Downsizing to my parents garage apartment

KJMKEMay 27, 2014

My husband and I are currently living in a 1100 sq ft apartment in the city . When we moved in we were both working full time jobs and could afford the rent no problem. We had a little surprise show up a couple of months after moving in....our son! He is now 3 months old and we are needing to downsize because I stay home with him full time. Most of the homes that we would feel comfortable moving into in the area around $1100, which would be a stretch for us. My parents have graciously offered to convert their garage into an apartment for us if we agree to pay off most of the loan to do it. We would be paying around $500 for about 3 years. My question is, is it worth it? During this time we would be able to pay off my husbands student loans, save money for a house, and maybe even get to travel some. But, we would be living about 10 steps away from my parents house in a 28' by 24' apartment. I love my parents and they are wonderful but we are a young couple in our mid 20's still wanting our independence and space. Would this move into a tight space with limited privacy be a smart financial move and make our family more tight or will we drive each other crazy? Does anyone have experience with smaller home/less privacy vs. more money/less stress dilemma?

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How timely! LOL My mom is going to move in with us and we're doing a similar reverse :)

If you BOTH get along with your parents...I think it is a really good idea. You'll save money and improve their property, in the process. 24' x 28' is almost 700 sq. ft. It will be tight, but with some creative use of space I think it could work.

If it were me, I would want a kitchenette, a bathroom, and think about how to add lots of storage...all furniture pieces should do double duty as storage if possible. And don't forget space under the bed, etc.

There should be plenty of 'guest house' plans on the Internet...look for the ones over a garage. They should be a good starting point!

Also, if you have fairly nice weather year-round...I would definitely try to incorporate an outdoor space (maybe screened porch) or patio, off the garage. If there's room, you could have a nice entertaining area out there...which will make your smaller indoor space live/feel much larger!

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to guest house plans

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 3:43PM
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You may need to discuss with your parents about what to do after the 3 years. If you stay, do you continue paying rent or if you go, what will they do with it.

You should also consider what may happen, if in those 3 years, your financial situation changes for the worse.

I just mention this because things may seem fine now but if no money is being paid on the loan, resentment may grow. Could your parents cover it if you can't? Not that you want them to, but just looking at all angles.

You might also need to clear this with the city.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 3:58PM
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It's worth it because you seem to have plan. When my daughter moved back home, we decided to give her as much personal privacy as possible.
Only you will know if your parents will give you the privacy you need.
It's a plus that it is a separate space.
To be able to pay off loans and save money would put you in a good place financially.
Garden brings up some good points. Research and discuss every single detail before committing.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 6:52PM
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I wouldn't do it for 3 years. In fact, I wouldn't do it at all. It's just too close to mom/grandma and the opportunity for interference, however well meant.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 10:55PM
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There's a lot to consider. The $500 monthly for 3 years is $18,000, which is not a lot of money if your parents will be adding a small kitchen and bathroom to the garage. Plumbing runs will be required, the floor will need to be made level, the garage door replaced by window and wall, and heating/ventilation/air conditioning may be needed.

Living in a small space can be great, but it helps a lot if the space is well designed and finished nicely - which at a minimum requires a lot of thought, and usually a good bit of money. However, if the garage is minimally outfitted because it is intended to be temporary, how do you and your husband feel about 'camping out' for 3 years?

If your parents will have a good use for the apt. when you leave, then I would recommend the book below - it's terrific and provides lot of examples.

I have no experience with the family aspect of your question, and of course don't know you and your family, but I would think that your parents might enjoy having the grandchild so close, and you might appreciate having your parents nearby to help with the baby. But you all should discuss what the day-to-day living arrangements would be like to reduce the likelihood of conflicts. And your husband's opinion should definitely be in the mix.

Can you or your husband help your parents with anything - for example repairs, lawn mowing, cooking, etc.? I suspect you'll feel more independent if you give back more than the loan repayment.

