Top Prefab ADUs in Southern California | 2024 Review
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Top Prefab ADUs in Southern California | 2024 Review

|Oct 31, 2023
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There are several reasons to want a prefab ADU in Southern California. The most common one today is to set up a home office to enable you to work from home. Other equally vital reasons include expanding your home, creating an elderly residence, modern garden shed, or backyard cabin

New updates to California law are making Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, a much more interesting proposition for local homeowners. That’s especially the case for those folks who have a large enough backyard area to add an ADU that won’t disturb the look and feel of the place. 

Getting a prefab ADU in Southern California can allow you to set up a home office space or extra living area within a matter of days. Knowing this, we want to talk about any of the remaining restrictions that may still be in place for people who want to add an ADU to a Southern California home. 

Also, we want to explore what you need to take into account when you shop, particularly for a prefabricated option. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to choose the best modern prefab ADU for your Southern California home.

Pod sale

List of the Best Prefab ADUs in Southern California

The manufacturer builds a prefabricated (prefab) ADU away from the project site and brings it when ready for installation. 

Setting up this unit type is faster than constructing an ADU from the ground up on your property. It is cost-effective as prefab ADUs are built based on already-made plans that skip the architecture and design process. 

If you’re ready to add an ADU to your property but want to avoid the hassle of planning and construction, a prefab home is the way to go. 

Begin finding a company that makes units that fit your objectives. Also, ensure their units are quality. 

If you have no idea how to do this, then keep reading. This article will guide you through what to consider when getting a modern prefab ADU in Southern California. 

1. Autonomous WorkPod

WorkPod is a nice blend of privacy and the outdoors. The doors are large enough to prevent users from feeling confined. However, you get the privacy you require from its sound insulation properties. This keeps unnecessary noise out of the unit to help you focus when inside. 

Using this prefab ADU in Southern California as a work-at-home space eliminates the time wasted on transportation while providing the office feeling. It also contains everything vital for completing your tasks.The unit has an anti-fatigue mat that comforts your feet when you're inside. It also has accessories such as a filing cabinet, cable tray, and dual monitor arm.

2. Autonomous WorkPod Lite

An Autonomous WorkPod Lite enables you to increase space in your home cost-effectively. You can use it to manage space in your backyard for profitable endeavors.

The wooden walls of the unit provide tensile strength and exceptional protection from the weather. You don't have to worry if it is snowing heavily outside or if the sun is blazing hot. Being inside the Pod keeps you safe.

Electrical appliances transform the interior of this prefab ADU in Southern California into a cozy habitat not so far away from home.

3. Autonomous StudioPod

Consider buying this prefab studio for your home if you need extra space. You can install it quickly in your backyard without any inconvenience. 

The prefab ADU unit has several utilities such as a desk, bookcase, foldable coffee table, TV stand, convertible couch, etc. These make it an ideal space for working, living, or playing.

It has an aluminum exterior that is beautiful and waterproof. The environmentally friendly honeycomb paper used in its production also provides soundproofing and insulation when you're inside.

Users who want extra cash can rent it out of use for Airbnb. It has all the electrical and HVACconnections necessary to make it functional.

The inner lights have three mood settings for effects.

4. Bay Modular

A Bay Modular Southern California modular home can be a guest cottage, extra bedroom, or work-from-home office. It comes in different designs and options that enable you to install it without spending too much. 

You can get an entry-level unit you can use as a studio. This includes a modern kitchen and bath, making it a complete living space.

5. Modern Empathy

A Modern Empathy ADU enables you to save on adding extra space to your home. The company designs the unit to fit well as a backyard shed studio

It is a cost-effective way to create a private environment for parents, children, or any tenant.

You have the option of getting this prefab ADU in a custom design.

6. My ADU 4 Less

Buy a My ADU 4 Less prefab unit if you have limited time, space, and budget for adding extra space to your home. The company focuses on full-service design and construction for residents in Southern California.

7. Steelbox

These Southern California prefab homes look bigger from the inside due to their design efficiency. Steelbox creates ADUs that are beautiful and cost-effective. 

You can use it as a guest house, residence for the elderly, man cave, or just rent it out. The ADU comes in different competitive finance options for all classes of users.

8. California Modulars

California Modulars is a family-owned business that produces eco-friendly prefab ADUs in Southern California with high energy efficiency. 

