What Are In-Law Quarters and What Benefits Do They Offer Homeowners?

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated March 24, 2022
A happy family cooks a meal together
Photo: E+/Getty Images


  • Fully equipped and ideal for hosting guests

  • Well-suited for work and play spaces

  • Though in-law suites have many pros, drawbacks include increased utilities

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In-law suites go by many names. Whether you call them mother-in-law quarters or granny flats, there’s no denying that this unique home addition is useful for so many purposes beyond hosting extended family. Use this guide to learn more about what makes in-law quarters special, as well as some of their potential drawbacks.

What Is an In-Law Suite? 

In-law suites are additional living areas independent from the main home. Sometimes, they are physically separate but located on the same estate, and other times they’re attached to an existing property. They’re intended to be places where your in-laws or aging-in-place parents can live comfortably for an extended period of time. In most cases, they even have separate entrances for extra privacy—so you don’t have to worry about running into anyone before you’ve had your morning coffee. 

Here are some other common features of house plans with in-law suites:

  • Living Room: Though not large, many in-law quarters feature small or midsize dining and living areas.

  • Kitchenette: This feature ranges from small to large in-law quarters and can contain anywhere from minimum to maximum kitchen appliances. 

  • Bathroom: In-law suites also typically feature a bathroom with either a shower or tub but usually don’t have enough space for both. 

  • Bedroom: Most in-law quarters also contain bedrooms with enough space for a queen or king-size bed, plus ample storage for long-term stays. 

Alternative Ways to Use In-Law Quarters

There are a handful of other ways to use in-law suites. Keep reading to find out some of the best ideas for taking advantage of the extra space. 

Make a Fully Equipped At-Home Workspace

Since remote work is here to stay for many professions, having the ideal setup is a must. With an in-law suite, you can create an at-home office that rivals (or surpasses) the one you used to commute to. 

Complete with a separate bathroom, a kitchenette for quick coffee and snacks, and an extra space to stretch out or take a power nap when necessary, in-law suites help you avoid the distractions that usually come up at home, like when you’re working from the kitchen table. And, because you have everything you need, you won’t have to go back into your main domain until the end of your workday.    

Sublet or Rent the Extra Space on a Short-Term Rental Site

You can use in-law suites to host short- and long-term stays, whether to friends in-between homes or tourists passing through your area. Guests will have all the amenities they need to be self-sufficient, and you won’t need to interact except to exchange keys, thanks to a separate entrance. 

Turn It Into a Pool House or Entertainment Center

If you find yourself with an empty in-law suite, dream big. Take advantage of the space by turning it into an at-home movie theater or creating a small pool house set-up. 

Pros and Cons of In-Law Quarters

Tiny home in-law quarters
Photo: ppa5/Adobe Stock

Though in-law quarters have many upsides, there are also a couple of downsides you should consider to figure out if it’s the right addition for you. 

Pro: More Privacy for You and Your Guests

Hosting guests for longer than a couple of days can be difficult if you’re constantly bumping into each other. In-law suites eliminate this problem by allowing guests to live independently—they can cook, eat, sleep, and bathe in their separate space.  

Con: Can Be Complicated to Build

Additions like in-law suites have to comply with local building codes, and the time it takes to get approved can range anywhere from a short to a long time. Plus, building or renovating another part of your home into an in-law suite can be a more costly home project. Expect to pay anywhere from $40,000 to $125,000 for this kind of addition, according to HomeAdvisor. For a home addition quote, contact a general contractor near you.

Pro: Improved Resale Value or Extra Income

Though in-law suites can be expensive to build, the additional square footage can improve your home’s resale value by up to 30%. That doesn’t include what you can also win back by subletting or renting your home on a short-term rental site. 

Con: Increased Utility Bills and Extra Up-Keep

One major downside to in-law suites is that they increase both your energy bills and home maintenance requirements. Unless they’re not in use, you’ll need to pay for additional utilities. You can cover the extra cost for paying guests by including it in their rent, but you may have to take the loss when it comes to family or friends. 

Pro: Additional Storage Space

Some in-law suites are well-organized and large enough to comfortably fit guests and your extra possessions. Use a bit of tiny house design inspiration to build a unique home with plenty of storage space and amenities.

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