Granny Pod Vs. Mother-In-Law Suite: What's The Difference?

Nobody quite knows how to press our buttons more than our family members. Yet, despite how our families may drive us crazy, we love them unconditionally and value our time with them. We want our children to get ice cream with grandpa on Saturdays and pancakes with grandma on Sundays. We want to spend quality time with our siblings and cousins, creating friendships that last a lifetime. The strong desire to be close to our families has the trend of granny pods and mother-in-law suites on the rise.

These additional areas of the home, often referred to as accessory dwelling units (ADU), offer independent spaces that are still connected to a main house for all of our family and friends to take advantage of. Pew Research Center found that 20% of the U.S. population, 64 million Americans, live in multigenerational households. And, in an era that values small living, these spaces are the answer to seamless lodging with our families. While granny pods and mother-in-law suites are very similar, they do have their differences.

What exactly are granny pods and mother-in-law suites?

Not quite a tiny home and too small to really be considered a guest house, granny pods and mother-in-law suites have carved out their own categories. House Method describes a granny pod as an individual and independent residential unit attached to or on the same property as a family home. All water, sewage, and electricity are shared with the main house. It will consist of a small kitchenette, a bathroom, a bedroom, and usually a living space, which can sometimes also be the bedroom in studio-esque style. A mother-in-law suite will have all of these same features as well, but the real difference lies in who the rooms are meant for.

Just as their names entail, a granny pod will have amenities suited for the elderly that mother-in-law suites may not have. People often build these pods for their older family members to avoid nursing homes and offer more personalized care that is closer to home. Granny pods will feature resources such as railings, ramps, lifts, and cushioned flooring. Your mother-in-law suite will be a much more standard guest area that is not necessarily targeted at an older demographic.

How and where to start

There are many reasons to think about adding a granny pod or mother-in-law suite to your property. Besides the apparent inclination to offer up a space for family, these ADUs increase property value and can double as an Airbnb for any time of the year that family may not be visiting. Getting started with these units presents a lot of hoops to jump through, but they are well worth it. The first thing to consider is your state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire codes. Once you square away the requirements for construction, you'll want to consider a modular or prefabricated home and steer clear of manufactured ones. Modular and prefabricated builds will only require you to follow state regulations, as opposed to manufactured builds needing to be in line with federal laws.

Metal Building Homes estimates that a granny pod and mother-in-law suite can cost between $40,000 to $125,000, with granny pods being on the higher end of the spectrum. Granny pods will naturally be more costly as they incorporate amenities for the elderly. However, when you consider the annual cost of nursing homes, which can be more than $100,000 a year, granny pods certainly seem more affordable. Building any home is a complex endeavor with many moving parts, but it'll be invaluable once you've got new memories with loved ones rolling in.