In a world of aging parents and adult children returning home after college, Realtors are receiving more requests from house hunters for homes that have an in-law suite or apartment. Many first time buyers are also considering properties that offer income from tenants or roommates to augment their monthly expenses. We also consistently receive questions on whether auxiliary housing (tiny house, second unit or apartment over a garage) is allowed.

While zoning and overlay restrictions currently limit auxiliary housing in the Nashville area, important conversations are underway with city planning and local leaders on meeting this growing need. We can look to other communities around the country who are embracing new solutions to this challenge.

In other cities, tiny houses added to backyards are becoming more popular as a solution for affordable housing. These efficient spaces help owners age in place by providing rental income to offset increasingly expensive homeownership, and they are also utilized to provide private family member housing for young adults, disabled or senior family members. A quick search online offers dozens of options for prefab and kit tiny homes, both on wheels and permanent foundations.

One new alternative that is meeting the individual needs faced by disability or fragile health is a handicap-accessible all-in-one prefab pod that provides a kitchen, living space and full bath. These homes include many safety and convenience features, including specialty options like a built-in lift (from bed to bath without caregiver having to lift the patient.) These pods offer peace of mind for family members while allowing for some autonomy and privacy for the resident.

Before investing in one of these options, it’s important to confirm what is permitted on your property with local codes and zoning.

What if your home is currently zoned for single-family only? Many homeowners are opting to hire a contractor to convert a garage, basement or attic or add square footage for an in-law apartment. Aging in place options could include installing an elevator to your existing home (options start at $12,000), a walk-in tub, widening doorways, adding wheelchair ramps, plus installing accessible features like grab bars and easy to turn knobs and faucets.

If you’re planning to buy a home, consider your future needs. Also, be sure to discuss your needs with your Realtor as you evaluate whether to sell or renovate, and particularly as you begin the process of finding the perfect place to call home.