Mother-in-law build or not to build?

covenantbuildersJuly 22, 2007

We just moved into our new home in February! BIG YEH! Since that time, major changes have occurred and we are considering whether or not to build a small cottage for my mother-in-law on our property.

We have 3 acres and live in the county, with little or no building codes. We are restricted by covenants, which do not allow a mobile home. I post this for advice on whether or not to build a separate cottage or to build something that connects to our home. Has anyone built a mother-in-law suite or cottage on their property. I would love some ideas/plans/pictures. (We also considered closing in the garage, but my MIL is still extremely active and I think we BOTH need our own kitchens.)

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I know a couple who has done just that. They had a large lot. They built a cute 2 bedroom home a short distance away for the wife's elderly mother. It was complete with a compact kitchen and bath. (Also elder friendly). Landscaping provided privacy for everyone, but it was close enough for them to monitor her.

They plan to rent it out after she passes on. Seems to work well for them.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 1:30PM
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We have 4.5 acres on a lake and considered the same thing while building. My mom wanted a weekend place. We thought it would be good for her to move in full time later on. Our architect emailed me three guest house plans that went with our main house, but in the end my parents ended up building a weekend house across the dam from us. It was from a 900sf guest house to a 2800sf home, which is the maximum guest house allowed by our covenants but not something we wanted to maintain in the future. Cost was also a factor; if spending that much, they'd rather just build another house. They ended up building a house almost as large as ours, 5800K sf.

I cannot share the plans since they are not owned by me, but my architect. If you built, why not have yours draw up something in your style?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 3:01PM
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If you decide to build for "mom", consider incorporating in the build things like lower cabinetry/sinks, grab bars in the shower tubs, handrailings,etc. On the exterior if elevated, ramps instead of stairs.

An open floorplan with larger door openings. This is all for the event the she would be confined to a wheelchair or scooter in the future as well as safety concerns.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 3:14PM
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Just another thought: My MIL was fading, living on her own in the apartment she'd downsized to. When she moved into an assisted living facility she perked right up because there were people to visit with, play bridge with, dine with.

Sometimes Seniors are happier being "on their own", but with other Seniors around them.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 5:44PM
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Thanks for all of the suggestions. We are considering multiple possibilities right now. It is good to hear what other people have done.

One thing that we are pondering is resale. Our house and houses in the neighborhood are almost triple the size of a possible cottage. So, we discussing the idea of building a cottage that could be easily converted into a workshop or some other type building (maybe even another garage). I guess we could always use it as an apartment, but will have to check covenants.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 9:12PM
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Covenant,,,I'm glad to see this discussion because we are up against same thing! We are building on 2 acres and going to put the cottage for my mom at the back of land. I talked to our realtor to see if this would be a plus or negative in the future and she said it would help and especially if it could later be a pool house. I even checked into putting a pool but right now that is not in our budget. We were looking at about 900 sq ft with main living area,,,nice size kitchen and powder room off the living area and then just 1 bedroom with master bath.

Allison,,,that is so funny that your guest place went from 900 to your parents built 5800 sq ft house!! Thats quite a house for 2 people to maintain!

Another thing for us to consider and also my mom is,,,we will be out in country,,,not to far from town,,,10 minutes but,,,I'm afraid she will get very lonesome out there and right now she has neighbors she walks with etc... So that is something also that we are going back and forth on,,,

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 8:18AM
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Honey11, You don't know my Dad. ;) The architect plans were about 900sf. Dad changed them up a bit and it was at 1500sf...then 1800sf..then 2800sf. Then the lot across the dam from us went on the market. They spent a month trying to decide, then our builder told him how much the 2800sf would run and he said he might as well build his own house (meaning, if it was built on my lot he would be paying a lot of money to build a house on my property). Can't very well put a 2800sf house (would be about the smallest thing in our community) on almost 9 acres for resale purposes. So they started from scratch.

They are both in great shape. Their parents lived long, healthy lives. What kills me is it's only about 25 minutes from their in town house which is a larger. lol Mom would move out here full time but Dad isn't ready. They usually spend three or four nights out here about every ten days. Mom just spent two months while Dad was out of the country.

Chisue is right; in some instances it would be better for the person to go to a retirement home. My maternal grandmother wasn't crazy about the idea until she moved into a wonderful place. Loved being around people (most of the time). She had a one room "apartment," so she had privacy. Meals, church services, and planned activities were nice.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 8:33AM
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Whether or not to build another house, and what effect it will have on your property is one thing, but how well you get along with your MIL is quite another. We plan on doing the same thing, and Mom is definitely going to have her own house. After being alone for 27 years, Mom is very set in her ways, and has always been stubborn. When we visit, after a week it's time to go home, if you know what I mean. I think we'd drive each other nuts under the same roof. Our own house will be rather small, and Mom is interested in a Katrina cottage. Her present house is very small, and in very poor shape, so she's not fussy. My uncle added on to his house for my grandfather, and they did not get along very well. Your mileage may vary...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 6:47PM
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we were going to build a cabana out by the pool that would house a changing area and two baths plus outdoor shower. upon further consideration it has morphed itself into a "pool house." living area downstairs w/full kitchen, loft space as a bedroom. if the inlaws don't like it maybe we can rent it out to kato.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 11:44PM
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