In a tight economy, many American homes today are proving to be a haven where the extended family — from Grandma to the new college graduate — flocks together for comfort, convenience, and, increasingly, financial practicality.
As proof, consider that 14 percent of all home purchases made between July 2012 and June 2013 were by a multi-generational household, comprised of adult children, adult siblings, parents and/or grandparents, according to a recently released study by the National Association of Realtors. The main motivations for a multi-generational home purchase were adult children moving back home, and to save money (each cited by 24 percent of survey respondents); other reasons included caretaking or health of aging parents (20 percent) and spending more time with aging parents (11 percent).
“In past years, most individuals and families lived in their own residences. Today, more people in all age segments are living together under one roof. It starts with younger unmarried adults but is now growing to include married couples and families, and in coming years it will include extended families,” says Dennis Torres, director of real estate operations at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. “Also, the trend is not exclusive to low-income segments of the population.”
The good news for homeowners now hosting boomerang children or aging or care-dependent parents is that there’s strength, solace and savings in numbers: It’s cheaper to move an elder relative in with you than pay for an expensive assisted living facility; adult children can help with home maintenance; and the move-in can bring the family closer together.
The bad news is that it can be difficult to comfortably accommodate and plan for extra inhabitants, as they will likely have their own spatial preferences. Such living arrangements may require shopping for a bigger or more flexible residence, or plans for these future needs may need to be included during a current hunt for a new home.
“You need to look for qualities in your next home that will support multi-generational living,” says Linda Lenore, a green building professional and universal design specialist with Green Chi Designs in San Francisco. She recommends considering several key amenities, including:
• A stairless first-floor setup — with bedroom, adjacent bath, and kitchen nearby on the same level — to make it easier particularly for disabled/elder residents.
• A bedroom with an adjacent private bathroom, far away enough from the master suite/master bath, for adult children.
• Universal design elements, including wider hallways, door openings and baths for wheelchairs and walkers.
Annmarie Pluhar, author of “Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates” (Homemate Publishing, 2011), says, at very least, long-term houseguests desire a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom of their own.
“Kitchens need to be big enough – sometimes having two refrigerators makes life easier,” Pluhar says. “Having a way for grandparents to retire away from children noise also is great. And independent adults like to be able to come and go easily and quietly.”
Having a living space that’s connected to the main home but also has a separate entry point can go a long way toward helping multi-generational households maintain peace and prevent conflicts, says John Egnatis, co-founder/CEO of Grenadier Homes in Dallas, who adds that buyers need to forecast future remodeling needs carefully.
“Sometimes you cannot add space (via renovation) due to zoning issues, which is why you may want to buy a home that already includes a built-in, multi-purpose flex space with a separate entrance and exit,” Egnatis says. “These flex spaces can also be used as an in-home office, so the space is still usable if your family circumstances change.”
Lastly, try to opt for a home near quality health care facilities, parks and trails, and evaluate if the property has room for multiple vehicles.
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