Dr. Ronnie and Wendy Cunningham had tried to get a backyard cottage built next to their Madison Valley home for the last five years, but kept getting hung up in the permitting process.
After finding themselves out thousands of dollars, Ronnie Cunningham connected with a friend from high school, Tom Todaro, who recommended working with his MyKabin team to get the job done.
Todaro spent years working on large-scale commercial real estate projects — mostly data centers — and was a director at home-and-mortgage software company Resitrader until its acquisition by Optimal Blue in 2018.
Todaro and MyKabin co-founder Clint Jones started the company a year ago as a way to streamline the production of backyard cottages as legislation was being developed to ease regulations for constructing them in Seattle.
The legislation gets rid of the off-street parking requirement for ADUs, allows attached and detached accessory dwelling units (AADUs and DADUs) to exist on single-family lots, introduces a floor-area-ratio (FAR) limit to single-family zones, eliminates the owner-occupancy requirement to build an ADU, increases the maximum size of DADUs from 800 to 1,000 square feet, allows design flexibility to preserve existing trees, and also requires a future demographic survey on ADU owners and occupants.
“With those rule changes, I thought, why can’t we bring commonsense high-tech to a pretty prevalent problem,” Todaro said.
The MyKabin co-founder said he thought the City of Seattle’s new regulations — adopted by the city council in July — were great.
“The problem for homeowners is not building these things,” he said. “It’s permitting.”
The 350-square-foot backyard that replaced an old, underutilized garage next to the Cunninghams’ home at 432 31st Ave. E. is the first of eight MyKabin models to finish construction. Todaro said permitting started before Seattle’s land-use code changes took effect, and the design was adjusted after they took effect.
There are backyard cottage options ranging from 253 to 1,000 square feet, which is the extra-large option. Models ranging from 253 to 378 square feet total around $110,000 to $145,000, respectively, and most everything is done in-house. That includes surveys, soil reports, engineering, permitting, delivery, assembly and site clean-up.
“They can customize almost everything because of the way we thought it through,” Todaro said. “You can’t touch the four corners, but you can do anything with the rest.”
And the price quoted in a contract is guaranteed, he said, so when the sewer line was later found to be damaged and in need of repairs, MyKabin covered the trenching bill. Cunningham said that issue didn’t slow the project down much.
Flyover mapping and a data set that includes an Environmentally Critical Areas report allow prospective buyers to check their address on mykabin.com to see if their property is eligible for a backyard cottage.
A typical MyKabin unit weighs less than 20,000 pounds, which means they can sit on top of a simple elevated foundation that leaves space for air flow and groundwater to pass through.
Todaro said the foundation can be laid in a few days, and the cabin constructed in a few weeks.
The Cunninghams are hosting an open house for their new backyard cottage 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 19-27. They plan to use their unit for short-term rentals and as an Airbnb, which should be set up by Nov. 1.
“It’s a nice way to have somebody pay for our mortgage, and then squirrel a little away when it’s paid off,” Cunningham said, “and our property value goes up.”