After children grow up and leave the nest, their parents may enjoy their newfound freedom for a while. But as those parents grow older, they and their adult kids may think about living close together again—but in a way that preserves everyone's independence. Enter the granny pod, an affordable living solution for retirees wanting to downsize.
What is a granny pod?
Basically, a granny pod is a small modular home, typically between 300 and 500 square feet, that sits in the backyard of a main house. Think of it as an in-law unit that's designed to be easier to navigate for elderly folks who may have difficulties with mobility or vision.
While the tiny space is ideal for one person, couples can certainly live in the space, too. Like a tiny house, each granny pod typically has a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and bathroom. Also, the unit is mobile, so that if the whole family relocates, Grandma's pod can come, too.
Benefits of a granny pod
What makes a granny pod particularly suitable for seniors are the universal design features such as wide doorways (to allow wheelchair access), an open floor plan, and a walk-in shower.
“For those needing more advanced medical care, some granny pods feature a virtual system that can track one’s blood pressure, glucose levels, heart rate, and blood gases, and share that information with the occupant’s family and physician," says Sophie Kaemmerle, a neighborhood and home improvement expert with NeighborWho, a property information website. "Some systems are also equipped to verbally remind the occupant to take their medications.”
Some granny pods are also designed with voice-controlled smart home features such as door locks, lighting, heating, and window shades. Others are built with more advanced medical amenities like pressurized ventilation systems to keep outdoor air from leaking inside if the resident has a compromised immune system.
How much does a granny pod cost?
The price of a granny pod can range from $40,000 to $125,000, depending on the size and the amenities included, says Kaemmerle. And since you can't take out a mortgage for one, that will need to be paid upfront. On the other hand, the amount is comparable to a down payment on a regular home.
Also, since the pod will share water, sewer, and power with the main house, the property owners will likely see an increase in their utility bills.
Disadvantages of owning a granny pod
If you are considering a granny pod, it’s important to be aware that your property may not be zoned for the addition of an alternative living unit like a guesthouse or granny pod.
“Although some communities have zoning laws which are pod-friendly, in most cases there are several restrictions to follow,” says Kaemmerle. “Also, not all states will allow one to have a granny pod in their backyard.”
Therefore, be sure to inquire with your city planning office about the process of building on your property and the type of permits you'll need.
Granny pods and multigenerational living
Cindi Hagley, a REALTOR® in California, says over the past several years more and more homeowners have expressed interest in them when looking for a home to buy.
“I work with more and more buyers who are looking for a multigenerational solution for their families,” Hagley says. “Granny pods can keep the family together, eliminate high nursing home costs, and allow the elderly to keep their privacy and their dignity."