By now, everyone has likely heard of tiny houses, but the term “granny pods” is still relatively unknown. That’s changing as the Baby Boomers age and begin to need a little extra help in their daily lives.

Granny pods (or granny flats) are tiny houses, often located in the backyards of adult children or other family who want to be able to keep an eye on their senior parent or loved one. They can be custom built so that they are designed specifically for a senior’s physical abilities or pre-fabricated units.

…it is a self-contained building that can be installed in the average back yard, which functions as an advanced elder care facility. For various reasons, it may not be practical to have an elderly parent live in the same home with their adult child(ren), but what if they aren’t ready for assisted living or a nursing home? In these cases, granny pods or mother-in-law pods can be a perfect backyard solution for seniors and their families.

Can I Put a Granny Pod in My Backyard?

There are multiple zoning and legal laws in each state and each county that need to be looked at before you purchase a prefabricated granny pod or build a custom one in your backyard. It may not be allowed in every state / county. 

Checking zoning laws in your town or state is a must. But, since the incredible growth of the Tiny House movement, there has been a growing number of communities and changes in zoning laws to allow these backyard dwellings to be built. Plus, your city may allow you to build a granny pod, while the HOA in your community may not allow it. Also keep in mind that the zoning laws may regulate just how big the pod can be. The same goes for every other type of tiny house featured on this list. Clearly, it pays to do your research before contracting to have one built.

The physical requirements of an official “granny pod” are that it needs to have at least the following living spaces… a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a bedroom. These 3 areas are the bare minimum requirements for an official granny pod (aka granny flats). Of course – since these structures are basically tiny homes built for older adults – they can come equipped with much more these days.

Many have a living area, an HVAC system, a porch, some closet storage, sunroofs, etc. Some are even equipped with smart home devices! Granny pods are normally designed to connect to the utility services of the main house. So, this means the sewer system (whether it’s septic or city sewer), the water supply, the electrical wiring, maybe even the Wi-Fi.

Granny Pods Provide Practical Assisted Living Solutions

Granny pods are often referred to as mother-in-law pods or mother-in-law suites. They are also sometimes referred to as granny flats, mother-in-law-cottages, or auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs).

These pods are small modular homes that typically contain anywhere from 300 to 500 square feet of living space and can contain all the features needed for an elderly relative with smart home devices.

The multigenerational backyard-living promise of ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) has long been tantalizing with the demographics of an aging population. Transforming a garage into a small living space or building a backyard guest cottage allows aging family members to stay close to their adult children and grandchildren. They can help each other out financially, emotionally and practically (think childcare and eldercare), while each maintains their independence and privacy.

According to – the cost of a granny pod can range from about $50,000 to $250,000.  Costs will depend on the model and amenities you choose and the location where it’s being built. The cost of a granny pod can be returned over time if you figure that assisted living can run around $5,000 per month in, say, Massachusetts, according to At $60,000 per year in this scenario, a granny pod could pay for itself within a year or two. A senior parent wouldn’t have to live in one too long to offset the costs of skilled nursing facility (nursing home), though. The median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home ran about $7,500 per month (that’s $90,000 per year!).

Things To Consider When Buying a Tiny Home to Use As A Granny Pod

First and foremost, you likely will not be able to carry a mortgage on a tiny home or granny pod. That’s not to say you can’t get a loan – just not a mortgage type of loan. Other options include personal loans, financing through lenders, or home equity loans (if you own a primary residence).

Last, but not least, a granny pod should be outfitted for seniors, so it will need to include amenities that will make the home safer for an elderly person, such as: bathroom should have a barrier-free walk-in shower with no threshold, grab bars in the bathroom and shower area, non-slip or slip-resistant flooring, senior friendly doorknobs, and faucet levers.

The easiest solution for a granny flat is to convert an existing garage. Instead of buying a prefab unit or having a granny pod built, you could save $10,000 to $15,000 by converting an existing shed or your garage into a senior cottage. A DIYer experienced in framing, insulation, and roofing can serve as the general contractor and arrange for foundation, electrical, and plumbing subcontractors.


For something so small, granny pods and other types of tiny homes can bring huge benefits in terms of peace of mind. The adult children who are concerned about their parents are literally right across the yard, so the senior can still be independent. And, these small houses can be configured for the parent’s specific needs, as well as set up for monitoring the senior if need be.    All in all, it’s a great solution for both older adults and their families – but of course only if it’s legal in your area.


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