That gingerbread Victorian showplace you’ve admired from afar with its multiple rooms and floors was probably built to house more than just the traditional nuclear family. Chances are, in addition to parents and their children, grandparents and even unmarried aunts or uncles shared the same space. If that sounds very far away and quaint, it might surprise you to know that multigenerational homes are becoming increasingly common today.
U.S. Census data show that nearly half of all young adults between the ages 18 to 29 still live with their parents, the highest level recorded since the end of the Great Depression. And a recent Pew Research Center report found that a record 64 million Americans currently live in a multigenerational home.
In short, there’s an emerging trend toward multi-generational housing. It’s up to you to determine whether it’s the right decision for you and your family.
The Backstory About Multigenerational Homes
Experts agree that the recent rise in multigenerational households can be attributed to multiple factors, including falling wages, student debt, the cost of long-term care, rising housing prices and a tendency to delay marriage. Interestingly, the growing immigrant population in the U.S. is also frequently cited as a factor since multigenerational housing has always been more common in other parts of the world.
The Mayflower 2022 Finding Home study revealed that 30% of those surveyed were moving or considering a move due to financial reasons. At first glance, you might think that a multigenerational home will lower household expenses since things like mortgages, home insurance and similar costs can be divided. However, if there are healthcare factors involved, any perceived savings can evaporate quickly. According to AARP’s 2021 Caregiving Out-of-Pocket Costs Study, tasks and supplies for home caregiving average more than $7,200 per year — not counting child-related expenses.
Our advice? Carefully look at your current household budget and how it might change.
For example, will you need to modify a home or add amenities like a step-in bathtub or stair climber? Will costs for utilities increase because certain family members like their environment cooler or warmer? How will combining households affect the costs for groceries, childcare/babysitting and other typical expenses?
You’ll most likely find that, all things considered, it’s a bit of a give and take situation, one in which certain costs are offset by other savings.
Not everyone can boast of growing up in a happy, harmonious home environment. Before you combine households, it’s important that you realistically acknowledge any lingering animosities or unresolved family issues, which could escalate when you’re all under one roof.
It won’t be the most comfortable conversation you ever have, but it’s absolutely necessary to be honest. Keep the lines of communication open and set some ground rules early on to avoid problems later.
Another often emotionally charged situation in multigenerational homes happens when adults who are still raising kids are also caring for their aging parents. There’s even a name for it — the sandwich generation — and it can take a toll on even the most loving of families.
Be realistic about unique or time-intensive care needs and get the right resources in place. Otherwise, caregiver burnout can be a real — and ongoing — challenge. One way of coping is to think beyond your own four walls and reach out to other family members to help with specific tasks — or to just give you an occasional night off. Organizations such as the Aging Life Care Association can also help you with practical tips and advice for building a network of support.
If it’s not a “move into” scenario, finding the perfect home and neighborhood will take some time.
There are real estate agents and brokers who specialize in the multigenerational market and it’s a good idea to do some due diligence and seek them out.
It’s also important for all involved to be transparent about what they see as absolute must-haves. Pay particularly close attention to the needs of older family members, who may have to make a significant adjustment to finding their place in a brand-new community.
Another practical consideration is whether the new neighborhood’s zoning laws allow for a multigenerational setup. Depending on the area, multifamily homes often have specific regulations around insurance, taxes, approved renovations and similar matters. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney to identify any potential issues.
Also of note is the growing trend of multigenerational homes to establish a “house prenup” specifying exactly who pays for the home itself, as well as how routine expenses will be handled. It should also include a straightforward exit strategy that covers things like what to do when someone moves out or a new child is welcomed into the family.
We hope your journey to Finding Home is smooth and successful. And remember, no matter where you happen to be in the moving process, you can count on Mayflower to be with you Every Step of the Way®.
Want more tips and advice? Check out our other blogs for city guides, decorating ideas and a wealth of other helpful, time-saving information.
Oh, and did you know Mayflower has a channel on Spotify? Move and groove to tunes that get you to your new place — and settled in — in style.