Multigenerational living is on the increase over the last few decades. in 1980, only 12% of American adults lived in a multigenerational home. By the start of the 2020s, that percentage has more than doubled, to 26%. Why the rise? There are practical reasons for multigenerational housing. Most people choose to live together for financial reasons and caregiving at first. For those working adults feeling the pressures of balancing career with caregiving, the high cost of housing and difficulty of arranging for convenient and high-quality care — for children or aging parents — are contributing factors. Eventually, they find that there are mental and emotional benefits to multigenerational living as well.
Multigenerational Living is Coming Back
Multigenerational living is being accelerated by this decade’s rising housing prices. Many of today’s buyers are feeling fatigued by dwindling home options, high prices, and elevated mortgage rates. As a result, some are willing to consider a multigenerational living arrangement as alternative approaches to homeownership. According to a survey from Realtor.com and Censuswide, would-be buyers facing affordability challenges may turn to their parents and other family members to secure a place to call home. Similarly, proximity to family is a leading factor in choosing a place to live as nearby relatives can help relieve childcare costs.
For home shoppers looking to move closer to family, roughly half cite giving help with childcare as a reason and 44% of respondents are looking for a move closer to family to receive help with childcare for their own children. In line with this familial pull, almost half of respondents said that siblings have purchased or considered purchasing a home to be nearby, and 46% say parents have done or considered doing the same.
Family is not only a factor in the where, but also in the how when it comes to purchasing a home. Roughly 37% of respondents would consider purchasing a home to live in with a child, 27% would consider doing so with a sibling or cousin from within the same generation, and 21% would consider doing so with a grandparent. Altogether, roughly 83% of respondents were willing to consider buying a home and living with family or friends.
Respondents who stated their willingness to co-buy a home with someone other than a spouse said they would consider doing so because it would enable them to pool resources and buy in a better area (43%) or purchase a more updated (41%) or larger (38%) home.
Ways to Achieve Multigenerational Living
We’ve also recently seen a push for more multi-family housing being built, and conventional loan guidelines relaxing on the down payment requirement needed for multi-family, owner-occupied homes (just 5% can get you a multi-unit now, assuming you’ll be living in one of the units!). This can be a small apartment building (four units or less) or a multigenerational living single family arrangement.
With costs high and no relief in sight (even if rates dip, property values are expected to continue to climb), multigenerational living is likely to trend upward, and could be a solution to higher prices that you should explore.
Factor in increased costs in healthcare, childcare, and just about everything else, and living with family makes more sense than it did just 3 years ago. And thanks to the cost increases we’ve seen, Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) options are more prevalent than they’ve ever been before. Lending guidelines are also more flexible than they have been in terms of both multi-unit properties AND ADUs, so it makes sense to explore this solution to living with family while maintaining your privacy. I would love to introduce you to my colleagues, architect Joseph Gorman who specializes in creating ADUs, and Natalie Nunes, an interior designer who can help you decorate that new senior living space.
What is an ADU?
Think of an ADU like an additional mini-house on your property. It can be new construction, carved out of your existing home (like a basement), or converted from existing space (like a garage). They provide much-needed additional housing because they are fully contained, private living spaces with a kitchen and bath. In some states, ADUs are rentable. An ADU can be that extra space they need for visiting grandparents, an au pair, or a work-from-home situation.
The current real estate market may mean that your first house might actually be your forever house. That can encourage the first time homebuyer to reconsider the type of home that is the best purchase. The ability to add an ADU in the future to that first house can make all the difference. Most people dream of aging in place, and an ADU gives you the flexibility to do that in a number of ways. Here is a link to an excellent article by Joseph Gorman, a Washington DC architect, about the increased popularity of ADUs. Much of Mr Gorman’s residential design work is focused on aging in place. He is a great resource if you live in the DC metro area and are interested in making changes to your home, like the construction of an ADU, that allows you to stay in your home for longer than might otherwise have been possible.
Upscale Residential Communities Around the US
Whether the causes are evolving societal dynamics, a renewed appreciation of the importance of generational bonding or – as is far more likely – a simple shortage of cash, today’s housing is more valuable if it can respond to multiple generations. Forbes put together a short thumbnails of upscale residential designs appealing to all ages that you can read here.
