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For a homeowner with land to spare, building a guest house or another structure such as a pool house can increase a home’s appeal and amenities and add value to the property.

“Right now, expanding your square footage has great upsides,” said David Siddons, president of the David Siddons Group and senior executive of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Miami. “Universally in the single-family market, the dollar per square foot has gone up so much.”

But in many areas of the U.S., the cost and red tape associated with constructing a full guest house—often technically called a detached accessory dwelling unit—from scratch can make the prospect daunting or even completely unfeasible. Homeowners who want to expand the footprint of their home without facing a zoning nightmare might be wise to take a more flexible approach to creating additional space, such as opting for a pool house or an artist’s studio, converting an existing structure such as a garage or porch area, or even taking advantage of the flexibility of a more temporary addition, such as a tiny home or a “she shed.”

In New York’s Hamptons, for example, strict zoning laws mean that getting permits to build a guest house can be all but impossible for some. Instead, many homeowners choose to construct a structure such as a pool house or an artist’s studio, which are not considered accessory dwelling units, said Hara Kang, licensed associate real estate broker on the Atlantic team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in the Hamptons.

“The major difference between a pool house and a guest house is that you obviously can’t live in a pool house,” he said, “so there are some things that the town won’t let you have [in a home addition], like a stove and sometimes even a bathroom. But for the most part a pool house is quite common out here and that’s what most people are opting for because it’s much easier to get a permit for that.”

In Bend, Oregon, where net in-moves more than tripled in the first year of the pandemic, sending property prices skyrocketing and leading to a shortage of available homes, the city is “very much in favor of higher density” as a means of creating more affordable housing, said Matt Robinson, managing partner of The Agency Bend.

But getting a permit to build a full guest house can still be expensive and time-consuming, so many homeowners opt to build an accessory structure that is suitable for hosting guests but doesn’t have a full kitchen, which would make it categorized as an accessory dwelling unit.