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New Kids on the Lawn

Three companies trying to crack the cottage code.


A sleek, detached ADU in Graton, manufactured by Studio Shed and financed by Point. The unit was created out of three of Studio Shed’s 16-by- 34-foot Summit Series homes, which were combined into one two-bed, two-bath unit.

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The central unit is a common area with a kitchen, while each “wing” has one bedroom and bath.

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A shipping container refurbished in 2017 into a 160-square-foot ADU in West Oakland by Boxouse, which sells for approximately $30,000.

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Inside an ADU in West Oakland by Boxhose.

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The Startup That Wants to Prefab Your Guesthouse
Los Angeles–based firm Cover makes customizable, factory-built backyard studios, pool houses, and in-laws. Starting with small accessory homes was “a great way to have a big impact with a relatively small footprint and company,” says CEO and cofounder Alexis Rivas. The company has 8 to 12 homes in the works, each with about a six-month timeline for completion. Prices range from $45,000 for a yoga studio to $170,000 for a two-bedroom backyard house.

The Startup That Treats In-Laws Like Solar Arrays
The three-year-old startup Point has a somewhat complicated premise: It buys a stake in future appreciation in exchange for cash. Last year, it launched a new product aimed at buyers of ADUs. Founder Eoin Matthews says the company can coordinate with local contractors, designers, and permitting departments. For those who need help with financing, the company will soon offer a plan in which it takes a percentage of the rental income, an alternative way to finance projects for people who can’t get a traditional bank loan. “A good analog is the solar world,” Matthews says. “If you were considering solar power 15 years ago, you had to find the panels, then find financing and talk to three different contractors, and it would take three to four months in permitting and six to eight weeks in construction. Now it takes three to four hours and you go to one company.”

The Startup That’s Flipping Shipping Containers
Boxhouse, based in West Oakland, takes decommissioned Port of Oakland shipping containers and turns them into ADUs. Prices range between $8,000 and $65,000, depending on upgrades (permitting fees included). The process takes between one and four months. Customers can also pay a flat monthly fee, starting at $300, to have one placed in their backyard as a rental unit that the company manages. Homeowners collect the rent, and the fee deducted includes installation, management, and tenant placement. Founder Luke Iseman says the company has sold a dozen containers, mostly in Oakland.

Read More About the Granny Flat Explosion:
Grannies Gone Wild: A guide to going big by building small.
Cottage People: Five homeowners who've made room for granny.
Another Thing Canada Does Better: Vancouver shows how cottage laws can ease a crisis.
The Granny Whisperers: Designers, builders, and expediters of backyard flats.


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco  

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