My favorite might be the Stanly Ranch properties in Napa Valley, CA. Among the exceptional features of the 3.5-bedroom Vineyard Homes’ Oak and Madrone floor plans at Stanly Ranch is a groundbreaking design enabling interior rooms of the residences to be entered via exterior courtyards. The result: Family members can enjoy serenity and, when desired, separation from the gatherings in the larger residence, while savoring the spectacular natural landscape served up by the surrounding Napa Valley.
Another great option is Kohanaiki, the 450-acre, private residential community situated on the Big Island’s picturesque Kona Coast. Kohanaiki offers a private club experience delivering something for every generation of the family. Real estate options include estate homesites, custom single-family homes and paired townhome-style dwellings. Experiences range from golf and spa treatments for older and younger adult family members, water sports for teens and educational alternatives for the youngsters in any family group.
Tips for Successful Multigenerational Living
If you suspect a multigenerational living arrangement may be right for you, here are some tips to make it work:
1. Create separate spaces as well as common spaces
Common spaces foster community while separate spaces allow each family a sense of privacy. Create a space with a private entrance, and maybe a kitchenette for each single-family. If you work from home, you’ll need a space away from the larger family for yourself.
For common spaces, you could build an outdoor patio where all family members can eat meals together in good weather. Or you could construct a family room with a large screen TV where everyone can watch movies together.
And it doesn’t even have to be special customization that requires a home builder. It could be a shared living room or kitchen. The Ocasios just share Monica’s kitchen where they cook and eat together on Sundays.
2. Respect each other’s time, space, and rules
People can’t coexist peacefully if there isn’t mutual respect for setting boundaries (and maintaining them). Even if a family member accepts intrusions and disrespect at first, tension will build and boil over if it continues.
Remember, a multigenerational situation is usually one that you intend to keep for years. It pays to do the hard work of clarifying expectations and preferences up front.
Sometimes, respect will mean not entering another person’s room without knocking. But it also means realizing that an adult probably knows what’s best for them. Don’t try to control your adult child, or parent’s life just because you’re living together.
Some tips are common sense — just imagine how you would treat an unrelated adult housemate. Little things matter, especially over time. Don’t leave dirty dishes on the table or in the sink overnight. Don’t leave trash around the house. Ask before borrowing something from another person. If they say no, accept it gracefully. If Grandpa says no calls during dinner, or mom says no candies for the little ones, those are their family values, respect them.
3. Communicate expectations and feelings openly
Open communication means that members of the family can talk about, and trash issues before they cause tension.
Set realistic expectations together so everyone knows what to do. For example, keeping the television volume low or eating dinner together every night. You should also talk about daily chores, who needs to do what, and who will pay what bill.
When people don’t meet those expectations, talk to them about it respectfully and as soon as you can.
4. Create opportunities for caregivers to recharge
A stressed-out caregiver won’t be as effective, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that caregivers get breaks often.
Encourage caregivers in the family to do something fun and relaxing for a full day once or twice a month. You could watch the kids while they go on a weekend getaway with friends, or just spend the day at home watching TV.
You could also gift them a monthly membership to a yoga club or fitness facility or wellness coaching to encourage social interaction.
Or maybe just take them out for coffee and let them talk through how they’re feeling in their role as caregiver.
5. Incorporate intergenerational activities to boost bonding
Whether it’s hosting a fun game night, a family vacation, or hiking together, doing things together boosts bonding.
Help the kids, parents, and grandparents get to know and like each other with activities everyone will enjoy.
You could all go for walks together, or go for ice cream together on weekends.
Even eating dinner is a great way to encourage the bond that comes from togetherness. For grandchildren and grandparents (and everyone in-between), a cooking and sharing a dinner together, even once a week, can become a family tradition that everyone looks forward to.
Do You Need to Start Exploring Your Multigenerational Options?
I work with a great group of professionals, an architect, an interior designer, an estate planner, financial planner, mover and contractors, all who can help you create the perfect multgienerational space. Whether you want to buy a small multifamily apartment building, a duplex, or a single family home with the possibility of adding an ADU, we can find that for you. Let’s talk about what the best match is for you and your family. Please call me at 240-401-5577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.