Why New Homes May be the Answer for Multigenerational Households

Independence house plan kitchen image/ Lennar
A multigenerational home provides a floor plan that’s ideal for families with many generations living under the same roof. For example, in the Independence plan, a Lennar “Home Within a Home,” a private suite with a kitchenette, living area, bedroom and bathroom provides privacy for parents or adult children.

When your clients are searching for a home that can accommodate not only their immediate family, but also an aging parent, a boomerang kid or both, you may struggle to find a resale home that offers the space for multiple generations to live together but also have privacy.

Architects for new home builders have come up with solutions that could be just what your buyers need now and in the future.

Two national builders, Lennar and Ryland Homes, as well as other national, regional and local builders, began addressing the need for multigenerational housing approximately five years ago. Lennar’s NextGen “Home Within a Home” is now available in more than 20 markets and about 150 communities, says Jeff Roos, president of Lennar.

“This product just doesn’t exist in resale homes,” says Roos.

Diane Morrison, national vice president of sales and marketing for Ryland Homes, suggests that Realtors visit homes designed for multiple generations so they can explain the benefits of these homes to buyers.

“Buyers can make structural choices at the point of sale so they don’t have to compromise their lifestyle the way they would with a resale,” says Morrison. “With a new home, buyers can bring their lifestyle to the home rather than be forced to adjust their lifestyle to a resale.”

Growing interest in Multigenerational Homes

While there has always been a need for some families to provide housing for an elderly parent or to combine households because of financial or health issues, several factors are leading to increased demand for multigenerational housing. According to the Pew Research Center, a record 57 million Americans, or 18.1 percent of the U.S. population, lived in multigenerational family households in 2012 — double the number of people who live in multigenerational homes in 1980.

Roos says that about 65 percent of Lennar’s NextGen homebuyers are grandparents moving in to share child care responsibilities and finances with their adult children. He also points to the aging baby boomer population, many of whom are not financially positioned for retirement. The recession and long-term unemployment continue to damage the finances of younger and older generations.

“The benefit of multigenerational homes is that you can combine two households and have one housing payment and a better lifestyle,” says Roos. “Instead of squeezing in together in uncomfortably small spaces or staying separate but spending too much money, families can live comfortably together and save money.”

Boomerang kids, adults who return home after college or while establishing a career, can also benefit from a home designed to accommodate them, says Chuck Wilson, director of architecture for Ryland Homes. He says multigenerational homes also appeal to buyers with a variety of cultural backgrounds who prefer to live with their extended families.

Multigenerational Homes Offer Flexibility

Regardless of how the spaces are used now, or how buyers plan to use them in the future, homes designed specifically for multiple generations offer flexibility.

The NextGen home, which comes in different configurations in various markets, typically includes an attached suite with a separate exterior entrance, as well as an internal entrance to the main house with a dual-locking door for privacy. The suite includes one or two bedrooms, a kitchenette, a bathroom, a living room and a laundry area. Some even have a private outdoor space separated from the main backyard.

Wilson says Ryland Homes sees varied regional preferences for their multigenerational homes. In the more costly homes that Ryland builds on the West Coast and in Phoenix and Las Vegas, buyers can have a separate suite attached to the house, sometimes even with a private garage. In Texas, Ryland offers casitas that are attached to the main house, although some are detached, says Tom Devine, an architect with Ryland Homes for their communities in Texas and the South.

“The typical two-story, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home is beginning to die out in places like Phoenix because people are looking for additional functionality for both the older generation and the younger generation to live in the house,” says Wilson.

“On the East Coast, over the past five to eight years, we started seeing buyers wanting additional private baths on the second floor to accommodate more adult family members in the house,” Wilson continues. “More recently, buyers are interested in a first floor space with the option of converting it to a bedroom or even a guest suite with a living space, a kitchenette and an entrance from the family foyer off the garage.”

Devine says the new multigenerational floor plans offer flexibility for buyers to use their space for different purposes.

“It’s not really an earth-shattering change, it’s just that people have the choice of a structural option when they buy their home to do some forward planning,” says Devine. “They can choose to add a closet to the first-floor study and put a full bath adjacent to it so that it can be used as a bedroom in the future. It doesn’t cost that much more if you’re just reconfiguring the square footage that’s already there, although adding the bath and a kitchenette can cost a little extra.”

Roos says a critical element to these new homes is that the main house has to work well for the families. He says the homes also must fit in with the size and price range of other homes in the community, although he says the NextGen homes are often slightly more expensive than a traditional home.

“Basically the only thing buyers lose is the formal space such as a living room, which was already going away,” says Roos. “We’ve turned that space into a first-floor guest suite.”

Wilson says that while designs vary regionally, adding a space for in-laws or boomerang kids typically takes over the space occupied by a formal living room, a third garage space or a formal dining room.

“One of the greatest values offered by new construction is that the way people live in their homes is constantly evolving and builders are able to adapt and change their designs to accommodate them,” says Devine. “Multigenerational living isn’t just some flash-in-the-pan idea that only meets one specific use. There are lots of ways to live in these homes regardless of how the rooms are labeled.”

About the author 

Michele Lerner

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.

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