Building a Casita in Your Backyard: What You Need to Know

An Abodu One ADU cedar siding casita sitting in a California backyard with minimalist furniture and an assortment of Western cacti plants.

An Abodu One ADU cedar siding casita sitting in a California backyard with minimalist furniture and an assortment of Western cacti plants.


December 27, 2023ADU Law

Casita is a Spanish word that translates to “little house.” Also called guest houses, mother-in-law suites, or granny flats, casitas are detached or semi-detached, self-contained living quarters on a property with an existing or proposed main home.

You may wonder if a casita is an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Yes, all casitas are ADUs; however, not all ADUs are casitas.

What is a prefab casita?

Casitas can be prefab or stick-built designs. Prefab casitas are made off-site in a dedicated construction location, then delivered and installed on your property. Stick-built casitas are built on-site from the ground up.

Benefits of prefabricated homes or ADUs

Prefabrication allows for efficient use of time and less chance for wasted materials. Prefab homes typically have fewer delays than stick-built because construction takes place in a controlled environment where weather won’t impact materials or construction days.

Prefab homes also have a lower carbon footprint and are more environmentally friendly than traditional builds.

What are the different types of prefab casitas?

Casitas typically have a living room and one bedroom, but they can have up to three bedrooms. They also usually have a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry unit. Casitas traditionally have open floor plans so the living space feels more expansive.

Installing a casita in California

A casita provides homeowners with versatile extra space that can serve as a home office, pool house, or rental unit to make rental income. A casita is also a great way to bring your family closer. Elderly parents or other family members can live nearby while maintaining independence.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development, California Health and Safety Code, Section 65583(c)(7), requires cities and towns throughout the state to develop plans that incentivize ADU construction to encourage building affordable housing. In 2021, Los Angeles launched the Accessory Dwelling Unit Standard Plan, which streamlines the permitting process with pre-approved designs. The same year, San Jose launched a program providing short-term 0% interest rates to cover construction costs for residents building ADUs within city limits.

Local building codes and permits for ADUs

The first step when installing an ADU is to ensure your project complies with all local zoning and building regulations. Height, square footage, and setback restrictions vary between municipalities. Obtain all necessary permits, which typically include a building permit. You may need additional permits for utility installations like gas and electrical.

Choosing a design or floor plan for your casita

Decide the size of a casita and scope of your casita project. Your casita’s intended use will help determine the ideal floor plan. A home office might be a one-room unit with a bathroom, while a rental unit may include more than one bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchenette.

Choose long-lasting materials that are easy to clean for a durable casita. Materials and finishes can help your main house and casita look cohesive.

The building process is easy with help from professionals

From floor plans to installation, casita construction might involve electrical work and plumbing. Hiring a professional home builder helps ensure you meet all local requirements and have the safest, most efficient build possible.

How much does it cost to create a prefab casita?

The cost to build a prefab casita depends on the layout and square footage of the project. Abodu’s prefab models range from $228,800 to $439,000. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Abodu Studio starts at $228,800 for a 340-square-foot unit with a studio bedroom and one bathroom.

  • Abodu One starts at $268,800 for a 500-square-foot unit with one bedroom and one bathroom.

  • Abodu Two starts at $312,800 for a 610-square-foot unit with two bedrooms and one bathroom.

  • Abodu Two+ starts at $392,800 for an 800-square-foot unit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

  • Dwell House starts at $439,000 for a premium 540-square-foot unit with one bedroom and one bathroom that’s meticulously designed and has the best materials.

Homeowners typically spend between $36,700 and $55,000 in upgrades and custom site work. Sales tax and permit costs vary between cities but might land around $17,000.

ADU financing in California

California residents have a few loan options for ADU financing. Homeowners can choose a home equity line of credit (HELOC), a construction loan, or cash-out refinancing.

A HELOC is a specified amount of credit rather than a loan with a fixed amount that’s paid out all at once. You can withdraw money as needed up to the limit. HELOCs typically must be repaid over ten years.

Construction loans are short-term loans specifically for funding building a new home. Once the ADU is complete, you’ll pay off the balance or roll it into a mortgage. Some construction loans automatically convert into mortgages.

Cash-out refinancing may be the simplest way to finance an ADU. It combines the unpaid balance of your current loan into a new one that covers the ADU's cost.

Why choose Abodu for your prefab casita?

Abodu simplifies the casita building process, from obtaining permits to installing your casita. We’ll work with you to determine the best prefab layout for your property; then, we’ll ensure your casita complies with all local requirements and obtain all necessary permits.

Build your casita with Abodu

Ready to add a casita to your property? Our experts can help you choose the perfect prefab casita for your needs. Schedule a call or showroom tour and get ready to enjoy your new prefab casita.

Contact Abodu to help you build your ADU in California.

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