Seattle Backyard Cottages

by Kent Griswold on May 27th, 2010. 15 Comments
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Jordan sent me this article by USA Today about people building backyard cottages in the Seattle area. This would be a great place for a tiny house such as Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Bodega or any other tiny house design. Here is the intro to the article:

John Stoeck is building a one-bedroom, 437-square-foot cottage on the spot where his garage stood before a tree fell on it. Construction costs: about $50,000. When the cottage is finished this summer, he plans to rent it for at least $900 a month, which will make a nice dent in his mortgage payments.

His is just one of about 50 tiny cottages sprouting in backyards across the city as it tries to expand affordable housing options in established neighborhoods without resorting to high rises and apartment complexes. The city changed zoning rules to allow cottages in single-family neighborhoods citywide, rejected a proposed cap of 50 cottages a year and helped organize a design competition to spur creation of reasonably priced plans. The point is not just to allow the cottages, but to encourage them.
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

Read the complete article here at USA Today. Photo Credit USA Today


15 Responses to “Seattle Backyard Cottages”

  1. Kwok says:

    “Construction costs: about $50,000. When the cottage is finished this summer, he plans to rent it for at least $900 a month, which will make a nice dent in his mortgage payments.”

    Uh, this won’t do a thing for his mortgage payments. It just means that the construction costs of the cottage will be paid off after about 55 years. It’ll increase his taxes, too, so make that 60 years.

    If he wanted to save money, he should have tilled a garden, and he’d have kept his privacy as well!

    • Kris says:

      at $900 per month why would it take 55 years to pay off 50K 900 x 12 = 10,800 per year….?

    • Tim says:

      I believe he said he did not have enough insurance money to rebuild the garage after the tree fell on it, but did have enough insurance money to build this, so I do think he is ahead of the deal, may want to listen to that again but that is what I got out of it….Tim

  2. Jeff says:

    Wow! What an eye sore. I feel sorry for neighbors when someone does this in an already overpopulated city like Seattle. Its a shame. I also agree with the above reply.

  3. Kwok says:

    Derp. Boy is my math lousy, huh? The Stoeks won’t see any net contribution to their mortgage for 5 years. Personally, I’d still favor the vegetable garden. ;)

  4. et says:

    Unless they borrow to finance in which case it will take even more than 5 years to pay back. Insurance costs are likely to go up, too.

    Do the math, your situation will vary.

  5. Kay in KCMO says:

    $50,000 seems excessive, I agree. Kathi demonstrated with her Dollhouse that a lovely and functional tiny house can be constructed for considerably less if there’s proper motivation.

    I have no problem whatsoever with backyard cottages; they have the potential to solve affordable housing problems and can be a benefit to those who want/need their families close. Also, urban density is much preferred over sprawling suburbs/exurbs.

    Good planning and wise building choices could alleviate most objections, I think.

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  7. BrooklynGreene says:

    I think it’s wonderful and great for people who are new grandparents but may also have eldercare duties. I wish we could do this easily in NYC. You can’t imagine (most probably) how strict zoning is in NYC.

    Plus, I have to point out it’s refreshing to see USA Today featuring (at least subtly) a lesbian couple. Finally. I hope it’s not some sort of current gay-washing…frankly, it really does seem to me that America is changing culturally. Slowly, but shifting…

  8. Sam says:

    I was going to say exactly what Kay said about Kathi!

    Nice design, but $50,000 is excessive and seems to beat the purpose of paying down your house.

  9. Larson says:

    $50,000 could easily be spent in my area (Pismo Beach, CA) on a garage cottage due to high labor costs, high city fees, and material costs that aren’t all that much lower than a few years ago (around 10-20% less). All of these things seem to add up. We are searching for a builder, we see that the going rate for new construction is around $150/sqft for middle-of-the road amenities. Surely would be less if one did self-work, salvaged materials, etc.

    437sqft x 150 = $65,550.

    Just a perspective.

  10. Seattle007 says:

    A 5-year payback on a real estate investment is an absolute bargain, that means $10,000 a year extra income every year thereafter, plus any rent increases. Even if it’s financed with a loan it will be paid off quickly. I will concur with the CA comment that $50K may be in fact understating the true costs, this guy is an architect and is helping build it too. So factor in more costs for certain higher cost areas of the country. Here’s one company doing them in Seattle for more money than $50K : http://www.backyardbox.net, but looks nice.

  11. Rebecca says:

    This is happening all over Seattle. My son and I made a complete apartment in the bottom half of his split level (less garage). He lost over 600 sf, the 3rd bath, 4th bedroom, and family room. I designed a kitchen in the large family room, and he and a contractor neighbor did most of the work, while I painted. Cost about $5,000. I pay $800 rent, which does dent his mortgage, and have been here two years. I have my own 660 sf house on 13.5 acres in Texas, which is now leased (and will be paid in full next year). Although my layoff 2 yrs ago was disruptive, we have stabilized our assets and improved our family life. They do not want to split the family up again and if my son gets laid off, he buy a used house (like I did) and moving it onto my property and paying me rent. That could be done for about $20k. He has to generate a very large income to cover Seattle prices and he and his wife do not like the rain (I do). I had added a large vegetable garden here, but had a bigger one in Texas (traded for grass fed beef in Texas). Time for Americans to cut some of the dependency on corporations and return to older forms that are more stable.

  12. Adam says:

    I just want blueprints!

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