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Defining An In-Law Suite

When you first hear the term, you might automatically think of your spouse’s parents. Well, you are not far off. An in-law suite is defined as a small dwelling on the same property as (and perhaps attached to) a single-family home, where an aging family member (or others) can live with some modicum of privacy and independence. It's often a separate space with its own bathroom, sometimes in a basement or over a garage. This little house can very well be the place where your in-laws move in. 

These structures are also known as accessory dwelling units, multigenerational units, secondary suites, or granny flats. In Hawaii, they're known as ohana units. In the Southwest, they're frequently called casitas. Usually, they contain a bedroom and a full bathroom and in some cases can include additional rooms, like a sitting room or a small kitchen.

If you’re crafty enough, you can use this in-law suite for a variety of different purposes. Here’s a few examples below:

  • Home office
  • Guest quarters
  • Residence for an older child
  • Short- or long-term rental apartment

When it comes to the cost of adding on this amenity into your home, the price can vary depending on a number of factors such as size, details and whether or not it will be an add-on to an existing home or a stand-alone structure. If you're building a new structure, it can cost as much as $125,000.


"A mother-in-law space, or even the potential for one, can make your home more desirable to buyers," says Dinella. "With multigenerational living on the rise, buyers are frustrated that they can’t find a home that meets their needs. There are limited choices, so they start looking at homes that can be easily modified into a residence with a mother-in-law apartment. If I have a listing with a first-floor bedroom and full bath, I’ve been advertising it as a 'potential multi-generational suite.' It creates a lot more buyer traffic."

"An open floor plan has versatile uses after the fact. It's easier for buyers to envision the space as something else if they don't need to use it for its original intention," he says.

When it comes to an in-law suite, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. They are wise investments and when time comes to sell your home, it will be much more valuable with this little add-on. 



  • Lydia Eskenazi PA

    Director of Real Estate Sales
    Harding Realty, Inc.


    +1 (305) 785-0440 Direct
    (305) 682-9051 Fax


    9473 Harding Avenue
    Surfside, FL 33154

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