North Carolina is home to one of the hottest property markets in the country right now. Property in most parts of the state is more expensive to buy than ever and rents continue to go up. With a relatively low cost compared to buying or building a traditional home on its own property, building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on your property a fantastic option to own additional living space or generate income from a rental unit.

But can you build an ADU on your property in North Carolina? Thankfully, in most parts of the state the answer is yes. While there are several things to consider, many parts of North Carolina have become very friendly to homeowners looking to build an ADU.

Building an ADU in North Carolina: What You Need To Know

An ADU is a significant permanent structure, which means you can’t just decide to build one on your property and go for it. There are steps you’ll have to take to be in compliance with local laws and other regulations. Fortunately, these have become easier to navigate as ADUs have increased in popularity in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Can You Build an ADU on Your Property? What To Consider

While it is now easier in many parts of North Carolina to build an ADU on your property, there are still several things you’ll need to consider. Depending on your situation, an ADU may not be permitted on your property. Learning whether or not you can build one early on in the process can help you avoid wasting time and money.

Local Regulations

Regulations about building an ADU vary between cities and towns throughout North Carolina. Some localities have very few regulations about ADUs. Others have rules about where and how you can build an accessory dwelling unit. And some places have regulations that prevent you from building them entirely.

Fortunately, regulations around ADUs in North Carolina are continuing to ease as cities and towns learn more about the value they offer. These regulations may change often, so you will want to make sure you understand the most current laws in your area. Most city and county websites list regulations about accessory units, but you can also call the relevant department for your area – usually the inspection department.

HOA Policies

While they are not a government agency, homeowner’s associations (HOAs) still have a great deal of authority over what you can and can’t build on your property. If your home is part of an HOA, you will also need to check to see if granny flats are permitted by association rules. Even if your HOA allows members to build granny flats on their property, they may have restrictions on their size, location, and appearance. 

Some HOAs list their covenants online. Others only give them to members as a paper copy. If you can’t locate your HOA regulations, you can contact HOA board members. Some HOAs hire property management firms to manage compliance. If that’s the case with your association, the property manager may be the best source of information.

Property Size

Regulations aren’t the only thing to consider. The size of your property limits the size of the ADU you can build, or whether you can build one at all. In addition to the square footage of the ADU you want to build, you also have a few other things to consider. 

You will need to have enough space to have an easily accessible entrance. If you plan on renting your unit, you’ll want a clear path to the unit that doesn’t interfere with your space. You’ll also want to consider having enough distance between your primary home and your in-law suite to limit how much noise travels between the two. But most importantly, you’ll need enough space for workers to move as much as they need to to build your unit.


Can I Build an ADU on My Property in North Carolina?

Again, you can build an ADU on your property in most places in North Carolina. However, regulations and restrictions vary between different cities. As a full-service ADU contractor, we do the legwork of ensuring our clients’ projects are fully in compliance with local laws, HOA regulations, and other restrictions. For your reference, however, we provide links to the official regulations of the main North Carolina cities we serve in the following section.

Building an ADU in Asheville

The city of Asheville allows homeowners to build one accessory dwelling unit on lots that contain a single family home. On its website, the city provides a link to its municipal building codes and a helpful guide to building an ADU in Asheville.

Building an ADU in Charlotte

Homeowners in Charlotte can build an ADU on their property if they own a single-family home. The city requires that the ADU be “clearly subordinate” to the primary residence and cannot be larger than 35% of the size of the primary residence. No matter how large the primary home is,  accessory units are limited to 800 square feet of heated space. You can find the complete list of ADU regulations on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg website.

Building an ADU in Durham

The city of Durham allows homeowners to build one ADU per single-family lot. For most homeowners, accessory dwellings must be no more than 30% of the size of the primary residence. An ADU must be built in such a way that the home maintains its single-family home appearance from the street. Durham has updated its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) in recent years and hosts ADU regulations on its website.

Building an ADU in Raleigh

Raleigh has fewer restrictions than many other cities in North Carolina when it comes to building ADUs. An accessory dwelling must only be smaller than the primary dwelling, but is not limited to a percentage of the primary dwelling’s floorspace. Some areas of Raleigh even allow homeowners to build two ADUs on their property. The city has a helpful FAQ page about its ADU policies on its website.

Building an ADU in Wilmington

Recent updates to regulations have loosened restrictions on ADUs in Wilmington. Homeowners can build one ADU on a single family lot, subject to lot size requirements. Accessory units are limited to 1,000 square feet and cannot have a separate driveway. Wilmington’s list of regulations about building ADUs is relatively short and can be found on the city’s website.

Where Can You Build an ADU On Your Property?

While regulations vary between locations, almost every city or town in North Carolina has rules about where on your property you can build your ADU. These rules typically detail which part of your lot you can build on and stipulate how far from the edge of your property you can build.

Can I Build an ADU in My Backyard?

In most cases, you can build an ADU in your backyard in North Carolina. This is the most common location for an ADU. In many places, your backyard is the only part of your property where you are allowed to build an accessory dwelling.

Can I Build an ADU in My Front Yard?

You can build an ADU in your front yard in some places, but many cities and towns in North Carolina prohibit you from doing so. In places where you can build an accessory unit in your front yard, you are usually required to put it behind some kind of façade.

How Close to the Property Line Can I Build an ADU?

The distance you must put between your ADU and your property line varies depending on where you live in North Carolina. For example, in Durham your ADU must be at least five feet from the property line. In Asheville, an accessory unit must be at least six feet from the property line.

Building an ADU On Your Property in NC: Conclusion

Not only can you build an ADU on your property in North Carolina, the state is increasingly a good place to do it. Regulations continue to change to favor people who want to build an ADU as property values are going up. An ADU is a fantastic option if you want an additional living space for yourself or others and has the potential to generate a healthy passive income as a rental unit in many parts of the state.

Our team is happy to help you find out whether you can build an ADU on your property in NC in multiple locations. If it’s possible, we’ll be even happier to help you take the next step towards building it. We can help you with everything from designing your ADU, to figuring out local regulations, to finding financing for your project, and more. Click the button below to get a free consultation with one of our team members.