Accessory Dwelling Units on Martha's Vineyard

Jen Hawkins O'Hanlon, REALTOR®


Martha's Vineyard is a place where people seek refuge from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Still, it's also a destination where homeowners are discovering the unique advantages of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). In this blog post, we'll explore the world of ADUs on Martha's Vineyard and how they can benefit you, whether you're in search of a new home or looking to make the most of your existing property.

What Are ADUs?

As defined by AARP, an ADU is a small residential unit that shares a single-family lot with a larger primary dwelling. These units are self-contained living spaces, complete with a kitchen or kitchenette, a bathroom, and a sleeping area. ADUs can either be located within, attached to, or detached from the main residence. They can be repurposed from existing structures, like garages, or constructed from the ground up.

Understanding ADU Benefits - ADUs offer a range of benefits for both buyers and homeowners, as highlighted by Freddie Mac and the AARP:

  1. Living Close Yet Separate: ADUs allow family members to live in close proximity while maintaining separate living spaces. This arrangement offers the best of both worlds—enjoying each other's company and support when needed, along with the privacy and independence everyone values. If this concept appeals to you, consider seeking a home with an existing ADU or adding one to your current residence.

  2. Aging in Place: ADUs provide older individuals the opportunity to live near loved ones who can offer assistance as they age. This setup ensures they have the independence they desire while having a support network close at hand. If you have aging parents and wish to keep them nearby, exploring homes with ADUs or adding one to your property could be a viable option.

  3. Affordability: ADUs are generally more cost-effective to build compared to larger standalone homes. Constructing an ADU can also enhance your property's overall value.

  4. Income Generation: If you own a property with an ADU or decide to build one on your land, it can serve as a source of rental income, which can be used to cover your mortgage payments. It's important to note that, traditionally, ADUs cannot be sold separately from the primary residence on a single-family lot. However, regulations regarding this matter are evolving in some states. It's advisable to consult with a real estate professional to understand your specific options.

On Martha's Vineyard, we usually refer to these as Guest Houses. However, in most areas, a Guest House is not meant to be occupied by long-term tenants and does not have a kitchen or full bath. The idea of a guest house is that they’re a temporary residence for friends and family of the property's owner. Lots of ADUs or Guest Houses on Martha's Vineyard are used as vacation rentals, sometimes considered to be a step up from your typical bed and breakfast, but still not quite the same as a luxury hotel.

Additionally, on Martha's Vineyard, there is zoning that allows for Detached Bedrooms. This is what is often described as a Guest House elsewhere, but is described on the Island as "a freestanding structure or a bedroom over a non-habitable accessory structure and all of the following: a) bedroom and bathroom only; b) no sitting rooms, no entrance alcoves, no hallways; c) the footprint, measured by the inside perimeter of the proposed livable space, is no larger than 400 square feet (including bathroom, closets, and enclosed porches; d) plumbing in the bathroom only, and limited to one hand sink, one toilet, and one bathtub/shower; e) no stove or refrigerator."

Regardless of what they are called and where in the country they are, there are certainly many advantages of having an ADU on your property. As Scott Wild, SVP of Consulting at John Burns Research, says: “It’s gone from a small niche in the market to a much more impactful part of new housing.

In Conclusion: Martha's Vineyard is not only a place of natural beauty and cultural richness but also a location where Accessory Dwelling Units can significantly enhance your homeownership experience. Whether you're seeking additional income, accommodating family members, or increasing the value of your property, ADUs offer a range of benefits that can make island living even more enjoyable.

If you're interested in looking for properties with ADUs or would like to transform and ADU into a vacation rental, reach out to one of our real estate professionals who can help you understand local codes and regulations for this type of housing and what’s available on Martha's Vineyard. 


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