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Mike Gordon
  • San Jose, CA
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Constructing ADU in Tucson AZ?

Mike Gordon
  • San Jose, CA
Posted Sep 24 2023, 08:41

I own a property in Tucson AZ that's on a large lot with plenty of room to build an ADU. The city passed an ordinance a few years ago to allow ADUs without zoning laws, so I think it's easy to get ADU construction approved.

My question is about cost. What's a cost effective way to build an ADU so that the return on the rent will make sense? I've seen prices between $100k-$250k as I've researched it. At the low end it makes sense. At the high end it doesn't.

How do you go about this? Does pre-fab work? Buy plans and hire a construction company? How much are utility hookups? Anyone with advice or experience with building an ADU and renting it for STR/LTR?

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Replied Oct 27 2023, 02:59

Hi Mike. There are some reliable prefab providers of ADUs like ZenniHome and Dvele. Most prefab mfrs require deposit and the unit to be 100% paid for when it ships to your job. Most often they can help you find financing.

STR depends on your jurisdiction, some require Owner-Occupied for the main residence, others do not. Best to check with your city.

Buying premade plans might work but each site is so different you might want to consult with an adu expert like Kol Peterson, or Derek Sherrell.

Whatever you build it for, to be conservative you might want to underwrite for the 1% rule and 10% interest.

That ADU Guy on youtube covers a lot on cost, he does much of the work himself, and targets a $100k, 100 day build. Jullee Felsman on youtube goes through more options

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Jay Thomas
  • Real Estate Agent
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Jay Thomas
  • Real Estate Agent
Replied Oct 27 2023, 03:57

For a cost-effective accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Tucson, Arizona, consider prefab ADUs, which are quick and affordable, with prices ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. Building your own ADU is an option if you're handy but requires more time and effort. Utility hookups cost around $5,000 in Tucson. Opt for a small and simple design, use prefab materials, get multiple contractor quotes, and decide between short-term or long-term rentals. Prefab ADUs are often the most cost-effective choice, being less expensive and quicker to assemble on your property.

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Replied Oct 28 2023, 18:29

This calc might help, also does a basic rental income calc. Attached, conversion, detached numbers. Modular or stick. Not real estimating or underwriting but a start, the numbers smell like a decent range https://www.dwellito.com/adu-cost-calculator I am not affiliated

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Todd Foster
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
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Todd Foster
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
Replied Oct 31 2023, 13:09

Hi Mike,

I was wondering if there was an update. I also own a few properties here in Tucson and looking to do an ADU or 2. Maybe we can meet and share some resources/contacts.

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Marco Cruzatt
  • Civil Engineer
  • Thousand Oaks
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Marco Cruzatt
  • Civil Engineer
  • Thousand Oaks
Replied Nov 7 2023, 22:47

I'm currently building two ADUs at my property. A detached ADU (750 sq.ft) and a Junior ADU (200 sq.ft.)
I'm about to finish the JADU so here is the breakdown,

-$8k-$12k for Plans/Permits/Fees (I'm a Civil Engineer so I was able to save some money and time) The entire Plan Check Process with the City lasted almost 6 months.

I did the construction as owner builder because I have construction experience and hiring a GC was out of the question because I'm not rich. 

1) Rough (Plumbing, Mechanical, Framing and Electrical): Around $25k

2) Finish: Another $25k\

Time to build: 2 months

Note: I was able to get quotes from different contractors and the cheapest I was able to get was $75k. I saved a lot of money but of course I DID NOT take into account my time. It was a great learning experience though and I'm sure the next one will be faster and cheaper.  

Now, the detached ADU will be a much bigger project. The quotes I got from a GC were around $250k. I plan on making it for around $150k

Feel free to reach out. I can probably guide you into the right direction. 

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Marco Cruzatt
  • Civil Engineer
  • Thousand Oaks
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Marco Cruzatt
  • Civil Engineer
  • Thousand Oaks
Replied Nov 7 2023, 22:48
Quote from @Jay Thomas:

For a cost-effective accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Tucson, Arizona, consider prefab ADUs, which are quick and affordable, with prices ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. Building your own ADU is an option if you're handy but requires more time and effort. Utility hookups cost around $5,000 in Tucson. Opt for a small and simple design, use prefab materials, get multiple contractor quotes, and decide between short-term or long-term rentals. Prefab ADUs are often the most cost-effective choice, being less expensive and quicker to assemble on your property.

How are you getting your Utility hookups so cheap? 
Also, with prefab ADU''s you still need a foundation and sewer. That can add a significant amount of money. 

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Christian Rodriguez
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
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Christian Rodriguez
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
Replied Jan 11 2024, 13:59

I'm in the process of converting a 900sqft detached garage in the north east area of Tucson. I just applied for the permits and have plans recently drawn by architect. Architect plans here runs for about $2.50-E3.50 x sq. ft. I will keep you updated as I go. 

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Darrin Hansen
Pro Member
  • Investor
  • Madison WI
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Darrin Hansen
Pro Member
  • Investor
  • Madison WI
Replied Jan 19 2024, 09:26

Tucson recently had a "competition" for ADU's, and are providing the plans for free online.

https://tucson.com/news/local/government-politics/tucson-cas...

I guess the idea was to lower some of the costs as long as there's not much deviation from their pre-approved plans.

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Christian Rodriguez
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
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Christian Rodriguez
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Tucson, AZ
Replied Jan 19 2024, 22:54

Awesome designs thanks for the info.

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Mike Gordon
  • San Jose, CA
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Mike Gordon
  • San Jose, CA
Replied Jan 21 2024, 13:06

@Marco Cruzatt is this in Tucson or CA? It’s not feasible for me to do the work myself so I would have to get a contractor to build or install it.