It is certified by California Housing & Community Development for its use of high-quality materials in its prefab ADUs. You get a turnkey building service when you buy the unit.

9. Plant Prefab

Plant Prefab is one of the most popular ADU manufacturers in California. However, they deliver units to users anywhere in the United States.

The company produces highly functional prefab units that are also aesthetically pleasing. You can customize your ADU to include options such as smart home technology. 

Plant Prefab conducts comprehensive research into materials for making the unit. The stains, sealants, and paints are environmentally sustainable and optimized for natural airflow.

10. My Turnkey ADU

The cold-formed steel frame of this My Turnkey ADU makes it highly durable. It is an excellent unit for you to use as an additional living or rental space. 

You can get the move-in-ready ADU or building kit option with the appropriate budget.

11. Masaya Homes

Masaya Homes makes ADUs with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Even though the company is in California, the prefab units ship worldwide because of their eco-friendly nature. 

The wood for making this unit comes from reforestation projects. It is a very affordable living option for California residents.

12. Meka Modular

Meka Modular prefab ADU in Southern California is excellent as a home, backyard office, studio, or storage unit. It meets all the local building codes in California and is cost-effective. 

You pay for the unit, bathroom, flooring, interior wall finishes, etc. However, this doesn't include appliances.

13. Abodu

Although Abodu is in California, it sells ADUs to residents there and in other locations. The unit has a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom design option. This includes a bathroom, kitchen, and living room.

You can get it as an extra living space or a home office.

14. Spacial Homes

Special offers a modular accessory dwelling unit with floor plans and built-in storage to maximize space. This creates a spacious unit that embraces natural light and promotes ventilation.

The company is ready to help you get a permit, plan, and install their prefab ADU at an affordable price.

15. Dvele

Get a Dvele prefab unit if you want options for modern small homes. These are customizable and include smart technology to automate several activities.

The Southern California prefab home has sensors that collect real-time data to enable it to learn the best settings for its residents. It also regulates water heating, air conditioning, and humidity to ensure the unit is energy efficient.

Dvele offers floor plans, finishes, and additional features that come together in a custom lookbook based on your ideas. With details about your site, the company provides a cost estimate to help you budget properly.

16. Maxable

Get a Maxable prefab ADU for your backyard studio or office. 

Maxable helps homeowners find the right turnkey services for adding an ADU to their property. The company has experts ready to help you design and plan your unit. 

These professionals also help evaluate your site’s readiness per your objectives.

17. Clever Homes

Consider Clever Homes units if you want energy-efficient and affordable modern prefab ADU in Southern California. 

The company uses a set of templates and design systems to develop uniquely sustainable ADU projects. Many of its prefab pods are suitable for homes that need to expand or home offices.

These units have sustainable features such as water catchment, solar panels, and systems that run on alternative energy sources. There are also options for frames made of steel and recycled materials instead of wood.

What to Consider When Choosing ADU Builders in Southern California?

One of the first things that we would’ve advised people to read up on before choosing an ADU builder was the experience that the company had with those types of structures. This is still a relevant tip today, but maybe not for the same reasons. Up until late 2023, there were plenty of legal constraints around building ADUs. 

It was important for homeowners to choose builders who were aware of what the law dictated and if there were any restrictions in place to set up an ADU on their property. The last thing that you want to have happen in any home improvement project is to be forced to tear down something that you’ve already built over a technicality. As mentioned, laws are no longer that restrictive to the point where this would still be a major concern. 

The builders that you choose should still have previous experience with these types of projects. Experience is rather crucial when you’re trying to set up some type of plumbing network that’s going to connect to the ADU. Is it going to hook up to the one that you have in the main house, or are you going to have to add a septic tank to deal with the waste generated in the unit? 

These may not be the flashiest questions that you would’ve wanted to ask the company that you’re looking to hire to build a modular ADU in your Southern California home. That’s part of the point we’re trying to make here. Don’t get so caught up in the design of the place that you forget to talk about elements that may be even more essential to the long-term usage of the area.

workpod for developer

Unit Size

You must know the size of the prefab ADU you want to get before anything. 

Firstly, you don't want to get a unit bigger than the available space in your backyard. You end up wasting time and money even if you can return it. This is because you will pay for transportation of the unit to and from the site. 

Knowing the size you want also helps you understand which company to approach. 

