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Maximizing your Property Value with an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in Greenville

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Greenville, South Carolina, is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage, thriving arts scene, and friendly neighborhoods. And, as it continues to grow, homeowners are always on the lookout for new ways to increase the value and functionality of their properties. One of the most innovative solutions gaining popularity is the addition of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), also known as a backyard cottage or mother-in-law apartment to your home. In this article, we’re going to talk about what an ADU is, the benefits of including one in your home, and why you might want to consider hiring a Greenville architect for the project.

What is an ADU?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a secondary, smaller living space that exists on the same property as a primary residence. These units can be attached or detached from the main house and often include a separate entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area. With an ADU, homeowners can transform their properties into multi-functional spaces that cater to various needs.

What are the Benefits of Adding an ADU in Greenville?

There are many benefits associated with adding an ADU to your property. The most common of them are to:

Increase Property Value

In a growing city like Greenville, building new features onto your property, like those included in an ADU, can increase property value significantly. By providing additional living space, you make your property more attractive to potential buyers who seek versatility and additional income opportunities.

Accommodate Growing Families

With an ADU, you can accommodate your growing family without having to move or invest in a larger property. An ADU is a perfect space for aging parents, returning college students, or adult children who need some privacy while staying close to their loved ones.

Generate Rental Income

Greenville's thriving economy attracts young professionals, students, and tourists alike. An ADU can serve as a perfect short-term or long-term rental opportunity, providing homeowners with a steady source of income and helping them offset mortgage costs.

Support Aging in Place

For older homeowners, an ADU can be an excellent solution for aging in place. By converting an existing space or building a new unit, you can create a more accessible and comfortable living environment, while keeping aging adults close to family and friends.

Tips for Designing Your ADU Project

Before embarking on your ADU project, it's essential to familiarize yourself with Greenville's zoning and building codes. These regulations may impact your ADU's size, location, and design. For instance, you will need to ensure that your accessory building has its own parking space, meets setback requirements, and that you obtain the necessary permits before construction.

Deciding How Your ADU Looks

When designing your ADU, it's recommended to blend its architectural style with your existing home to maintain visual harmony and enhance your property's curb appeal. This seamless integration can be achieved by matching the exterior finishes, rooflines, and window styles to create a cohesive look that complements the main residence.

It’s also a good idea to start thinking about the desired size of your ADU. These spaces can be as compact as 400 square feet or as spacious as a two-bedroom apartment, depending on your needs and available space. The flexibility of size allows homeowners to create an ADU that fits their unique requirements while adhering to local zoning and building codes.

Understanding Building Laws

Regardless of where you choose to build your ADU, there will be laws and regulations to follow. Some requirements may include:

Setback and height restrictions: Your ADU must comply with the stipulated setback and height limits to ensure proper distance from property lines and surrounding structures.

Utility connections: Your ADU should have appropriate utility connections, such as water, sewer, and electricity, which are subject to inspection by local authorities.

Fire safety: Building an ADU requires adherence to fire safety regulations, including proper egress, smoke detectors, and fire-resistant materials.

Parking requirements: Depending on the location and size of your ADU, you may need to provide additional parking spaces to accommodate the increased occupancy.

Permitting and inspections: Before construction begins, you must obtain all necessary permits and have your ADU inspected to ensure it meets local building codes.

Can You Build an ADU in Greenville?

As we mentioned before, your ADU must adhere to residential and municipal code requirements in Greenville County and the City of Greenville. And, believe it or not, the rules could be different, depending on where you live. Homeowners in Greenville County are typically offered more flexibility and freedom when building their ADU than in the City of Greenville.

Building an ADU in Greenville County

Accessory Dwelling Units are allowed in Greenville County! The only requirements are to ensure that the home remains within property line setbacks, and that it visually blends in with the rest of the home. The only other requirement for these buildings is that they must be connected to the existing home via a covered breezeway.

