How to Pick the Right ADU Builder (And Why That’s Crucial)

How to Pick the Right ADU Builder (And Why That’s Crucial)

Picking the right ADU builder is a vital step in the process of building an ADU. Here’s everything you need to know about it!

Have you mulled all the benefits of an ADU and decided you want one gracing your backyard? Congratulations! Generally speaking, ADUs have a lot more pros than cons to them, given that they:

  • increase your overall property value
  • provide a potential side income
  • provide more usable and livable space

So, it’s safe to say that the decision to build a backyard cottage is a good one. However, although making that decision was a huge step, you have many, bigger ones ahead of you.

In order to ensure that the process of building an accessory dwelling unit goes without a hitch, you’ll need a good contractor. Saying that, however, is easier than actually finding a builder who will ensure your project is stress-free. Although the internet is full of tips on how to find a good contractor, you have to actually consider the fact that building an ADU isn’t the same as building or renovating a single-family home.

So, let’s see what you have to consider before you hire an ADU builder.

ADU Builder Checklist

picking the right adu builder in california

No matter what the reason behind your decision to build an ADU was, you need it to be done impeccably. Even if you’re just building a granny flat to accommodate your own needs (as a new home office, for example), you still need to be sure that it will be built properly. To do that, you need to find a builder who will:

  • explain the entire process to you
  • plan everything
  • offer both design and construction services
  • show outstanding reviews and references
  • provide proof of current licenses and insurance
  • offer warranty

Start From the Top

Your search for the right ADU builder might seem daunting. With the popularity of ADUs in both the US and Canada growing exponentially, ADU builders are popping everywhere. They all claim to have years of experience and the best policies to get you where you need to be. But which of them are the real deal and which are a well-designed future headache.

The first step in the vetting process of any potential ADU builder is to make sure they actually DO build ADUs. You need to ask them for their portfolio and look at their previous projects.

Finding a good builder in California has always been a difficult task. That’s especially true today when California’s construction of single-family and multifamily homes is meager at best. California was responsible for 6.9% of all single-family homes built nationwide up until this year when that number fell to 6.3%. You’d think that this change would leave plenty of builders available for more projects (including building ADUs), but the truth is that ADUs take a certain kind of builder.

That’s why checking if a building company actually builds accessory dwelling units is a crucial step.

ADU builder References and Reviews

things you need to know when choosing the right contractor

Even before COVID-19 made us stay at home for significant periods of time, looking things up online has been everyone’s go-to move. Finding a builder is no different. So, when you conduct your online search for a company that will build you the ADU of your dreams, it’s essential that you check their online references and reviews.

Keep in mind that just reading through reviews won’t help you much. If you can, contact the previous clients of builders you’re interested in and hear first-hand just how pleased (or displeased) they are.

However, even in this online era we live in, word of mouth is still the most effective way to advertise. So, while making your list of potential builders, make sure you ask family, friends, and acquaintances who have ADUs about which builders met their needs (and which ones failed miserably). 


It’s vital that your builder can plan the entire project from start to finish and stay on top of that plan no matter what happens during the construction process. But it’s just as important that they are willing to listen to your vision and adapt to it.

Turn-key solutions, like the ones that Cedar offers, are a fantastic way to build an ADU because you practically don’t have to do anything. However, those solutions need to include and value your input (just like Cedar’s do). If the builder tries to steer the discussion in their own direction, then it’s worth considering whether you want to work with such a company.

Licenses and Insurance

Before you shake hands and make a deal with a builder, make sure they are a licensed business that has the proper insurance. You can check each company with your local municipality to see if their licenses are up to date.

adu builder checklist

Things You Need to Know 

Aside from going over your builder checklist, before actually making a decision and signing a contract, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this affordable? And is it too affordable?
  • What does the contractor offer in terms of services?
  • Who will handle the permits?
  • Will I get any help with financing, or am I on my own?

No matter what type of ADU you want to build, you need to check if the builder is the right fit before you start your project.

ADU Builder is Too Good to be True? It Probably Is

If you’re dreaming of an ADU builder who will build the place of your dreams in a few weeks and keep the construction cost so low you end up saving a huge amount of money, you need to wake up. 

Going for the lowest bid is never a good decision. Sure, there are builders out there who will probably be willing and able to build you an ADU that’s way below the average of $156,000.

However, given that there are a lot of factors that contribute to the end price of an ADU, saving money often means cutting corners.

So, if you get a quote that’s way below what other reputable firms are offering, and you start thinking to yourself, “Wow, this is almost too good to be true!” it probably is. 

Bids that are lower than the average probably come from companies that either cut costs on materials or forgot to calculate some things into their bottom line.

Construction and Design

construction and design

ADUs have a specific design to them. That’s what makes them so special. They aren’t just tiny single-family homes or additional space that’s non-functional. They are fully equipped livable spaces that offer all the amenities that typical houses do but are constructed in a way that’s functional and adaptable.

That’s why you need a builder that offers both construction and design. Building a small dwelling is a difficult project to pull. It means planning and designing a house so that all space (no matter how small) ends up being usable.

If a company can’t provide design plans, that means you’ll have to do the planning yourself. If you are a master designer, that’s not a problem. However, since most people aren’t, it might mean the entire project ends up costing more than planned.

ADU Permits Are No Joke

All turn-key solutions should include all ADU permits. If your builder doesn’t provide permits, that means you’ll have to file and get them yourself. It also means you’ll have to pay for them. Not to mention, it means you’ll have to look into zoning laws and building regulations to ensure you’re following the letter of the California zoning law.

This may lead to delays and unnecessary headaches. It’s always best to hire a company that will obtain licenses and permits, deal with the paperwork, schedule inspections, etc., instead of you.

Help With Financing Is a Huge Benefit

Unless you’re incredibly lucky, you’ll probably need some help with financing your ADU project. That means you’ll have to go to your bank, get a loan, and put up something as collateral. 

Although not impossible, financing an ADU is not easy. Some companies, such as Cedar, offer help with financing and will guide their clients through the entire process. Cedar can help you secure funding for your project, ensure you get an affordable down-payment and low interest rates.

Essentially, companies that offer help with financing will help you get approved for more cash upfront. That can make a huge difference for your project because it might allow you to build an ADU of your dreams rather than settle for something “affordable.”  

These are all the things you need to consider well before you sign any contract (let alone lay the foundations for your future ADU).

ADU Builder of Your Dreams | Cedar

building an adu with cedar

To recap, picking the right ADU builder means:

  • Checking references and reviews (as well as licenses) that talk about their experience and expertise
  • Picking a company that offers both planning and design, and construction
  • Not going for the most affordable option
  • Choosing a company that incorporates your vision during every step of the project
  • Selecting a company that offers help with financing

Cedar’s turn-key solutions are cozy yet modern constructions that will add value to your home. We guarantee noise-friendly, expert construction, offer the most eco-friendly ADUs on the market, and provide help with financing and renting out. So give us a call, and let’s start working on your ADU vision today!