In-Law Home for Sale in Palo Alto

I’ve covered this home a couple of times in the past and now it is for sale. The price seems very high, but for this area of California it is the norm. You can view the listing at and learn more about the builder New Avenue Homes at their website.

Here is the description of this little in-law home: This modular net zero energy home was designed as a model of sustainability. New Avenue Inc. partnered with the DOE and the cities of Palo Alto and San Jose to create this home and it will be open to the public until April 2013. Anyone can visit the home and experience what a well designed in-law unit or backyard cottage feels like. New Avenue Inc., will move the home to your backyard or land after the city’s education program ends.


New Avenue will manage the engineering, permitting and financing of this home for you. The majority of homes in California have the right to put this in their own backyard.

in-law house floor plan

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yonna - September 13, 2012 Reply

Beautiful little home! I’d LOVE to find something like this here in my neck of the woods(Baltimore MD)…I have the yard, and the demand.

Question: What is the height in the loft? With a spiral stair, I would expect to fully stand at the top.

Very interesting kitchenette design as well!

    yonna - September 13, 2012 Reply

    whoa…$180K for this? Those are California prices, for sure. Would LOVE to see this in MD prices instead…

      Kevin - September 13, 2012 Reply

      Hello all – yes 180K is a LOT of money. I’m the designer and builder of the home and we usually complete homes in California for about 30% less.

      The 180K includes the home and an estimate for completing the set of the modular home on a real foundation along with all permits and utility hook ups.

      This house has all the stuff I dream of buying in it. That either makes it my perfect litte home or an over the top home. Either way – I’ll list some of the costs to add some context

      Inside the house:
      $20,000: The Miele appliances cost close to this for a cooktop, oven, hood, microwave, dishwasher and washer/dryer
      $7,000: Glass tile in the kitchen and bathroom from Fireclay tile
      $5,000: for Teragren bamboo floors
      $2,000: Rohl bathroom fixtures
      $5,000: Icestone recycled glass counters
      $3,000: Metal roof
      $3,000 James Hardie Artisan siding
      $5,000 Trex deck
      $9,000 custom steel spiral stairs from

      Estimated Crazy Calfornian Stuff:
      $20,000 for foundation with all sorts of extra rebar and steel hold-downs for earthquakes
      $10,000 for site utilities to attach gas, water, electric, sewer to a 100 year old home.
      $5,000 to ship the home on a custom oversize load truck
      $20,000 in permit fees to a local government (can be anywhere from $2,000-$40,000 in CA)
      $2,500 to build a nice trellis and awning on the home when it’s in its final location
      $2,000 to move and reinstall the wheelchair ramp.

      So that’s an off the cuff summary of what makes the house approx $100,000 more than other small homes like this.

      If you have your own oversize load house moving company and remote land that is out of sight of any local inspectors, and you are totally comfortable breaking all the building codes in the state of California, then you’re looking at a HUGE savings.

      Or if you live in a part of the country where there are no building codes – then you can build your own version for at least half the price.

      That said – you get what you pay for in construction. And I’ll be honest, I like the expensive stuff and if I could afford to keep this home myself I’d do it in a second.

        Cindy - September 14, 2012 Reply

        That was very gracious of you to provide such a detailed list of the cost! Thank-you! The house is beautiful, and when you take off the extra’s costs to build in California – the price is not bad. Especially since you are using such high end items! You could economize with those things, but what you’ve chosen is very nice. I LOVE the spiral staircase – and reclaimed countertops. The shower is beautiful! Have you thought about making the plans available for sale? This little house would be perfect for a guest house – boomerang kid – or in-law. I have a need for all three someday (starting with the boomerang kid!) Thanks!

        Spencer Fleury - September 21, 2012 Reply

        Wow, it really adds up quickly, doesn’t it? I’m most surprised about permit fees that could reach as high as $40K!

      Patrick Roanhouse - September 13, 2012 Reply

      Hey Yovva you want to start a Tiny home meetup group. I’m in the Baltimore area too.

liz - September 13, 2012 Reply

bwahahaha, under $200k for ANY standalone home in that area of palo alto? yeah, jump directly on that if you can.

