It was a familiar request. The woman on the phone, who was 87, was looking to buy a place for her and her daughter.
The plan was simple: Her adult daughter would live in a single-family home, and she would be in an accessory dwelling unit — a small, standalone housing unit on the same property that can be used as everything from a yoga studio to a home office to an independent apartment.
She wanted Kent Rodahaver, a Realtor in the Tampa Bay area, to help her find a listing that had one.
So did everyone else.
Accessory dwelling units are rising in popularity in the wake of the pandemic — and for older adults, they’re increasingly viewed as an alternative to a long-term care facility.
“It’s definitely increased since the whole COVID thing started,” said Rodahaver. “ADUs have been popular for at least five or six years. But it’s newsworthy because we’re having supply issues now, and one reason is that people don’t want to put their parents into a facility where they might have health issues.”
Often dubbed “granny flats,” the most popular use of an accessory dwelling unit nationwide this year was to house a parent of the homeowner, according to a new study from HomeLight, a real estate referral company.
The study, which surveyed roughly 1,000 real estate agents, found that about two-thirds of agents cited housing for aging parents as the top reason buyers requested an accessory dwelling in 2021.
The vast majority of Americans — nearly 90 percent — want to age at home rather than in a long-term care setting. Accessory dwelling units may be perfect for seniors who need some support, but don’t require the level of care an assisted living facility provides.
The dwellings, which can be attached to or disconnected from a single-family home, typically have their own kitchen, bathroom and entrance.
Locally, they’re coveted and in short supply — increasing the value of a home by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The average price of a home in the Tampa Bay area is roughly $291,000, Rodahaver said. Add in an accessory dwelling, and the cost jumps to just over $500,000.
“That price increase is pretty substantial,” he said. “But if you were to house your elderly parents in that ADU over a couple of years — compared to putting them into an assisted living facility — it definitely offsets that expense.”
Area developers may build more accessory dwelling units in the future, but for now, they remain elusive amid growing demand.
“The elderly woman I worked with? We couldn’t find what she wanted,” said Rodahaver. “So we found a house right across the street from where her daughter lives instead. At 87 years old, she literally bought herself a new house.”