An Agent’s Guide to Selling Multigenerational Homes

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Selling multigenerational homes isn’t always the same as selling single-family homes. With these types of homes it’s all about the family.

An increasingly popular trend in the real estate industry, especially among new homebuyers, is multigenerational living and multigenerational homes.

As the name suggests, that means the home consists of more than one generation of adults living in the same household, oftentimes with the grandchildren still in residence as well.

To some, this type of living situating may seem a little different, and thus multigen living may be uncharted territory for many real estate agents. So, with advice from a group of multigen experts, we’ve created this guide to help you explore the concept of selling multigen homes. Welcome to the new frontier!

Inside the Multigen Home

So how can you tell the difference from a multigen home and single-family home?
  
According to Doug Smith, president of the Virginia-based building and development firm Miller & Smith, that could be easier said than done. “Many times, multigen homes are traditional single-family homes that are just a little more flexible in the room configurations,” he says.

In layman’s terms, that means there’s more space.

“The extra space is big draw,” says Taylor Cohee, director of sales and marketing for Ryder Homes in Reno, Nev., who stresses that multigen homes aren’t strictly limited to multigen families. “A lot of people are using it for a man cave, a game room, a kids’ play area, and obviously it’s a great place for extended family to stay.”

But for those homebuyers who are multigenerational, there are a few structural details to keep an eye out for. For instance, many multigen homes have a separate suite customized for multigen living — a space where aging parents or kids returning from college can live with privacy from the rest of the family.

A great example of this can be found in Ryder Homes’ Studio+ Plan in Sparks, Nev. With the option to create a separate living area, homebuyers are able to opt for a separate kitchenette, living and dining area, private patio, separate entrance and full master suite, Cohee says.

In addition to these, other common home characteristics of multigen homes include basements, attics or garages converted for living, and casitas or other accessory dwellings built adjacent to the home for separation but shared resources.

Getting to Know the Multigen Buyer

Now that you’ve gotten the 4-1-1 on the multigen home, it’s time to get to know the multigen buyer and what they’re looking for in a home.

“With a large influx of new international homebuyers and cultural norms shifting in housing, many are looking for homes to accommodate extended family living situations,” says Smith. “Privacy is absolutely key but large, flexible communal spaces are often desired.”

For the non-multigenerational buyer looking at a multigen home, that “flex space” becomes another major selling point. In addition to using it for purposes like a man cave, play area or housing guests, many buyers see huge potential for additional income by renting out the extra space.

“Increasingly [multigen] also refers to grandparents raising grandchildren — with or without the parents present,” says Lori Bitter, author of The Grandparent Economy, which explores multigen living in detail.

In fact, the typical multigen buyer is between 50 and 60, says Bitter, and other family members may be contributing to the purchase and ultimately contributing to the influence of the purchase. Thus, it’s important to consider the thoughts and values of all those involved.

In regards to demographics, Cohee says, multigen buyers are much like condo buyers: there will be first-time buyers and there will be empty nesters looking for low maintenance.

“We see that first-time homebuyers really like the idea of the income potential to offset their mortgage, whereas the older folks may want to have their parents move in,” he adds. “Determining what your buyers’ needs are prior to giving them the chance to experience the space is key.”

Making the Sell

According to the National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report for 2015, 13 percent of homebuyers purchased multigen homes.

With such a large percentage, it’s clear there is a market for multigen homes. So what’s it going to take to make the sell?

For starters, remember and recount the positives of multigenerational homes:

  • Shared cost benefits. Although most home purchases are a large financial burden, multigenerational buyers usually share the costs. “Though cost in terms of dollars and stress can be high, the sense of security — knowing everyone is well cared for, fed and involved in the family — is a tremendous benefit,” says Bitter.
  • Flex space. Whether a kid moves home from college, parents move in for health reasons, or they simply want the extra room for entertainment or guests, buyers can have all of these options and more with a multigen home.
  • Family health benefits. Living in close quarters with family members also provides development and behavior benefits for children, according to a recent study in the Journal of Research on Adolescence. “Elderly people also benefit from the sense of purpose from their contribution to the well-being of the family,” adds Bitter.

Then, remember the following tips:

  • Understand the product. Do the research and brainstorm questions buyers may ask. Are their zoning and building codes in the neighborhood? Can a two-unit building become single-family again? Can a one-unit building become multigenerational? What upgrades are available with this floor plan?
  • Understand the buyer. “Understanding who will be living in the home, not just from a numbers perspective, but also from a socio/lifestyle perspective is key,” says Bitter. “Good Realtors already seek this type of information from their clients, but there are so many buyers to make happy in this scenario.” Simply put, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Don’t exclude non-multigen families. Just because the buyer might not be involved in a multigenerational family now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future, or they may just desire the extra space for personal or rental reasons.

As with any home sale, it’s all about the buyer and finding the home that suits their goals. Ultimately, it’s your job as an agent to navigate the waters and guide them home.

“People living the multigenerational lifestyle have overwhelmingly positive experiences,” Bitter says. “It takes new models, new ways of thinking about existing homes, and some creativity on the part of Realtors to find the right piece of property for these highly individualized situations.”

About the author 

Drew Knight

Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). He graduated from Texas A&M University in December 2014 with a degree in agricultural communications and journalism. He previously edited and designed pages for the Bryan-College Station (Texas) city paper The Eagle, wrote for the Brazos Valley’s premier arts and entertainment publication Maroon Weekly and worked in publicity at Warner Bros. Records in New York City.

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