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In-law suites: More room for mom and pop

What we'll cover

  • What an in-law suite is

  • Things to consider when home shopping

  • Ideas for using extra space

It’s becoming increasingly more common for aging parents to move in with their grown children. According to the Pew Research Center, the amount of U.S. adults in multigenerational households has quadrupled since 1971.

Not surprisingly, the in-law suite — a private living space attached to or located near your house — is becoming a more popular housing option, especially for millennials who anticipate that, at some point, they will have their parents living with them, whether it’s for medical reasons, childcare or simply wanting to be closer.

Regardless of the reason, knowing the right information about in-law suites can give you confidence to decide whether to take this step.

What's an in-law suite? 

An in-law suite is the most common name for a small, apartment-like space on the same property as, or even attached to, a single-family home.

These dwellings are living spaces usually equipped with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and a separate entrance from the primary residence. You can find these guest quarters in the basement or attic of a house, above the garage or — if zoning rules allow — as a secondary building in your backyard.

What should you know when considering an in-law suite? 

If you’re interested in this additional space, keep a few things in mind when shopping around.


Out of all the houses in a given area, only a handful will have existing in-law suites. If you're looking for a new home, you might have to expand your search or compromise on some of your must-haves to land a separate living space. To find homes with an in-law suite, you can filter by keywords on real estate websites.

Tip: ComeHome by Ally Home allows you to filter your home search options by what matters most to you. Or, if you’re already a homeowner, you can enter your home’s address to learn valuable insights and tools before your next project.


Because you’re getting additional space (and in some instances, a completely separate building), expect to pay more for a house that comes equipped with an in-law suite. In America’s biggest cities, a home with an in-law suite offers a 30% home value increase than a home without one.

You can also add an in-law suite to your existing residence. (Check your local zoning codes before hiring a contractor.)

The cost of constructing an in-law suite can vary but may range between $150 per square foot and up to $300 per square foot, or $60,000 to $360,000, depending on whether you put an addition on your home or build a standalone structure in your backyard. A more affordable option is to repurpose your attic, basement, garage or unused room.

In America’s biggest cities, a home with an in-law suite offers a 30% home value increase than a home without one.

Renovating your house may seem like an expensive upfront cost but having this space may save you money in the long run (because you could potentially avoid other long-term care expenses, such as a nursing home or flight fares).

Other uses

There are plenty of alternative uses:

  • Home office: Today’s workplace environment encourages remote and flexible working, meaning more and more buyers are looking for a dedicated place to work from home.

  • Guest quarters: When out-of-town visitors come around, this is the perfect space to give them a little privacy and save them some money.

  • Rental apartment: Perhaps the most popular alternate option, in-law suites could be a source of additional income.

  • Entertainment space: Create the ultimate chill space by turning it into an in-home movie theater. Or let your children unleash their creative possibilities by using the space as an art studio.

No matter what you dream up for the extra space, an in-law suite may make a valuable addition to your single-family house.

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