Another reason is that there are regulations about the size of units in some jurisdictions within the state. An example is the 800-square feet limit for one-bedroom ADUs in San Francisco. 

You don't want to break any building codes on size. 

Floor Plan and Unit Design

Knowing the size of the prefab ADU you want is not enough. Have a fair idea of the floor plan and unit design before you buy one.

ADUs are smaller, but this is no excuse for them to be cramped. You must check out the designs and layout plans of the units you want to buy. With the appropriate design scheme, your ADU can feel spacious. 

To make your ADU this welcoming, opt for layouts that maximize space. Your floor plan should be open with a few partition walls between the different living areas. 

Choose a layout that lets in as much natural light as possible. This means opting for designs with large windows, skylight installations, and sliding glass doors. Such a layout makes the unit seem bigger than it actually is. 

Prefab ADUs with tall ceilings also help your space feel larger. However, there are regulations in certain California jurisdictions that only allow ceiling heights up to 16 feet. 

The best ADU designs integrate several built-in storage spaces. This way, you don’t have large dressers taking up floor space. Wall storage, shelves, and multipurpose furniture units keep your floor plan as open as possible. 

Floor Plan and Unit Design

Permits and Certifications

Federal and state building codes guide what you can construct and how to do it. These ensure that properties don't infringe on the rights of other citizens, are safe to be inside or around, and are also environmentally sustainable.

California enforces specific energy efficiency standards to ensure that ADUs are eco-friendly.

Another example is the Certified Passive House Designer certificate which assesses homes based on their ecological footprint.

Your ADU company should also follow the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen).

These regulations include standards for environmental factors such as water and energy efficiency and material conservation.

Installation Skills Required

After buying the prefab ADU comes the issue of installation. Are you going to do that yourself, or will you get help from professionals? 

Some companies provide in-house teams to help you set up the unit you buy. This saves a lot of time and effort, even though it may come at an extra cost.

Installation Skills Required

Turnkey Level

Turnkey covers the time it takes for your ADU to be ready to use after buying it. Choose a unit with a short period if you are in a hurry. However, if you have time to spare, you can take your time. 

You pay more for those with short turnkey times.

Do You Like the Designs That the Company Offers?

When you’re done asking the questions about how this company is going to get power to the ADU and other key elements that will allow the area to be a fully working structure, you can move on to the next phase. If you’re looking at ADU kits in Southern California, this next question is really simple. Do you like what you see from that company? 

There are currently plenty of companies that sell prefab ADU units. We’ve seen that there are two main options that you’re going to be able to find. Some companies are still selling very traditional-looking small homes or even sheds that are mainly meant to be used as storage spaces. 

Some of the new up-and-coming companies that sell prefab ADUs in the region are selling much more modern structures. What’s important to keep in mind here is that one design concept isn’t necessarily better than the next because it’s more modern. It’s really important to pick a design that’s going to match the look and feel of the property. 

People who, let’s say, have a colonial-style home may not benefit from the more modern ADU options out there. The modern structure could look completely out of place when put up against a more traditional-looking main house. There are some homes, on the other hand, where a modern structure will look perfectly in sync with what’s already in place.  

If you feel that you’ve looked all over the place and you just can’t find a prefab ADU that meets the design requirements that you have, then it’s certainly time to explore the idea of building something from scratch. There’s obviously a downside to this option; for one, it’s going to take more time to build, and the whole project will likely be more expensive. If the end result is one that you like, then it may still be worth it.

Do You Like the Designs That the Company Offers?

How to Deal with the Concept of Space?

There’s a spacing issue that we’ve seen showing up much more in homes where people have decided to add a prefab ADU and not build one from scratch. The problem is super simple: people look at the dimensions of the ADU online and then run some numbers and figure that they can, in fact, fit it in their property. Confident that their calculations are correct, they go ahead and order the ADU.

It’s one thing, though, to have a unit that fits in the home, and it’s another to have a unit that looks good in it. Sometimes, certain ADUs are too large for a home, even if they technically fit. What ends up happening is that the ADU eats up the entire backyard space.

When that happens, it can change the entire look and feel and property. What’s even worse at times is that an ADU that looks too large on a property can start raising some eyebrows with the HOA. Even though regulations throughout the state regarding these units have softened, some HOAs are still very protective of the look and feel of the neighborhood. 

