A casita is a small, self-contained house or cottage built on the property of another residence. Casitas are often used for guests, in-laws, or as rentals. Sometimes they are called guest houses, carriage houses, pool houses, or mother-in-law suites. But the idea is the same; a casita is a smaller detached or semi-detached unit that is built on the property of a larger estate.
The term casita translates literally to little house in Spanish. The style originated in the southwest as dormitories for migrant laborers. They are most common in cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and other parts of the southwest. But the style has popped up all over the US in different forms.
Casitas are popular because of their versatility. They can be utilized in a variety of different ways and add resale value to your home. Here are a few common ways homeowners utilize casitas.
- Keep aging family members close by without invading their privacy: Casitas are great for housing aging parents or other relatives who have lost the ability to live on their own but don’t want to enter a retirement home. If you’ve ever considered a mother in law suite, a casita might be a good option. Inviting your relative to live in your casita gives them privacy and autonomy. Yet, you are still immediately accessible if there is ever an issue.
- Rent it out in the tourist season: Casitas can be great for listing on Airbnb or other vacation rental sites. This can be a great way to make some extra money if you live in an area with a busy tourist season. You can easily keep an eye on the property without being intrusive or getting in the way of your guest. It also allows you to rent your property to strangers without giving them direct access to the primary residence.
- Use it as a guest suite: Casitas make the perfect guest suite if you have friends often come to stay with you from out of town. It’s a great way to offer your acquaintance a place to sleep and shower when they come to visit, without disrupting your routine or getting on each other’s nerves.
- Use it as storage in the down months: A casita can also provide much-needed storage in the months where you don’t have guests staying with you. They make great pool houses if you have a pool or you can keep your holiday decorations stored there when they aren’t being used.
Like any structure you build, the price of a casita will depend on a variety of factors. If you’re constructing a barebones guest house with nothing but a bedroom and a bathroom, it will be less expensive than a casita equipped with a kitchen, living space, appliances, etc.
Typically, a casita should be no larger than about 1200 sq ft or half the size of the originals home. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) – the technical term for a casita – typically cost between $100 and $500 per square foot to construct. This means the costs of building a casita can range from around $40,000 for a compact cabin to upwards of $500,000 for a miniature suite. So, it’s entirely up to you how far you’re willing to go and what you’re willing to spend.
- Increase your property’s resale value: Building an entirely new structure on your property can dramatically increase the resale value. How much you spend vs. how much you can increase the overall property value depends on your tastes and the local real estate market. But a casita adds value to your home and will attract buyers who can use the extra space.
- Use it to help pay your mortgage: You can always rent the casita out and use the extra cash flow to help pay your mortgage. Unless you have an insanely low rate and the guest suite is very luxurious, you probably won’t be able to pay your entire mortgage with the rental income. But it can help you reduce your monthly obligations or pay down the loan sooner.
- Kids love them: Casitas are great for giving kids somewhere to play that is removed from the adults. Or if you have a child in high school or home from college who wants a bit of privacy from mom and dad, you may consider letting them move out into the casita.
Casitas are popular due to their flexibility and cost-effectiveness. You can use a casita for many purposes ranging from an in-law suite for elderly parents you might be taking care of to a cottage for guests. Best of all, it's relatively affordable to build a casita, and the investment is well worth it as it will increase your property value.