    Al - September 13, 2012 Reply

    Why would it be more expensive in CA? No land included and materials are not that different across the country.

liz goertz - September 13, 2012 Reply

You can get a 3 bed room two bath with walk out basement on 1/4 ac lot in my town for 150. In town, walking distance to down town, library, community college and Carnegie hall. voted coolest sm town in America 2011.

Angela - September 13, 2012 Reply

That seems a LOT of money even if it is located in CA.

Angela - September 13, 2012 Reply

I can’t find Walt’s comment at the moment but I agree with it. $85,000.00 just for the house without land, utilities, preping the site is too much for some of us who work full time and don’t make truck loads of money. I keep looking for something small so I can get out of my condo, yet keep my pets and piano. Yes, this is beautiful and I would like one but all told I can’t afford this.

Victoria - September 13, 2012 Reply

I live in Palo Alto. This town is the epicenter of another boom; consequently, cost of housing has sky-rocketed, listings sells within days with multiple offers and overbids. I have had friends who have lived in rentals for years who are having to move away because of steep increases in rent. It’s sad to see what is happening here; it is very difficult to live in this community unless one is very wealthy or has landed a job with a company like Google, Facebook, or a start-up with lots of venture capital money behind it. I would love to build a tiny house in my backyard and rent out my main house, but this city would not approve it. My 5,000 sf lot is “too small” per the city’s rules to have a second accessory dwelling unit or “granny flat” (I would be approved if I lived in Santa Cruz, another nearby college town!).

    Kevin - September 13, 2012 Reply

    Hey Victoria –

    That 5,000 square foot lot isn’t a problem. If you know the codes, you can build a small home almost anywhere. We’d love to help you out if you are interested in building one of these.

    Check out and send us a note if you’d like to chat.

      Victoria - September 13, 2012 Reply


      Unless the city of Palo Alto has changed their building codes on ADUs within the past month, then, yes, a 5k sf lot is a problem. I checked with the city a few months ago and was informed that the minimum lot size for either an attached or detached ADU is 9k sf. (I did not ask what is the minimum sf allowed for an ADU since it was a moot point, but I would be surprised if they allowed less than 200 sf, which is what I would want to build). Unless I decide to just build something without a permit and run the risk of being found out and ordered to remove the ADU, I am out of luck. The maddening thing about this issue is that the state of CA has a mandate for all state municipalities to allow single family
      homeowners to build an ADU on their property. But the law was changed a few years ago to let each city decide the restrictions for permiting ADUs. Therefore, a 5k lot is too small for Palo Alto but OK for Santa Cruz. I understand that the city of Santa Cruz has excellent ADU guidelines and that they actually help and encourage homeowners to construct ADUs. Santa Cruz recognizes the community-enhancing value of ADUs; I wish I could say the same thing about the
      city of Palo Alto! Perhaps it is time to approach the city (and other towns) and try to enlighten them to the tremendous benefits of ADUs, tiny houses on wheels, and other small-scale bungalows in pocket neighborhoods.

        KC - October 25, 2012 Reply

        There are a lot of knitting studios, yoga studios, offices, workshops and pool houses in Palo Alto. Many of them are A LOT bigger than this home and while they aren’t ADUs, they make great homes for people.

Mopsa - Inspira fundo - September 13, 2012 Reply

Love it! Except for the price o.O Here in Portugal people still laugh at the concept of a tiny house. It’s a shame!

Carol - September 13, 2012 Reply

I’d like to know more about this tiny home. Is this a model for sale? And you need to have a large lot?
I too live in Palo Alto on a 5K lot — and no, they have very strict setback rules from back and sides. This house would sit smack in the middle of the small backyard.

debby - September 13, 2012 Reply

The idea of “tiny” homes is supposed to be less of a strain on the environment as well as the owner not having to carry so much debt…this isn’t quite true with this home.

