Startup offers to build studio apartments in homeowners' backyards and split the rental income

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I see these in Austin a lot and it does help with availability in living spaces but i haven’t found that it helps with affordability. They typically still rent for a big amount even though the square footage is often less than a standard apt.


A car in every garage! A slum in every backyard!

I sense an incoming NIMBY tsunami if this happens near anywhere affluent.


Aye, someone on my parent’s street built a new garage and put an apartment over it for their daughter, a single parent, to live in. The neighbours pulled out all the stops trying (unsuccessfully, in the end) to prevent them from getting all the necessary permits. Since it went all the way up to the local planning board, it resulted in a published, publicly available decision. Some of the arguments:

  • It will create parking issues - failed because a new garage was going up, so it was just as likely to alleviate existing parking issues as aggravate them
  • It will look in to the neighbour’s yard, creating privacy issues - failed because this can be addressed just by requiring a few of the windows to have frosted glass
  • It will attract renters and this is an established neighborhood where people own their homes and therefore renters are bad - failed because the board’s view is that rental properties are a valuable and necessary part of the housing ecosystem and the board refuses to stigmatize renters by accepting “renters are bad” as an argument
  • It will create shade in the neighbour’s backyard - failed because the neighbours didn’t present any kind of evidence to support this and the board won’t consider it without a proper “shadow study” being conducted

People should just live in tents instead. That’s a great plan.


One of Enkwife’s co-workers left the company and she and her husband moved into a trailer built tiny house over in Berkely CA. We went to the open house. The builder was there, and being very interested in building a tiny of my own we fell to talking quite a bit. This IS his business model. He currently has six installed around the east bay and working on the seventh. Super nice guy, was willing to share plans and info freely. The tiny house was super cute and had lots of nice touches like a barrel roof which made the loft bed seem super roomy. Chicken coop across the yard. Only thing I found odd is the toilet is composting and the two big barrels of ‘humanure’ in the corner of the yard could be a weak point (plumbed in sewer, water and electricity seem like a good idea to me - but maybe not required).


Auxiliary Dwelling Units are becoming increasingly popular as a way to increase options on single family house lots. In Portland, the max-sized 800 square foot two story detached units cost around $200,000 to build, but they don’t add $200,000 of property value. They add about half that. Not sure why that is.

Anyway, its pretty common for ADU use to change over the life of the property ownership, with some owners moving into the ADU and renting out the main house to make more money, some renting out the ADU, and some moving family members in to the ADU. The ability to change what you use the ADU for as your needs change is limited a bit by this financing option.

Also, the ability to serve multiple scenarios is limited by the small size of the pre-fab unit on the Rent the Backyard’s website which has exterior dimensions of a mere 375 square feet with no closet space, a unit their pre-fab home supplier sells for $150,000 installed (calling it 400 square feet for some reason). It’s unclear to me if Rent the Backyard finance bigger units if the city allows based on lot size.

I can see why some might opt for this financing option to drop a small pre-fab, single-story studio unit in a backyard, but “Rent the Backyard” gets half what they consider fair market rent for the next 30 years, and you can only stop that buy buying them out.

One important thing to note is that some of Rent the Backyard’s income estimates are based off of renting the unit as an AirBnB rather than as a long term rental unit, so you’d be potentially inviting new, random strangers into your backyard on what could be a nightly basis. And when they say you can rent out the apartment to friends or family and even let them have the unit for just the half of “fair market value” paid to Rent the Backyard, Rent the Backyard may calculate the “Fair Market Value” based on short term/AirBnB rental prices. Rent the Backyard is in this for the money and likely isn’t going to want to give up short term rental income pricing. The devil is in the details.


I have no animosity toward the basic idea of building and renting out a guest house, but you’d have to be seven kinds of stupid to let a start-up build their housing in your backyard.


Yeah, no doubt. I’d love to see a copy of a typical contract between the home owner and the start up. Bet that’s loads of laughs.



Welcome to 2019.


Visions of the bastard offspring of Uber and Airbnb taking out a lien on your property after you sue them for hiring a white collar criminal to rent your backyard out to meth cooks.



Rent the Backyard’s pre-fabs are actually decent looking, and are made by Node.

But it is unclear to me how maintenance and utility costs are divided between the lot owner and Rent the Backyard, which seems kind of important on a 30 year deal.


San Diego needs this, STAT!

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I mean, isn’t that part and parcel of what renting is about? Trying to limit visitation to tenants can be considered harassment.

If you mean renters also renting, then yeah, that’s a violation.


Sure, but you still have liability falling on the tenant and can evict in areas that don’t have rent control without cause. With short term rentals you don’t have the kind of vetting you put into renting to a long term tenant.

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“Great news, we’ve found someone who is interested in renting your backyard property!”


Well, seeing as the company acts as landlord, I think that issue is out of the property owner’s hands. :frowning_face:


That could be. The devil is in the details, and the details are lacking on their website.


Can we just deliver a blanket “fuck off” to all these “innovative” startups?