Doug Van EttenYOUR JOURNEY HOMEGrand Junction Free Press Real Estate Columnist

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December 1, 2011
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Local real estate Q&A: Dec. 2, 2011

Q: I am looking to buy a duplex purely as a rental property. I was looking at a friend's home and later asked my Realtor about it. The friend has what the Realtor called an "Accessory Dwelling Unit" and she said I could not buy something like that and accomplish my goal of renting out both units.A: The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an urban planning term or professional planner jargon for what we often hear called a "granny flat" or "mother-in-law apartment." Mesa County, as do most zoning jurisdictions, has strictly codified limitations on these units that on one hand allow homeowners to use their property as they choose, thus preserving private property rights; while at the same time protecting the rights and property values of the neighbors and neighborhood.First, I will tell you why your Realtor's advice is sound, then I'll describe a bit more what is allowed and what is restricted by Mesa County planning regulations.One requirement for an ADU to be allowed is that one or both units MUST be owner-occupied. Since you do not plan to live in the property you soon will purchase, you would be in violation right off the bat. The neighbors in a single-family residential neighborhood do not want to feel they have rental duplexes popping up around them, possibly adversely affecting their property values.The following ADU description is paraphrased from the Mesa County website section covering this property usage.An ADU is a "secondary" living area, most often with its own entrance, that may be part of an existing house or an add-on to the house or perhaps an apartment over a detached garage. The ADU typically has all the amenities of a full home or apartment including living, sleeping, eating and bathroom facilities. The unit may be no smaller than 300 sq. ft. though its upper size may vary with size of the overall property and the ADU's location on the property. One parcel may have only one principle and one accessory unit and within incorporated areas, even that use must be approved by the County Planning Department.In order to rent both units you will have to buy a dedicated "duplex."***Q: My girlfriend and I have been looking at small houses on acreage out in both Whitewater and east Orchard Mesa. When we buy, we will want to fence part of the property to contain our dogs and maybe eventually a couple of goats. How will I know exactly where I can put a fence in relation to the neighbors?A: What you want to be sure you have in hand before you think of digging a fence post hole is an as-built survey. This is the "map" of the property showing the location of the house with any decks or porches, out-buildings, any existing fences, driveways, paved walkways and utility easements. Most important to you is an as-built, for short, will show you the exact location of your property lines. When you do install a fence, if you want, it can be on the property line or a short distance onto your property. It would be a neighborly idea to have a conversation with any neighbors on the opposite side of a fence to get their opinion and cooperation on fencing. If you are going to build a fence yourself you will want to know Mesa County regulations limit a fence to no more than 6-feet in height and you cannot block the traffic view at an intersection. Before construction I suggest you call the Mesa County planning department for more detailed information. While you are on that call be sure to ask about the need to locate buried utilities.----------------------------------------Doug Van Etten is an associate broker at Keller Williams Colorado West Realty. He has been helping families buy and sell their homes since the early 1990s.


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 1, 2011 09:27PM Published Dec 1, 2011 09:24PM Copyright 2011 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.