people who walk by and stop to knock on the door and ask about it! If she had it to do over again, the one thing she would consider doing differently is that she would consider adding a second bedroom.
So what advice does Catherine have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Do your homework, know what you want, and have a clear picture of the costs. Building a smaller home does not make it a cheaper home. Think about your primary goals when it comes to building an ADU: generating income or a space for family?” -Catherine Butler