Thinking of adding a guest house to your property? If so, you may have heard the phrase permitted guest house in places like Houston, Dallas, and Austin. But what exactly is a permitted guest house?

In this article, we’re going to outline the regulations to follow, the dos and don’t. And give you some background needed before undertaking this project …so you can be armed with some understanding of what’s required when building a permitted guest house.

Here’s the quick summary, then we’ll head into more detail…

A permitted guest house is an additional dwelling within your plot that can provide a number of uses, from guests over to stay, to a guesthouse. An ADU in Texas is possible provided you follow local zoning laws and permits for your area. This may include land use application and development codes.

That’s the summary, but there’s far more to consider around each of these points. Read on to get more in-depth detail.

Building a permitted guest house in Texas

To better understand this topic, we need to first define what a guest house is. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a guest house as “a building used for guests” or “a house run as a boarding house or a bed and breakfast”.

This can actually encompass a number of uses, where you can use it as a source of revenue, or a place for elderly family members to enjoy your time with you.

It can also be for the friend that always seems to drop by on weekends, but at least you have a different pad for them to stay in.

The rules are similar to an accessory dwelling unit (ADUs). But firstly, can you build a guest house in Texas?

Can I build a guest house in Texas?

Again the legalities of such a guest home or ‘tiny home’ are completely dependent on where you are living in Texas.

Regulations are municipal or city-specific and completely depend on the zoning laws of the city. It all depends on how large your plot of land is and some areas can be more lenient than others.

A very lenient example is the city of Houston, TX, which doesn’t have any zoning laws and just requires some minimal paperwork to get started.

That doesn’t mean it’s the wild west of building a guest house in Texas. Similar rules do apply when building a regular home, such as the requirement for a building permit. And in most cases, a requirement to include its own utilities.

If, for example, you want to build a guest house in Austin, Texas, you need to apply for a land-use application. The earlier you do this, the easier it will be to begin building out that home, as this application can take time.

Even for the most accomodating place in Texas for tiny homes or guest homes, Spur, Texas, you still need to follow all the rules that are required for that area. Or you could face tough penalties for not being compliant with all the rules and construction ordinances.

Homeowners association

Keep in mind also that where zoning requirements are met, your project may be vetoed by the homeowners association based on terms and types of rental options.

Ensure you check the HOA rules. There may be a chance your property can be grandfathered. At the very least, they may be able to give you an indication of the local viability of your project.

What is considered a guest house?

A guest house can really come in two different flavors…

When discussing a guest house you are talking about a dependent structure that doesn’t always have its own utilities and plumbing. It is a place to sleep and stay over with the majority of amenities being in the main home.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADUs) is where you cross over this line and are essentially building an independent “self-sustaining” dwelling – not connected to the main home in most cases.

These will likely fall under stricter guidelines – because ultimately you’re building a second home on your land.

Here are some firmer definitions between a guest house and an ADU just so we can be clear…

Guest house:

A dwelling or accommodation less substantial than the primary residence, and within the boundaries of the main property. Without independently operable plumbing, electricity, and fitted kitchen facilities. Therefore, functional, but reliant on the main property for facilities and amenities.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU):

A fully self-contained independent unit. Less substantial than the main property and within the same plot boundaries. To include kitchen and bathroom facilities and meeting legal requirements for plumbing and electrical supply. Operable as an independent building. Able to house family members, or short-term/long-term residence

How big can a guest house be?

The allowable size of a guest house is very bespoke to each property.

It’s based on specific laws within your home city, but a general rule of thumb is that a guest house in Texas cannot exceed 50% of the size of the primary structure. This is based on an overview of the Texas area.

They are almost always limited to two stories, and never taller than the primary structure.

There are some areas such as Austin, Texas, where the maximum size of a guesthouse (or ADU) can be no larger than 15% of the land plot size, or 1100 square feet, whichever is smaller.

If you decide to construct a second story and turn it into a guest house in Austin, it cannot be larger than 550 square feet.

Another thing to consider is that usually the secondary dwelling …or the attached additional dwelling will need to be in a similar structure and aesthetic as the primary residence.

There are also several rules on the municipality level that covers a variety of items such as distance from the primary structure, additional parking, and other miscellaneous requirements.

How much does a guest house cost?

There is a range of choices when it comes to the cost of a guesthouse in Texas.

It also depends on if they will require independent utilities too, as that can lead to a lot of ancillary costs such as inspections and installations of separate meters.

You can always pre-build your home and have it delivered to your plot of land, and in some municipalities, that’s actually the only way to do it.

At an absolute baseline minimum, you should consider a budget of $80k. The only question then is how much it rises from there. That is largely dependant on the many other factors that encompass size, square footage, quality of materials, number of floors, style, and choice of fittings.

The national average to build an onsite ADU falls between $100k to $300k. So it all depends again on the variables. Ultimately, general calculations indicate that building an ADU on your property amounts to less than a third of the price of the primary residence.

If you’re going to build a 500 square foot home with utilities, a ballpark figure would be around $100,000. You can find cheaper options if you obtain permission from your municipality to use an existing structure.

One example could be an unused detached garage, where the pricing would certainly fall within less than a third of what you would pay for a new home built from the ground up.

There’s also a huge market for modular kit homes. Oftentimes these can even be a flat cost of $5,000-$10,000.

Should I build a guest house?

Absolutely. There’s a lot of support in the Texas area to be able to build either a guest house or a full-on ADU.

A guest house or an ADU can provide a wonderful addition to your home, and as long as you begin the journey properly and fill out all the paperwork, you will most likely benefit in the long term from the extra space …and perhaps the extra revenue from additional rent or ultimately from the house sale.

How to build a guest house in Texas – overview

Whether it’s Houston, Austin, or San Antonio. There will be a process to follow. Here’s a quick roundup of what to expect within that process. When you give us a call we’ll be able to walk you through this process in more detail – coupled with an onsite inspection. Here’s the starting list…

  1. Ensure you learn and understand local laws – regulations concerning zoning and application processes for your area.
  2. Defining the purpose of your guest house – who will be living in it, what is your short and long-term aim for the guest house.
  3. Building type and project overview – including placement, size, style, amenities, and overall costs.
  4. Hiring the right contractor – deciding on the right contractor based on experience and suitability. Check their list of services.
  5. Arranging finance – where required secure the financing and ensure project costs are accounted for.
  6. Working through the build – allow around 4-6 months and be on hand at key points along the way. Be aware of the schedule, and be prepared.
  7. Enjoying the end result – the process will be worth the additional space and/or income. You will benefit for years to come.

Beyond your guest house build

You can have loved ones living with you and be one big happy family, or you can try your hand at becoming a landlord and renting out your ADU to long-term renters, or as short-term guesthouse accommodation.

Regardless, with the right planning and the budget fleshed out in the beginning this is sure to add value to your home if you do ever decide to sell it.

It only adds more options and more growth for your property – and land. It’s a great asset that you can easily finance, and something that offers a great reward once all the construction is complete.

Want to build a permitted guest house in Texas?

We hope this information has provided you with some background on what to look out for and where to begin.

For this type of project, it pays to lean on those with experience. Miel construction has been building ADU’s among other projects for many years. We aim to make the building process less stress-filled and more enjoyable process. Why not call us today or get a quote and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.