Building an ADU in Greenville City

Under the current city ordinance in Greenville, ADUs have their own specific requirements and restrictions that determine where they can be legally constructed and operated. Building an ADU within city limits is much more controlled. Here's a breakdown of the current regulations:

Nonresidential Zoning Districts and Multifamily Residentially-Zoned Parcels: ADUs are allowed in nonresidential zoning districts and multifamily residentially-zoned parcels that meet the density requirement. For example, in an RM-1 zone that allows up to 10 units per acre, a parcel with a total lot area of 0.2 acres could legally construct an ADU. The density regulations are detailed in Sec. 19-5.1 of the zoning ordinance.

Single-Family Residential Districts: Currently, ADUs are not permitted in single-family residential districts. However, accessory structures that do not fully accommodate the complete scope of facilities necessary for a dwelling unit classification (quarters for living, sanitation, gathering, and cooking) may still be legally operated in single-family residential zoned neighborhoods.

The proposed draft ordinance, which is currently under review by the Greenville Planning Commission, aims to make ADUs conditionally permitted in all "single-unit" living zones. This change would transition the zoning from single-family to single-principal-unit living, potentially expanding the areas where ADUs are allowed. The Planning Commission is set to resume deliberations on the proposed ordinance on April 11th, 2023. It is essential to keep up-to-date with the proposed changes and the outcome of the Planning Commission's deliberations to ensure your ADU project aligns with the most current regulations in the City of Greenville.

To further navigate these requirements, hiring a Greenville architect is recommended, as they are familiar with Greenville County and City of Greenville regulations. In fact, these experts can not only guide you through the process, but also help you create a functional, aesthetically pleasing, and code-compliant ADU that meets your specific needs and enhances your property's value.

Building Your ADU

ADUs offer a range of versatile options for homeowners in Greenville County and the City of Greenville. They can be constructed at ground level, as basement conversions, or even above a garage. Each of these options has specific requirements that homeowners must consider and adhere to when planning and building their ADU.

Basement ADUs

When converting a basement into an ADU, the ceiling height must be at least 7 feet to ensure adequate living space and meet building code requirements. Proper egress is also crucial for safety, which can be achieved through a window or an exterior door.

For a window to serve as an egress, it must meet specific size and placement criteria. The window should be at least 5.7 square feet, with minimum dimensions of 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. Additionally, its opening must be no higher than 44 inches from the floor. This ensures that the window is large enough and easily accessible for emergency exits.

Garage ADUs

ADUs can also be built in a converted garage or above a garage. Converting a garage into an ADU often requires reconfiguring the interior space, adding insulation, and installing proper utility connections. Building an ADU above a garage may require structural reinforcements and additional stair access. In both cases, homeowners must ensure that their ADUs meet all relevant building codes and regulations.

Determining ADU Accessibility

While some ADUs might only be accessible through the primary residence, typically for convenience purposes, there are some key benefits associated with installing an exterior door into yours. An exterior door offers:

  1. Privacy: A separate entrance ensures privacy for the homeowner and the person staying in the ADU, allowing them to come and go without disturbing each other.

  2. Security: A dedicated entrance allows the person in the ADU to secure their living space while providing the homeowner with added peace of mind.

  3. Flexibility: An exterior door makes the ADU more appealing for potential renters, as it offers them a sense of autonomy and independence.

By carefully considering the various ADU options with a Greenville architect and ensuring they comply with local regulations, homeowners in Greenville can create a functional and aesthetically pleasing living space that offers numerous benefits, such as increased property value and rental income opportunities.


When embarking on your ADU project, it is essential to be aware of the zoning requirements, building codes, size and height limitations, and setback rules specific to your property when planning and constructing an ADU in Greenville, SC. Consulting the zoning ordinances and local building codes will help ensure your project is successful and compliant with all necessary regulations.

Remember, adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property in Greenville, South Carolina, can be a valuable investment that offers numerous benefits, such as increased property value, rental income opportunities, and providing additional living space for family members. However, navigating the complex zoning regulations, building codes, and permit requirements can be a daunting task for the average homeowner.

Given the legal red tape surrounding the construction and operation of ADUs in Greenville, it is crucial to work with experienced professionals, like Greenville architects, who can help guide you through the process, ensuring your project is code-compliant and aesthetically pleasing.

If you're considering adding an ADU to your Greenville property, visit our website to connect with a Greenville Architect who understand the local regulations and can help you bring your vision to life. With our expertise, you can feel confident that building your ADU project will be a rewarding experience.


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