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What every buyer needs to know

Buyers Guide

Accessory Dwelling Units

Accessory Dwelling Unit (“ADU”) is a residential living unit that is within or attached to a SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING and that provides independent living facilities for one or more persons, including provisions for sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. 

An accessory dwelling unit is a simple idea: An ADU provides independent living facilities for one or more persons, including provisions for sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. It can be a second small dwelling right on the same grounds (or attached to) your regular single-family house, such as:

  • an apartment over the garage

  • a tiny house (on a foundation) in the backyard

  • a basement apartment

Regardless of its physical form (backyard cottage, basement apartment, etc.), legally an ADU is part of the same property as the main home. It cannot be bought or sold separately, as a condominium or a dwelling on wheels might be. The owner of the ADU is the owner of the main home.

  1.  ADUs are little-understood and occasionally controversial because basic facts about them are still unclear. 

  2. Financing is currently a major barrier to ADU development, largely because ADU rental income is not recognized by the lending system. 

  3. ADUs offer tremendous potential to address the increasing aging population and needs for small and accessible dwellings, but beware restrictions vary significantly town to town, so be sure to do your research with the Town Hall.

People want an ADU for lots of reasons, but the most common goals, according to one study, are gaining income via rent and housing a family member.

Flexibility in housing makes sense for environmental, lifestyle, and financial reasons. Though many people buy houses and live in them for decades, their actual needs change over time.  But the way that houses are currently built doesn’t reflect those changes, especially the way households may spend decades with just 1 or 2 members.  Many American houses are too big for 1- or 2-person households, which is too bad, because size is probably the biggest single factor in the environmental impact of a house.


Wolfeboro ADU Specifics (12/2018)

1. A maximum of one (1) accessory dwelling unit (ADU) per property is permitted. An ADU shall not be permitted on a property where more than one DWELLING UNIT currently exists. 

2. Exterior alterations, enlargements, or extensions of the SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING are permitted in order to accommodate the ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT. However, no such change is permitted which would alter the appearance of the SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING to look like a duplex or any other multi-family structure (i.e., the house shall not look like it was designed to occupy more than one family). The exterior door to the ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT shall be located to the side or rear of the building whenever possible. The ADU shall be connected to the main dwelling unit by an interior door. 

3. The area of an ADU shall not exceed 30% of the TOTAL FLOOR AREA of the SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING, including the ADU, or 750 square feet, whichever is larger. 

4. A minimum of one dedicated off-street parking space shall be provided for the ADU. 

5. The property owner must occupy one of the two dwelling units and provide proof of occupancy. The owner-occupied unit cannot be sublet. 

6. Where municipal sewer service is not provided, the septic system shall meet NH Water Supply and Pollution Control Division requirements for the combined system demand for total occupancy of the premises.

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