models really help to visualize the options for backyard cottages

Backyard cottages, basement apartments and flexible flats can all bring green living and working solutions to the single family-zone property you already own.  With thoughtful planning & design they need not break the bank nor disrupt the character of Seattle’s vast and much-treasured single family zoning contexts.  This gentle addition of density is good for the environment, gives people a lot more options about where to live and work and how to use their property and can make a very nice source of on-site rental revenue.

I have been working on a backyard cottage conversion of an existing garage in West Seattle.  If you already have a garage structure in the rear yard, converting it can be really cost effective.  In this case, the existing building from 1911 is 17′ x 24′ with a small existing attached shed that was added in the 90’s.   The question is whether to maintain the existing building envelope which would provide 480sf, or alter it with a bump-out addition of 80sf – 100sf.

That bump-out addition gives the cottage a nice bonus space that makes a great place for “kitchen table central” and makes the cottage big enough for a couple which makes it a lot more flexible, desirable, economical and sustainable.

The cost of converting the building to a cottage without the bump-out is likely to fall in the $100 to $150 per square foot range, or in this case about $50K – $75K.  The bumpout adds $15K.  If the project is financed and rented, the $50K – $75K will amortize in about 10 years and the additional $15K for the bump-out would extend that another 2 years or so.    After that, it’s revenue.  The 600 sf cottage, as opposed to the 500 sf cottage) would probably bring in an extra $125 / month.

If the project is built with cash, that’s immediately another $1,500 a year in revenue which would easily cover maintenance and repairs which would be very handy.

Building the cottage over time and paying cash as you go is also worth considering.  The permit can be extended pretty economically if you don’t let it expire.   Either way – cash or financed – it’s a fantastic nest egg and worth consideration by any single family homeowner in Seattle.  The tax implications are important to look at as well.  The increased property value will increase the property taxes, but as a rental unit you have the benefit of depreciation on your side which contributes nicely to off-set the rental income.  Depreciation could also play well if the space is used for business such as an office.

The preliminary planning and design phase is the time to weigh all these options.  Let me know if you are interested in doing that.  I have a fixed fee available for each of the 3 steps to a backyard cottage and I’ve made it very affordable.  I can also do a very abbreviated feasibility study to shake loose the possibilities so you don’t have to make big investment to just figure out if the whole idea is actually going to make sense for you and your property.