    Paul - September 15, 2012 Reply

    My thoughts exactly Debby; living small doesn’t just mean physical size but also carbon footprint and costs!

    I say, in this case, do away with all the ‘designer’ names, just make do with practical (and much cheaper) alternatives!

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - September 14, 2012 Reply

Love the look outside and the floorplan. It could be built for much cheaper if you have the know-how, so I’m just keeping that in mind. Not only do I not want to spend that much, but I don’t want to live in California.

Jana - September 14, 2012 Reply

California housing prices are insane, and that tiny house was built for someone with loads of money. The rest of us don’t have $20,000 worth of appliances or a $9k staircase.

Benjamin - September 14, 2012 Reply

I don’t see a fridge in the kitchen. Is it hiding somewhere?

amanda - September 15, 2012 Reply

Kent, thanks so much for sharing this one. It is stunningly beautiful. I also would never be able to afford this, but I don’t think that’s any reason not to post it on the site. It’s a tiny-house “dream home” and definitely fits the bill for that–a lovely space to dream about. And it’s clear from what Kevin has said that they build homes with other materials, which I’m sure would be in other people’s price range. I looked through a lot of the photos on their site and am completely taken by the designs.

Lux - September 15, 2012 Reply

I called my real estate agent as I was willing to put in up to a quarter of a million on it for the land alone. But he could not pull up anything for sale at the address. If you read closely, what is for sale is just the building which they are willing to move to your backyard.

So a 5000 sq feet piece of land here should go for around $800k. Thus, the $180k is just the price of the building – not including the land. Nothing to get excited about here, bay area folks, ,who know how much land in Palo Alto goes for.

Brook - September 15, 2012 Reply

Hi y’all,
I’m a builder and like to tell a story to show why people feel the need to spend more for things. Once upon a time, two identical dudes were drinking in a bar. They had 2 identical Ferraris outside. One dude paid 80k and the other 100k. Since neither was sure which car was better, the dude who paid more had the better car. When there is no objective value the price determines the worth. That said, the house is wonderful and right in the heart of Silicon Valley huge money and, honestly, $200-$300 dollars a square foot for new construction is upper-middle class. The very rich are still spending $1000-$2000 per square foot on some monstrosities. At 6-10,000 square feet, that’s a lot of capital.

Linda - September 15, 2012 Reply

Thanks for the breakdown on costs, the interior is truly lovely and well thought out. I too (live in the SFBay area) had a moment at the price tag. I’m sure this is perfect for someone and with the moving and permitting costs well OK.
I agree that selling the plans would be great for those of us already paying mortgages….

Richard Bryant AIA - September 17, 2012 Reply

This nice example clearly shows the disparity in housing costs from one side of the country to the other. Sometimes code and zoning requirements will jack up the cost of even the most simple solution. The sad fact is that the cost of living also does not follow any logical path. The federal minimum wage, medicare, and social security rates are the same no matter where you live. There is no adjustment in these key retirement and wage programs to account for the differences in local and state taxes, and regulations that inflate the cost of housing.

So the real tiny house solution is to build and live in areas that have historic low housing and land costs if you want to retire and downsize to a “tiny house”. By all means, avoid the uber expensive states and communities and seek out those communities where the costs have not exploded. Palo Alto is a place to avoid, just as is Stockholm, where a 904 sq. ft. condo in a very old building will run a cool $1.66 million.

Sean - September 18, 2012 Reply

Hello Brook, regarding your Ferrari story. The gentleman who paid more doesn’t have the better car.

That sir would be called a sucker.

Deni O'Quinn - September 20, 2012 Reply

Wow….I have 40 acres in northern Arizona that I would love to build up with these Tiny Houses. Do you give quantity discounts?? Ha Ha

Jack Moore - September 21, 2012 Reply

i am interested in complete plans and a cut list

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Chris - September 6, 2015 Reply


I am interested in purchasing this tiny home. I have been pre-approved. I am a physician in AZ currently; but, longing to move back to California. I am from Northern California.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

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