The Case for More Multi-Generational Housing

According to the National Association of Realtors, 15 % of home purchases since March were multi-generational homes. Before the pandemic, that number was only 11%. What is multi-generational living and why is it in such high demand in new homes?

Multi-generational living means that at least two adult generations live together under one roof. For example, a home with grandparents living with their children and grandchildren or one with parents and their adult children, and beyond.

Even before the pandemic, up to 41% of Americans buying a home were considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child. As we reevaluate what “home” means and who we want to be able to see every day, more families are finding security and support by expanding their households to include multiple generations under one roof. Here are some of the benefits of multi-generational living:

  • There is just one mortgage and one set of utilities to manage
  • Less funds are spent on commuting to visit family
  • Getting a babysitter means getting quality time with the grandparents
  • Should a health emergency arise, there will be other family members around to help

Having family in the next room is convenient; but without the right layout, too many heads under one roof can become stressful.  Multigenerational homes are designed to provide a convenient and stress-free living experience. Each generation will benefit from having separate space and privacy, such as a separate living area, kitchen, and separate entrance. The trick to successful multi-generational homes is designing spaces that make sense for everyone. Living with family can be comfortable and convenient when a home is geared toward comfort, privacy, and accessibility.

In response to this demand, many homebuilders have begun creating floor plans specifically to accommodate multi-generational living, like this one by @tollbrothers at Highlands at Hillcrest in Porter Ranch, CA.⁠ (I’ll include a picture) Some families have renovated their current homes to suit aging parents or adult children.

Multigenerational homes, whether newly constructed or a result of a home renovation, require an eye for accessibility. Even if Grandma and Grandpa can get around easily now, thinking ahead can save growing pains in the future. Creating spaces that are wheelchair accessible means older residents will always feel welcome. Open concept layouts are great for getting around. And, configuring bedrooms so that everyone can reach their private living spaces means everyone can remain as independent as possible.

When given the choice between the main and second-floor bedrooms in multigenerational homes, choose the main floor. Not only will they remain the most accessible as your family ages, but having one or two bedrooms on the main floor can create a natural separation between generations. While it might feel natural to put all of the bedrooms on the second-floor level, putting a few on the main floor offers extra privacy and some breathing room to keep everyone sane. Make sure that for each generation in a home, there is at least one dedicated living space. Multigenerational homes that include a family room, a den, and a playroom, means that everyone has a little breathing room and a place to relax.

If you’re working with a truly small space, you’ll need to get creative with your sleeping arrangements. Beds take up a lot of precious floor space in a small living area. Fold-down beds mean you can put a makeshift bedroom just about anywhere, creating a truly multifunctional room. Rather than feeling like you’re in a cramped space, the beds fold up into seamless-looking cabinets, and combine with other must-have areas, like a home office or den.

With several families living in the same home, every square foot comes at a premium. Think about converting some of the less-utilized areas of the home, such as the attic, the basement, or over the garage. Rethink each room’s purpose and convert storage spaces into comfy living spaces instead. You can always find other places to store your things and everyone will be happier when they can spread out.

If you can design your home from scratch, ask your interior designer to help you configure suites for each generation. Sharing bathrooms can be a major pain point in multigenerational homes and you can easily reduce those quibbles before they even begin. A private bedroom and bathroom suite for grandparents and parents, and a jack-and-jill bathroom for kids can reduce some of the pressure on the busiest rooms in the home.

Living in a multigenerational home means customizing as much as possible and remembering to adapt when necessary. What works for other families might not work for you and you might even find that something you designed doesn’t actually translate to real life. The trick to living with more than one generation is to keep communication open; stay open to change so that everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

By considering needs, privacy, and accessibility, your multigenerational home will be a happy haven.