Friday, August 20, 2010

Twelve reasons to create an in-law

After remodeling and selling my sixth house in 1999, it was time to take stock. Was I really up for another rehab? With the kids gone, did I really need all that space? And what was up with housing?

I'd like to say I saw it all coming--the housing bubble and the economic meltdown--but my decision to not buy another house had as much to do with cold feet or, as my financial planner politely puts it, risk aversion. So I parked my money in the bank and moved into an old farm whose outbuildings had been converted to an in-law unit. The site was stunning. It adjoined national parks and thousands of acres of open ranch land. Wild turkeys, bobcats, deer and coyote dropped by from time to time. It was the first time I had rented since 1972 and I had some self-esteem issues around that, but I got over it. The year after I moved into my in-law, the housing bubble popped.

I really got into the in-law life. It offered flexibility and freedom, which I appreciated when the economy got weird. I started reading up on in-law units, learned how widespread they are and in time wrote a book about them, which will be published in Spring, 2011 by Taunton Press: In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats. I was blown away by all the reasons why people create in-law apartments and cottages. Here are twelve:

1. Build a nest egg. 2. Provide a place for your old ma, pa--or your old self a couple years hence. 3. Swap rent for services. Get a tenant who will look after your children, help with housework, and so on. 4. Create a private second unit for an adult child who needs to live at home. 5. Shorten your commute: your in-law can double as a home office. 6. Afford a house. Rental income from an in-law can help. 7. See the world. Many homeowners rent the house and travel once the kids leave home. 8. Invite friends and family for an extended stay. 9. Rekindle a romance. Turn the in-law into a master bedroom and stash the kids out of earshot. 10. Express yourself. Because in-laws are modest, they’re often more fun to design. 11. Live in the in-law while renovating the big house. 12. Build and live green. Thanks to their compact size in-laws are among the greenest ways to create a second dwelling

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