Here is a link that might be useful: inlaws, outlaws and granny flats

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 10:24AM
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Here is a link that might be useful: inlaws, outlaws and granny flats

This post was edited by mjlb on Wed, May 28, 14 at 10:27

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 10:25AM
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That's a generous offer they've made you. The deal sounds good for you, financially. And your parents can rent it out after you leave.

As for the privacy question, they probably have the same concern. You and your mom should probably have a talk and come up with some rules in advance. No showing up without calling, or whatever. And that works both ways.

Three years doesn't sound like a super long time to me. But I'm older, so 3 years would fly by. That could work for you very well, depending on your attitude and whether you all get along well. And your parents will probably love having easy access to their grandson, and you won't have far to go to drop off baby boy for his afternoon with grandma! It's just possible you'll look back on this arrangement with fondness, in the years to come. It's not like you're single with no kids and will be partying every night, doing things you wouldn't want your parents to know about (like I was doing in my 20s).

A problem may come in with the cost. As a poster above mentioned, the renovation may cost more than they originally plan on, and then what? In renovating, problems come up. Problems cost money. Decisions are changed, and that costs money. Could you end up paying more than $500? That's a critical thing in this arrangement, since the renovation isn't done yet. Or will they foot the bill for cost overruns, since it's their property?

I moved back into mom's house when I was in my 20s, for a while. It worked out fine, and I wasn't particularly close with my mother. I enjoyed spending time with her and seeing her on a regular basis. I still remember that time fondly, and how kind it was of her to let me stay with her during that time, while I got my life on the right track.

I'd do it, if the renovation cost issue I mentioned were ironed out beforehand. How nice of your parents to make this offer. You have some great parents. And I'm sure you're a great daughter, which is why they made the offer!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 1:51AM
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I commend you for thinking about making sacrifices now to become debt free. Go to one of Dave Ramsey's seminars, or buy his book, where he teaches people how to get on a budget and maintain a laser focus to reach their financial goals.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:07AM
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I wonder if it fits the building code in their area. That could be a problem to have two houses no matter how small the second one it on one property. Added hit to the septic or sewer hook up costs. Just be sure it is a permitted plan before you get too deep into doing it.

We lived in an 800 SQ Ft house for almost 4 years and it was great. Big living room two 12 by 12 bedrooms with small walk in closets and a dinky bath which was a pain and kitchen was 10 by 10. It all worked and we used to have lots of company.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 2:59PM
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I think it has lots of benefits to you as long as you make a commitment to yourself that they will be rules. Have a sit down and talk about how your life might be and if they would have problems with company etc. Where will they put their cars and yours too? Will any noise annoy them? Always call before they pop in or the opposite. I see no reason why it wouldn't work out and what grandparents wouldn't love being close to their grand. It's a bigger sacrifice for them than you and your husband so you'd have to be patient if there are small annoyances and there will be for sure. To me it looks like a good deal. My sister had her daughter and family (four kids under ten) come and live with them for three years so they could save and buy a house. It all worked out although I was like my sister's therapist when it was happening lol. She's a neat freak and her daughter is not. I talked her off the bridge lol. Good luck and keep a sense of humor.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 10:26AM
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The older the baby gets, the smaller that already small space will seem. It's also too close to your parents, close enough to actually be considered living together. I would NOT do it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:26AM
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When I moved to FL my mom found me the apartment down stairs from her. They were looking to buy a house. I thought it would be to close for comfort but it worked out fine. My dad would always ask where I was when I didn't come home from work tho.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Get it all in writing.

Who is responsible if there are problems? (The plumbing blocks up, etc.) Who carries insurance in case there is a fire? What would happen if for some unforeseen reason you could not pay the rent? What would happen if you got pregnant again and decided you needed a bigger place? What happens if your parents become ill and need help? What if you and your parents have an unforeseen falling out?
The points made about city codes are very good. Make sure it is all going to be done with permits.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 7:40AM
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