Multigenerational living is a trend that’s growing and has quadrupled since the 1970s. According to Pew Research, the number of Americans living with multiple generations under one roof rose to nearly 60 million in 2021.
Affordability and cost savings are leading factors driving interest in multigenerational living. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) found that for first-time and repeat buyers the ability to pool multiple incomes and purchase a larger home was one of their top three reasons for opting for a multigenerational home.
According to Angela Walters, board chair for the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® (GMAR), the trend is rising in the Milwaukee area. “Housing prices have dramatically increased but salaries haven’t,” Walters says. “More and more people are combining incomes to increase their homebuying power.”
Walters believes the pandemic also contributed to increased interest in multigenerational homes. “The pandemic caused a lot of people living alone to feel isolated,” she says. “It’s since drawn families closer together as they realize they like being nearer one another.”
Research from Generations United, an advocacy group for children and older adults, found evidence to support Walter’s observations. In its 2021 report, Family Matters: Multigenerational Living Is on the Rise and Here to Stay, the group noted that 79% of survey respondents experienced enhanced bonds or relationships among family members, and 76% felt positive impacts on their mental and/or physical health.
Mike Kollmansberger, real estate broker with Shorewest Realtors, has first-hand experience with multigenerational living. When he and his wife built a new home in 2020, their plans included an apartment above the garage for his mother.
“She felt isolated and lonely in the condo she was living in,” says Kollmansberger. “Now we enjoy being able to check-in with each other more often, even if it’s for two minutes. We can more easily share in impromptu gatherings, too.”
Kollmansberger notes that ensuring privacy for everyone sharing living space is a high priority. “My mom has her own entrance and everything she needs in her apartment,” he says. “We set up ground rules from the beginning to make sure no surprise walk-ins happen. To protect everyone’s privacy, we ring the doorbell or knock first.”
Phu Ngo, sales executive/licensed Realtor with Jay Schmidt Group, Keller Williams, agrees. Ngo is currently renovating a duplex that will accommodate a family upstairs and extended family downstairs.
“Many families want to create a homestead environment to raise their school-age kids,” he says. “Out-of-town and overseas grandparents want to be an active part of their grandchildren’s upbringing. Parents who provide living space for them under their roof makes it possible. But it’s imperative that they create a sense of privacy and separateness for extended family so they feel like they have their own space.”
Although popular, open concept areas aren’t conducive for multigenerational living. Separate bathrooms, dens, finished basements and he/she sheds all provide important privacy spaces while also helping with noise control.
Walters advises those interested in purchasing a multigenerational home pursue it with their eyes open, recognizing they might have some challenges to overcome.
“Someone who’s used to living alone may like it quiet, whereas a family with children can be noisy. People live differently and when you’re sharing space those things need to be taken into account,” says Walters. “As much as we love our families, conflicts can arise but the benefits of living together outweigh any concerns.”
Whether caring for aging parents or young children, multigenerational living is a convenient way to save money. Childcare costs for working parents continue to rise as do costs for assisted living and other senior services.
With more family members living together under one roof, both adults and children receive the most loving and affordable care possible while providing great peace of mind. In addition, transportation costs associated with traveling back and forth to daycare are also eliminated.
According to Sarah Cole, designated broker with Landmark Realty LLC, caring for aging loved ones raises unique home configuration needs. “Even though aging parents may not currently have mobility issues, it’s important to plan for the future,” says Cole. “Bedrooms and bathrooms on one level, double wide stairways, doorways wide enough for a walker or wheelchair and roll-in showers are all factors to keep in mind.”
Often aging parents invest with their children in the purchase of a multigenerational home. Cole advises buyers to have a clear plan in place before the aging parent is unable to make decisions or passes away. “It’s essential to have the property correctly titled,” she says. “Having both owners’ names on the title or putting the property into a trust avoids probate.”
When two or three working adults are interested in buying a multigenerational home, they should know that lenders are receptive to financing options. They may take the highest credit score or combine and average them to secure the best financing.
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