Meet Bryce Travis, a real estate investor with a unique goal: to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) for $100,000 in 100 days. Bryce started out buying value add properties in Los Angeles. As the market began to shift, so did his investing strategy. Today, Bryce focuses his time on building cost-effective ADUs, that don't break the banks. We sit down with Bryce to understand how his investing strategy has changed over time and all about his ambitious ADU goal.
Naked Investor: Your goal of building a $100k ADU in 100 days is quite audacious. Being in Los Angeles, a city known for its high cost of living, how did this objective come to be?
Bryce: I was having trouble finding deals that made sense to me in Los Angeles, which is a super competitive market for real estate investing. I came to a realiziation that I needed to 'create' my deals instead of simply hoping to find them, and it got me thinking creatively about ADUs and value add opportunities.
The idea of designing the unit yourself is fascinating. Could you delve into how you accomplished this?
Absolutely. I have a background in architectural design that helped tremendously. But it really wasn't that skillset that moved the needle on this project. It was just sheer determination. I wanted to create something that was both functional and economical and would stand at odds with what I perceive to be a market of over-priced ADU options.
ADUs have become quite popular recently. What prompted your interest in them, especially given their typical high costs?
I saw an opportunity with the surge in ADU interest. Many companies providing ADU options were charging high prices, so I believed that there was a gap in the market for more affordable, yet quality, ADU constructions. I wanted to test my theory and see if i could build for as close to $100/sf as possible.
You mentioned designing your own architectural plan. How did your background in architectural studies influence this decision?
My background gave me a unique edge. I understood how to use autocad and I was confident that I could produce a plan that met both my aesthetic and functional needs. But I don't want people to think this was the missing piece that made this project possible. I could have hired a draftsman for maybe $3k and save a lot of headache. But it scratched an itch for me, and I wanted to create something that was uniquely me.
Using a garage's original site condition is innovative. How did this decision impact your project's overall efficiency and cost?
By utilizing the garage's original site, I could position the new ADU close to the property line. This saved me significant time and money since I didn't need to rework utility connections or deal with extensive site preparations. However, there were some odd requirements to keep the site condition, like maintaining 20% of the existing walls in the back corner of the structure.
Can you tell us more about the ambitious "ADU in 100 days for 100k" goal? What inspired this benchmark?
I wanted to challenge the norm and prove that it's possible to build quality ADUs efficiently and affordably. The 100 days and 100k goal was my way of setting a high bar for myself and my team.
Being an 'owner/builder' must have been a unique experience. What were some challenges you faced in this role?
It was indeed a hands-on experience. Balancing the roles of decision-maker, designer, and site supervisor was challenging. Finding contractors willing to work in this capacity and managing the project timelines were also crucial challenges.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the rising material prices, impact your project's budget and timeline?
It was tough. The costs of materials were unpredictable, and many were delayed or unavailable. However, being proactive, locking in prices early, and having a flexible approach helped mitigate some of the impacts.
You surpassed your budget by 15k, but given the circumstances, that's still commendable. What's your advice to others attempting a similar feat?
Thank you. My advice is to be hands-on, have a clear plan, but also be flexible. Stay on top of market trends, understand where you can save and where you need to invest. And always have a contingency budget!
Bryce, let's focus on the recent ADU you built. Starting with the design, why did you decide to transform the original garage site into a 2-bedroom, 1-bath unit?
The original converted 'garage' was a teardown. The structure was built on crumbling cinderblocks, and there was no way to improve it. In fact, it would have been more labor intensive and costly than simply demoing the structure and starting over.
Your decision to design the unit yourself is quite intriguing. Can you walk us through the process you undertook and any significant challenges you faced?
Certainly. I have a background in architectural studies. For this ADU, I wanted to create a functional design that made use of prescribed building methods. This allowed me to forego an engineer. One of the big challenges was keeping the site condition for the structure. It was pushed up against the property line and building a new structure meant providing 5 feet of separation. I ended up keeping the back corner of the structure in place while we built around it. It was a very odd loophole that made for a hilarious set of photos.
You mentioned building the ADU using "prescribed building methods." Can you elaborate on what these methods are and why you chose them?
Prescribed building methods are standard construction techniques that are widely accepted and don't require specialized engineering. They're outlined in local building codes, and by adhering to them, I was able to streamline the permitting process. They also have the added benefit of being familiar to most contractors, making it easier to onboard and manage the construction team.
Given that many companies provide ADU options at higher price points, how were you able to execute your project at such an aggressive price while ensuring quality?
This was actually a big reason for doing the project myself. Working with a company specializing in ADUs may have cost me 4 times as much as what I spent. A combination of designing the unit myself, utilizing the existing garage site, and taking on the role of 'owner/builder' helped me to save significantly. And while not everyone has the stomach or skill set for this, it just shows that there other options for building inexpensive ADUs.
Finally, now that you've successfully completed this project, what would you say is the biggest takeaway or lesson learned that you'd apply to your next ADU project?
The biggest takeaway is the importance of thorough planning and staying hands-on. General contractors are hired for a reason, and you are assuming all of the responsibility when you do a project as the 'owner/builder'. For example, I made a mistake in ordering our windows, early and was on the phone almost daily to get them on site to prevent delays. It was a very amateurish mistake that could have cost me months of waiting.
Thank you for delving into the details of your ADU journey, Bryce. It offers invaluable insights for budding real estate investors.
My pleasure! I hope my experience can inspire and guide others in their real estate ventures.
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