How do i search for a house that comes with a cottage??? Or a property that allows me to build a cottage (in addition to the main house? Thanks

Asked by Svarma94, Los Altos, CA Tue Mar 23, 2010

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Stu Carson’s answer
Stu Carson, Agent, San Jose, CA
Sun Jul 11, 2010
While you could rely on a Realtor to make the determination, that is a risky proposition for both of you. And while the answer is essentially able to be found in the planning departments zoning regulations, and will very likely involve the a combination of the following factors
- Overall lot size
- % of lot which is back yard (remains beyond the primary residence's foot print)
- % of the remaining lot which is already covered by structure, garage, shed, pool, etc...
- set backs possible
So in a sense, with a big enough lot it can be a fairly quick & simple answer, but with smaller lots the many variables can make for a complex decision. So as a Realtor, it's not a wise idea to give financial or tax advise, anymore than I would want to give someone medical advice.

If I were buying a home or had a client that was, wanting the clear understanding it could have a Granny Unit added, I would want to talk with and expert. By the way these experts (architects typically) are typically knowledgeable about not only the applicable zoning codes, but more importantly having a track record the people in the town or county planning dept that handle such determinations.

So the real key is finding the right architect who know lots of the key players in the town or county department, hopefully from a judge. I'd be happy to provide the name of the architecture I prefer to use.
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Joseph Chen -…, , Palo Alto, CA
Fri Jul 9, 2010
As long as the the homeowner association approves the improvement. Make sure the improvement meets the building cod and not restricted by county and city ordinances. to assign an address to the cottage you probably have to file a request with the city to subdivide your property.

I can help you do the research to find you a home that allows you to built an extra unit.

Please feel free to call me at 650-776-1997

Joseph Chen
Keller Williams Realty
Downtown Palo Alto
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Holder Real…, Agent, Menlo Park, CA
Tue Apr 13, 2010
Hi there.

Working with an experienced agent is a good first step. Your agent should be able to do the research necessary to find viable options for you. Unfortunately, your parameters, like others have said, are not really included in the local MLS.

Working with an experienced agent, one who tours and sells often, should be your best bet. The search will go quicker, there will be less guesswork, and they will be able to talk zoning and building codes about specific properties (since that answer can vary based on the property you're looking at).

Best of luck!
Web Reference:
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The Medford…, Agent, Fremont, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010

It’s not as hard as you might think, but it has to be done by a REALTOR® with access to the full search capabilities of the MLS (multiple listings service). Your REALTOR® will search the entire database of active, available listings for keywords in both public and confidential comments: words such “cottage,” “mother-in-law,” “suite,” “bonus” and so on. In addition, your REALTOR® will want to search the “residential income” category as well – many times additional buildings show up there. Inventory is low so it won’t take long to do the search.

In addition, they can set you up on an auto feed so that anytime a property with these keywords hits the market, you will get an email right away.

As for the question of property where you can build an extra building, your REALTOR® can definitely help you find homes with appropriate zoning.

Speaking of zoning, there were good words of advice below about verifying local zoning and permit issues – no permits can be a huge issue. You don’t want to buy a property with the perfect cottage … only to have the city or county tell you it has to go.

Here are a couple of posts that may be helpful:

You TOO Can Purchase A Ticking Time Bomb! One Easy Step!

What Might Your Next Home Purchase Have In Common With The Titanic?
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Denise Welsh, , Los Altos Hills, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010
That can be a challenge because it is not a characteristic in the data file parameter. You may need to work with an agent who actually knows the inventory in Los Altos.
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Norman Aless…, Agent, San Jose, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010
I would do as Dave suggested and work with an agent experienced with Los Altos Planning Dep. As a matter of fact you should give Dave a call, as he appears to have the experience and is located in Los Altos.
If you have an agent already , then you should still follow the advice given below.
DRE# 01397256
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Dorene Slavi…, Agent, Torrance, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010
Dear Svarma,
In order to "build" a cottage, you will need zoning that allows for more then one residence to be built upon the property have your agent check the zoning on all property they send to you in advance.In order to buy a property that has a cottage, just inform your Buyer agent of this criteria.
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David Blockh…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010

You can do one of two things. Look for a property that already has a second living unit (cottage, pool house etc.) already built or you can look for a property that is large enough to build a cottage on. For either method, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and an experienced local agent are your best resources.

Many properties with cottages are listed on the MLS and some are sold as pocket listings within the Los Altos real estate community. Some of the properties that are for sale have cottages that weren't permitted. You'll need to verify the permit status with either the city of Los Altos building/planning department or the same office in the Santa Clara County office (parts of Los Altos are in the unincorporated part of Santa Clara county (SCC) and fall under their building guidelines).

If you are looking for a property to buy and then add a second living structure, your first stop should be the Los Altos Planning department or the SCC office. I have included the link for the requirements for lot size (it is under Zoning and in general requires a15K sf lot):

I strongly recommend using an agent who has had some planning/building experience with the City of Los Altos because he/she can help you get the correct information faster.

Should you have further questions or want to talk about your specific situation, call me at 650 917-4250. Thanks

Dave Blockhus
Coldwell Banker-Los Altos
650 917-4250
Web Reference:
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Bill Mccord, Agent, San Jose, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010
As Glen says, Our full MLS systems do provide that information where there is already a "cottage".
To know whether a cottage is possible we need to know which City you are talking about as they all have different requierements for this. For example, the City of San Jose will not permit it on a lot smaller than 8,000 sft, and only if it is for the use of a relative.
Other Cities will have similar but different rules.
Be very careful with this process as the only way you can be sure if it is permitted is if the City Planning Dept says so in writing. These folks are usually very helpful.
Good luck, Bill
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Glen Mitchell, Agent, Half Moon Bay, CA
Tue Mar 23, 2010
I can do that for you with my mls system. Just need to know a price range and area you are interested in.

Glen Mitchell
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