Multigenerational Family On Couch

Multigenerational Homes And Next Generation Housing: A Buyer's Guide

Erica Gellerman5-Minute Read
January 11, 2021

Multigenerational homes aren’t as uncommon as they used to be. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 64 million people, or 20% of the U.S. population, live in a multigenerational home.

If living with multiple generations under one roof appeals to you, there are some things you need to know before you start house shopping.

What Is A Multigenerational Home?

A multigenerational home (or multigen, or next-gen) has more than one adult generation living under one roof. Multigenerational homes can be designed specifically to accommodate multiple generations, or they can be modified over time to fit changing lifestyle needs.

Extended Family

A multigenerational home may be used to house extended family – often elderly parents or adult children. Though it can be used for friends, most people use a multigenerational home to ensure that extended family gets to live together under one roof.

Balanced Design

Multigenerational homes can have unique space options to allow everyone to get the privacy that they need. You might find a multigenerational home that has a separate guest home, a walk-out basement, or a primary suite that offers both privacy and togetherness.

Rising Popularity

Multigenerational housing is a popular choice, especially as more families view the issue from a financial perspective. Family togetherness is becoming more important for people who miss their extended family.

COVID-19 quarantine rules have made living in a multigenerational house more appealing to some, but often more challenging with the need to keep everyone, especially the elderly, safe.

Benefits And Challenges Of Multigenerational Living

Before you move in with your family, it’s important to understand the benefits and challenges associated with multigenerational living.

Benefits

Multigenerational homes are appealing to so many, especially because of these benefits:

  • Care for elderly family members: With nursing and care homes being so expensive, it can be an economical decision for older family members to live with younger generations to reduce care costs. Not only does this reduce costs but some children appreciate the opportunity to care for their aging parents.
  • Easier childcare: With younger children, the cost of childcare is often a large portion of the family budget. But with grandparents or older, retired family members living in the same household, those costs can be next to nothing. Plus, the children grow up with a close relationship with their extended family members.
  • Shared expenses: Having more than one family under a roof means there are more people who can share the burden of the cost of running a household, from paying the mortgage to paying utility bills.
  • Closer family bond: Living far away or only seeing families on special occasions can make it difficult to have a strong family bond that spans generations. Living under one roof makes it easier for that bond to grow.

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to multigenerational homes is the lack of personal space or crowding. Luckily, home design can do a lot to help ensure that everyone has the space that they need while still living together. 

How To Find A Multigenerational Home

Shopping for a multigenerational home is a bit different from shopping for a single-family home. There are strategies that can make the home shopping process easier.

Choose The Right Type

When you broaden your search to looking for a home that will fit multiple generations, you’ll find a number of different home options:

  • Multihouse lot: These are homes that have more than one home structure on the lot. This could be a main home with a guest house or two separate homes of similar size on one piece of property.
  • Duplexes, triplexes: These multi-unit homes offer completely separate living quarters, but the homes are connected. In a duplex, you’d have two separate homes, connected by a wall or by a floor (with one upstairs and one downstairs). A triplex works the same but with three home units joined together.
  • Homes with primary suites: Some homes offer primary suites that are separate from the other bedrooms. This allows space between family members, while still sharing common living spaces.
  • Dedicated multigenerational homes: Some home builders are attuned to the needs of multigenerational living and have created homes that will fit the needs of multiple generations.

Maximize Your Space

No matter what type of home you’re looking for to fit your multigenerational family, there are some ways that you can maximize your space:

  • Create multipurpose rooms: Using a room for multiple purposes can help make the most of your square footage. For example, a laundry room and a pantry combination or a dining room/office combo.
  • Design outdoor living spaces: If you have a large enough yard, use it to create outdoor living spaces that can be used for different purposes, like eating, reading and just hanging out.
  • Build strategic storage: You may not have plentiful storage spaces, so be strategic with what you do have. Use furniture that also includes storage space (think: drawers under beds) and put space organizers in closets.

Balance Private And Shared Spaces

While one of the benefits of living with multiple generations is that you’ll have a lot of togetherness, you also want to make sure everyone has their own space.

Balance private and shared spaces how ever it works best for your family. Will there be one kitchen that everyone uses or does someone need a kitchenette or a small refrigerator elsewhere? Are there certain areas of the home that are to be kept private or is it all going to be communal living?

Be conscious of your space and privacy needs and then search for a home that can meet as many of them as possible.

Pick A Future-Proof Layout

While the older generation might be fully mobile currently, if you want your home to be a place where everyone feels comfortable living long-term, consider accessibility issues. For example, if there are a lot of stairs to climb to reach all of the bedrooms, that might not be ideal for older parents. A better layout would likely include a guest suite on the main floor.

Think about how everyone (including kids) can age in the space to ensure it’s a home you love for years.

Choose Your Real Estate Agent Wisely

Trying to find a real estate agent familiar with multigenerational homes is going to be extremely helpful to your home search. An experienced agent can help you consider different options you may not have previously considered and then can help you steer clear of layouts that could be a mistake to buy.

Take the time to interview agents and find the right agent for your situation – it will pay off.

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    Erica Gellerman

    Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom and more.