In-law apartments spurring rise in home valuation

The term "in-law apartments" may send a cold chill down the spine of many married homeowners, but the feature could increase your home valuation. According to the Wall Street Journal, units for aging relatives are becoming one of the most sought-after home amenities.

In 2012, Pulte Group, one of the nation's largest home builders, surveyed 550 homeowners with one or more living parents. The study found that roughly one third of respondents expected or intended to care for an aging relative at home, forgoing nursing homes or independent living options. The company introduced a new line of "casitas," or freestanding in-law units, for additions to existing properties. With a separate entrance and a range of accessibility and comfort amenities, the residences could sweeten the pot for a potential buyer down the road. Real estate website Zillow found that properties with in-law apartments, formally termed "accessory dwelling units," were priced 60 percent higher than similar properties without them. 

Susan M. Duncan of the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification at University of Southern California praised the new trend. "An ADU occupies the same space as an apartment but makes it into a private, freestanding home, Duncan told AARP. "Privacy is something we all strive for. And families are happier because the TV can be as loud as you want without disturbing the grandkids doing homework."

The trend poses a creative challenge for architects, charged with designing the most space, cost and privacy-efficient dwellings for properties occupied by multiple generations of a single family. In recent years, senior advocacy groups like AARP have successfully battled regulation against the construction of such units, so building has never been easier. With the market rolling out a la carte options for new structures, consumers may see the additions become more realistic for their own families.