Local Real Estate

OlyFed’s ADU Partnership Opens Doors in Thurston County

Much of the country faces a major housing shortage. Home prices are going up while inventory remains low. To combat this, many regions are allowing homeowners to build ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, on their property.

Branch Manager at Westside branch location in OlympiaThese small homes can be used for multi‐generational living or to bring in cost-effective rental income for the owner. Locally, OlyFed has worked with Olympians for People-Oriented Places (OPOP), The Artisans Group, and John Erwin Remodeling to put ADUs on the map.

“With the lack of housing supply and affordable home options, ADUs are one way of bringing additional accessible housing to our area,” says OlyFed’s Barbara Whitlow, AVP/residential relationship manager. “There is so much flexibility that an ADU can provide.” She and Lindsey Bamba, AVP/district manager of their West Olympia branch will be speaking at the upcoming OPOP ADU Financing Workshop on March 13.

But as with any building project, taking the first step can be daunting. Is your site big enough? Are there sufficient utilities? What permits do you need? How much will it cost? Is there funding help? Thanks to recent city‐sponsored programs, answers are easy to find.


To learn more about these tiny backyard homes, start with OPOP’s four-part virtual information sessions. They cover everything from city regulations to planning, layout and construction. Panelists include representatives from local government, bankers, architects, and builders. Knowing what to expect from start to finish helps streamline the process and (hopefully) eliminate costly problems or delays.

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You can also watch Lacey’s ADU Workshop from Saturday, February 8, 2020 and read through presented slides or reach out to the Olympia Master Builders Association to Hire a Pro.


ADU plan from The Artisans Group in Olympia, WashingtonOne participating architect is Tessa Bradley, owner of The Artisans Group. As a women‐owned firm, Bradley and her team “represent the housing market that Olympia lacks and we’re very interested in pragmatic design,” she explains. Approached by the City of Lacey to design ADUs, she was happy to help. Lacey sponsored two designs while Olympia and Tumwater jumped in to sponsor two more. Lacey is the only city currently up and running with the program, but the others hope to catch up soon.

ADU plan from The Artisans Group in Olympia, Washington

If a resident chooses to proceed, they reach out and are assigned a planner. Once the lot is approved, the homeowner picks one of the four designs and applies for permits. Through this partnership, both the schematic and permitting costs are greatly discounted through the City of Lacey.

Options range from a 480‐square‐foot studio or one‐bedroom model to an 800‐square‐foot, two-bedroom, two‐story home. The designs, which are the intellectual property of The Artisans Group but rented indefinitely by the cities, can be modified through the firm for a small fee.


Tiny home or ADU interior of living room and kitchen

OlyFed is one of the only banks in the area with a dedicated plan for funding ADUs. With the four ADU designs costing between $100,000 and $200,000, the bank offers six loan options. These vary depending on the amount of equity in your main house. Many of OlyFed’s loan options can include the value of the ADU in the loan appraisal, providing greater borrowing power. “Your best step is to discuss your objectives with one of our knowledgeable loan officers who can help you to determine which options would be best for you and get you started in the right direction,” says OlyFed’s Whitlow.

Whether you choose to maintain your first mortgage and apply for a Home Equity Line of Credit or simply refinance your home to include the ADU building costs, OlyFed can work with you throughout the process.

ADU Funding Options

Montage of smaller home interiors with a photo of an OlyFed loan officer.


When it’s time to break ground, John Erwin Remodeling has been building ADUs since 2011. His company was the first contractor permitted under the city’s new program and it dramatically reduces total project time.

“Our client called us and talked to us about her goals,” says Erwin. “She picked one of the pre‐approved plans at the City of Lacey and we then had it priced out in about three weeks. Within a week of that, we had a signed contract! We turned in for the permit last month, and we had our permit in hand within two weeks. Wow, I love it when a plan comes together!”

Delayed by the recent snows and Coronavirus restrictions, they hope to begin building March 1. “We should be able to build that in about 3 to 4 months,” says Erwin. “COVID really has slowed down production for us all, so it is taking longer to do everything we do.”

We all want somewhere safe, warm and comfortable to spend our days. After a year of quarantine, homes are now office, school, playground and living space. But according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service, “home prices in Thurston County were up 16.75% year‐over‐year in January. At the same time … the number of homes for sale fell 53% and homes in Olympia on average are selling for about 2% above list price and are pending in just five days.

Increasing inventory with ADUs could make home‐sweet‐home a reality for many.