How to Find Multigenerational Homes

Multigenerational family posing for a group picture outside their home.
•••

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

The demand for multigenerational homes is not slowing down. Multigenerational homes have members of more than two generations living under the same roof. There are many perks to living with family, but a few challenges exist as well.

The concept of communal living and keeping the family close holds a growing appeal. Better health, prosperity, and support are just a few of the reasons people choose to live with multiple generations. It can be more affordable as well. If you are thinking about buying a home with family members, or moving in together to save money, you have many options in this growing movement.

Key Takeaways

  • Multigenerational homes have become a popular choice for economic reasons. 
  • Privacy can be a challenge in a multigenerational home. 
  • There are many types of multigenerational homes, including having two homes on one lot or two to four residential units. 
  • A savvy real estate agent can help you find a multigenerational home that meets your needs.

Reasons Behind the Rise in Multigenerational Homes

Today more than 51 million Americans live in multigenerational homes, according to Generations United. This is an increase of more than 10% from 2007, which marked the start of the Great Recession.

Fallout From the Financial Recession

There are many reasons why extended family members may possess a strong desire to live together. Economic conditions are one. The market crash from 2006 to 2011 forced many people out of their homes and into the extra rooms of their parents, siblings, or adult children. The influx of foreclosures and short sales during this time had a major effect on the credit of so many people. This in turn made it hard for many to get loans or even rent housing. As a result, some people had no choice but to turn people they knew for housing.

The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

A few years later, the COVID-19 pandemic had many of the same effects. In 2020 and into 2021, the shift to multigenerational housing is on the rise. People were buying more multigenerational homes than in years past, and also moving in with family at greater rates than ever before. The desire to save money may be one factor behind these patterns, but this time saw a shift in family values as well. As people were forced into lockdown all over the country, working from home, schooling from home, etc., without a clear end in sight, living with loved ones was often the only way to spending time with them.

Relying on Family to Support Cost of Living

Many recent adult college grads end up learning the hard way how tough it is to find a job in their field. Or they may receive a job offer but the pay is nowhere near enough to afford to rent an apartment. Older children who leave their home to live with a partner or spouse may realize that the relationship was not meant to last, but can't afford to live on their own, and so they return. Single parents with young children often find they can save more money, and in essence start over, if they move back home.

Slightly more than half of the people between the ages of 18 and 29 lived with their parents in 2020.

Changing Lifestyles

People are also living longer today. When a parent or grandparent starts to suffer from memory loss or other health issues, adult children will often offer a place in their home so they can take better care of them. This is also much cheaper than the wildly high cost of assisted living.

Living together as a blended family is also a normal way of life for many cultures and in many countries outside of the United States.

Pros and Cons of Multigenerational Living

Some of the perks and downsides to living in a multigenerational home are touched on above, but it helps to compare side by side. Many of these features may apply to you, and as you weigh your options, you may find that some are much stronger than others.

Pros
  • Can help family members recover from financial hits and save money

  • Helps recent college grads stay afloat while hunting for their first job

  • Can provide care for aging family members more easily

  • Immigrants can carry on with norms of their culture

  • Helps people who are newly single, or who may have new children and can't afford their higher costs of living

  • Has been shown to increase health, support, and prosperity

Cons
  • Debate around chores or duties can cause issues between family members

  • It may be hard to meet privacy needs

  • The finances of all family members must be factored in

  • Living space might have to adjust for a wide range of ages, such as the elderly or very young children

  • It may not be easy to assign a space for single-use functions

Downsides to Living in a Multigenerational Home

Although there are many positive reasons for having a multigenerational home, a few hurdles need to be discussed upfront, and worked out to avoid the chance of feuds. Finances and chores must be discussed early on when a family member moves in or returns home from college to stay.

The living space may need to accommodate three or four generations. Babies, children, and older adults all have different living needs, and you'll need to adapt home to suit them. For instance, drawers and doors may need "baby-proof" fixtures, but they can't be too tough for grandma to open. You may need to bring in fences or playpens to keep young ones from straying around, but they can't create barriers for older people who may use a cane, or have a hard time moving around. All of the home's spaces must be properly equipped for the range of people who live there.

Aside from the space itself, you should think about everyone's daily habits and comfort levels. Elderly parents shouldn't be thought of as on-call, unpaid babysitters. Also, adult children may not be willing or able to give up their free time to take care of elderly parents. Privacy is a must for most teenagers, so this will have to be discussed and worked out as well. It's easy to get stressed in a home with lots of action, and mental wellness is often an unseen factor for all involved.

These are just a few of the types of issues you should think about when looking at home layouts and deciding, for instance, whether you need that bonus room, larger yard, or extra bedroom.

​Types of Multigenerational Homes

Your options in multigenerational housing are vast. There are many models and layouts that have been crafted at many price points, and you are bound to find one that fits your needs.

Two Houses on One Lot

These aren't just homes in the country. You can find two houses on a lot in many urban settings. Some MLS criteria allow a search for two houses on a lot. Real estate agents and others with access to the MLS can help you find what you're looking for.

Infill Developments

Infill developments are when unused spaces in urban areas are turned into homes, such as smaller lots between two homes. Another option is to build a home over the garage or in an alley, especially on deep lots from 80- to 160-feet.

Two to Four Residential Units

These include duplexes, whether set up up-and-down or side-by-side, as well as triplexes, four-plexes. They can also include single family homes coupled with a duplex on the same or an adjoining lot.

Halfplexes consist of two structures that may look like a duplex, but each has its own parcel number. They can be sold on their own, as two separate homes.

Build-To-Suit Multigenerational Homes

Architects, home developers, and others who work in the home building industry have long been aware of the need for multigenerational housing. As a result, they have started to design suitable homes, with novel features that can't be found in standard homes. For instance, two homes may be formed under one roof, with two kitchens and separately defined spaces for privacy.

The Best Way to Find Multigenerational Homes

​Your best bet for finding a wide range of options that support multigenerational living is to seek out a real estate agent who knows this field to assist. You can search for homes online at any number of websites, but many of those are unregulated. Some websites publish feeds without regard to standards, or to the source of their information. Homes might be sold or pending by the time you find them. It can be very depressing to fall in love with a home online and find out it is not for sale.

A real estate agent can set up private searches for you to receive listings as soon as they come on the market. The agent can also arrange for you to tour sites where new homes are being built. The services of a buyer's agent are often free to a buyer. No doubt, you will find an agent's service will provide great value, and save you a lot of hassle versus if you were to go at it alone.