As you’re taking into account the amount of space that the ADU is going to take up, you should also consider that you may not be able to put the unit anywhere in your backyard. This is where those questions about how you’re going to get electricity running through the unit and how waste will be handled show up again. If you need to add a septic tank on the property to deal with waste, that needs its own space as well.     

To sum up this point, we just want to say that you can’t just look at the size of the ADU and the size of your property and think it’s going to fit just fine. There are other elements relevant to the installation that can take up space as well. Ideally, you’ll want to create an area that has a sense of harmony to it.

How to Deal with the Concept of Space?

ADU Laws and Requirements in California

Laws around ADUs are changing fast, and all of the new regulations are causing many of these units to pop up all over Southern California. Now, there are no requirements on lot size to be able to build an ADU. In the previous iteration of the law, certain properties were just deemed too small to be able to set up an ADU in them. 

ADUs can now be built at the same time as the main house on the property. Local codes had a lot of restrictions when it came to the amount of “work” that could be done on a property in a given time. Now, the law protects homeowners a bit more and has taken power away from the HOAs. 

When someone goes to apply for a permit to be able to build an ADU in their home, they have to receive a response within 60 days. If the HOA finds an irregularity with the structure, they have to give the property owner some time to comply with the regulations. These organizations aren’t able to order demolition as easily as they were able to in the past. 

One of the biggest changes to the law that has taken place in 2023 came regarding ownership of these units. Before this change, the ADU was not considered a separate property from the main house. That meant that the property owner could not sell the place as a separate home. 

In the new law, a property owner can apply to make the ADU a separate entity from the main house. These units can potentially now be sold as separate condos. This change can bring up some other issues regarding property lines and access. It’s meant, though, to provide an alternative that local lawmakers hope will birth new affordable housing options.

ADU Laws and Requirements in California

You Still Have to Apply for Permits & Go Through a Process

Even though regulations have softened up a bit, you still have to apply for a permit with the city. The HOA may still have certain requirements that you’ll want to meet. Many of these requirements revolve around the building process. You want to run through them before you commit to starting a project. 

As mentioned, one of the main benefits of some of the newer regulations is that cities are making a point to streamline the process of getting a permit. The law about a permit only taking 60 days to arrive is one that only dates back to 2020. What homeowners can’t afford to do is think that they can install an ADU and figure out the bureaucratic mess later. 

There’s typically more leniency with prefab ADUs; there are some that can be installed without the need for a permit from the city. The problem is the HOA could still come knocking at your door. These situations can be really frustrating because even if you’re doing nothing wrong, an altercation with the HOA could delay the project. 

Getting the Right Builders on the Project, Even for Prefab ADUs

Is the current process of setting up an ADU within a property in Southern California much easier than it has ever been? The new laws would point to the idea that it is, in fact, easier to build an ADU than ever before. However, this doesn’t mean that getting the right builders on the project isn’t essential. 

We’ve mentioned that the right building company will be able to process the right permits to be able to complete the project. If they happen to have experience with your HOA, that could be a big plus as well. There are certain Homeowners Associations that are especially picky. When a company has worked in the area before, they’re less likely to be caught off guard by some of the things that they may try and throw at them. 

There are prefab ADU options that you could potentially just hook up to the main house through a simple connection, and you can get electricity in the unit. This may seem like a simple procedure, but you may still want someone to go through the wiring. To ensure that not only will the unit’s lights work okay, but you won’t be adding too much to your monthly electric bill. 

Prefab ADUs can be very “simple” to set up, and you can, in fact, have one up and running a few hours after it arrives on your property. There are certain elements, though, that you’re going to want to “double-check” to ensure everything will run smoothly in the long term. The best way to cross the t’s and dot the i’s is to have a good contractor running the show.

Getting the Right Builders on the Project, Even for Prefab ADUs

Final Thoughts

Should homeowners want to have their ADUs be a separate property from the main house? That really depends on what they want to do with the property. The main takeaway from the new laws, though, should be that they’re making building an ADU in Southern California easier. 

People who have been forced into a home office environment could really take advantage of this to set up an area away from the main house where they’ll find privacy. If you want to look at an ADU in a more fun way, you could set up a game room outside of the main house as well.   

What should also be celebrated about these new regulations is that they provide more freedom for homeowners to truly be able to do what they want on their own property. In the past, Southern California was known for being rather restrictive with homeowners.

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