How to Find Multi-Generational Homes

Multigenerational family posing for a group picture outside their home.
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The demand for multi-generational homes is not slowing down. Multi-generational homes have members of more than two generations living under the same roof. There are many benefits to living with family, but a few challenges exist as well.

It's no longer a stigma to live with parents or grandparents. The idea of communal living and keeping the family together holds a growing appeal. Better health, prosperity and nurturing support are reasons people choose to live with multiple generations.

What the Research Shows

When the Pew Research Center released a report in 2018 showing almost one in every five Americans lives in an environment with multiple generations, this was record-breaking news.

You can trace the upward trend from 26.8 million families in 1960 living together with two or more adult family members to 64 million families in 2016.

The Reason Behind Multigenerational Homes

It's not hard to figure out why multigenerational homes are such a hot commodity today. There are many reasons why extended family members may possess a strong desire to live together:

The market crash from 2006 to 2011 forced many people out of their homes and into a family member's home. Foreclosures and short sales affected the credit of all these people, so some families had no choice but to turn to a parent or other family member for housing.

Many recent adult college graduates may discover it is difficult to find a job in their field or the salary offered is not enough to afford an apartment.

Children who leave home to live with a partner or spouse sometimes discover the relationship was not meant to last at the most inopportune times. Single parents with children often find it's easier to manage to start over if they move back home.

Also, Failure to Launch is not just a movie with Sarah Jessica Parker; it's a real situation. Young people, those born between 1980 and 2000, make up almost one-third of stay-at-home children, and they tend to see no reason to move out of the house.

People are living longer nowadays. When a parent or grandparent suffers from memory loss or other health issues, often adult children will offer a place in their home to accommodate round-the-clock care.

Hispanic and Asian families make up the majority of minorities who welcome extended family members who emigrate to the United States. Living together as a blended family is a natural way of life in some countries.

Benefits

  • Can help family recover from financial challenges

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

  • Can provide care for aging family members more easily

  • Immigrants can continue cultural norms with multi-generational living

  • Helps newly-single people who may have children and limited resources

  • Family receives communal living benefits of increased health, support, and prosperity

Challenges

  • Not discussing chores or responsibilities can cause issues among family members

  • It may be difficult to meet the needs for privacy

  • The discussion of finances for all family members must be considered

  • Living space might have to be geared to accommodate different age ranges, such as the elderly or very young children

  • Difficult to assign a space for single-use functions

Disadvantages

Although there are many positive reasons for having a multi-generational household, a few disadvantages need to be discussed up-front and worked out to avoid any family feuds. Finances and chores must be talked about 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 of family, and it must be properly equipped, whether for a baby, a teenager, or an elderly family member. All of these members have different needs in the hours they wish to be awake and interacting with the other family members.

It's also important to consider specific needs that different-aged family members will need or want, such as a comfortable place to watch television for older family and the younger ones. Parents should not be looked upon as on-call, unpaid babysitters. Also, adult children may not be willing to dedicate limited free time to the care of elderly relations.

Privacy is very important to teenagers so this will have to be discussed and worked out as well. Consider these types of issues when looking at various home layouts and deciding on whether a bonus room or extra bedroom is necessary.

​Types of Multi-Generational Homes

In my own real estate practice, I routinely meet the needs of clients seeking multi-generational homes. A few years back, the demand for such housing was not as intense as it is today. It means marketing has changed as well. No longer do I present a duplex listing, for example, as strictly an investment property or "live in one side, rent out the other."

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.

Infill Developments

A big movement in Sacramento, for example, is to build a home over the garage or in an alley, especially on deep lots from 80- to 160-feet. It is relatively easy to get a permit to build on an infill. Many cities are beginning to adopt a similar program.

Two to Four Residential Units

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

Halfplexes are popular in California. These consist of two buildings that may resemble a duplex but each has a separate parcel number. They can be sold separately.

Build-To-Suit Multi-Generational Homes

National homebuilders have recognized the need for multi-generational housing and the major players have designed specific multi-generational homes. Some specialty designs are two residences under one roof, with two kitchens and separately defined spaces for privacy.

Tract Homes with Dual Master Suites

Even my small Metrolist MLS provides a designation for a full bedroom and full bath on the first floor. It doesn't have to be an ensuite for some families, as long as mom and dad or son or daughter feel comfortable.

Best Way to Find Multi-Generational Homes

​Your best bet to find a variety of options suitable for multi-generational housing is to find an experienced real estate agent to assist. You can search for homes online at any number of websites but many of those are unregulated. Some purposely publish feeds without regard to quality or source of 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 new home construction sites, too. The services of a buyer's agent are typically free to a buyer. No doubt, you will find an agent's service invaluable and much easier than going it alone.