By: Barbara Hobbs, writer for New Homes & Ideas
It is not a rare thing to find two to even four generations sharing a home – in fact, one out of five homes in the country are occupied by multiple generations. Living together as a blended family is a natural way of life for many cultures. Today, 65 million people in the United States live in multi-generational homes. Sometimes this is a matter of necessity, a temporary situation, a matter of preference, or a financial decision, but in every case it requires careful planning. The wonderful result is that the additional space that is allotted for aging parents fits equally well for the adult child who returns home after completing college or after a divorce, for the long term visit of a friend or relative, for the recovery of a seriously injured family member, or for the accommodation of a nanny, nurse or physical therapist. Now more than ever, families are looking for home designs that offer flexibility for evolving lifestyles. As we navigate through the current events of our time, more families are living together either temporarily or permanently, and this has brought the need and desire for these types of home designs to the forefront.
TRADITIONAL ANSWERS: USE THE ROOMS YOU HAVE
The most often-used answer for the accommodation of elderly parents is the conversion of the guest room, especially when it is located on the main floor and is near a full bath. A bonus room is popular especially for a boomerang kid but the necessity of using stairs makes it more difficult for elderly parents. Its biggest asset would be that the room’s larger size could accommodate more furniture items. The next most frequent possibility is a room in the basement. Because of the stairs, this again works best with the adult child, assuming there’s no physical disability. However, the addition of an elevator to a home makes lower and upper levels as acceptable as the first level for aging parents or handicapped children.
One answer is construction – build on, build up, convert a garage or basement, but it is one of the most expensive answers. In North Carolina many yards slant to such a degree that the back wall of the basements are completely open to the back yard. The basement can be finished out with bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, kitchens and eating areas, and can open out with a patio often covered by a deck of the floor above. Some lower areas can even accommodate driveway access. Adding a room or wing to the house, adding a second floor, finishing out the attic space, or even building a new structure on the property all involve expensive and time-consuming effort, and in the long run, may or may not add to the resale value of the home. Often the cost is greater than that of buying a new home that would accommodate the need for more space.
MULTI-GEN HOMES ARE A BETTER ANSWER FROM BUILDERS
The housing market is offering many multi-gen floor plans for families who are looking for more space to accommodate aging parents or boomerang kids for either short-term or for longer periods of time in spaces that give both them and the family privacy and closeness. While two first floor master suites are still popular, more and more homeowners are eager for the additional features of apartment style multi-generational homes. Private entrances, full kitchens and living spaces, even separate garages give their parents or adult children complete and separate living accommodations while still enjoying the security and nearness of their family members.
Photo Courtesy of Sadler Construction
In Riverstone Estates, a new luxury home community in Chatham County with homesites ranging from 2 to 5 acres, Lewis Sadler of Sadler Construction is building a variety of custom designs featuring Universal Design and multi-generational living which include both junior suites and larger secondary family suites. His 4,500 sf Wellington home plan sits on a 2.77 acre wooded homesite and features a private entrance, screened-in porch, master bedroom with ensuite bath and walk-in closet, as well as a three car garage. The entrances into the family home through the screened-in porch and the kitchen make interaction between the families convenient. The total separation gives both families privacy while still keeping them close to one another. It also provides the aging parents, boomerang kid, nanny or visiting relative occupying the second home with plenty of personal space.
While the apartment style accommodations are optimal, there are some potential problems that could crop up. The rental possibility of the apartment is usually inconsequential next to the accommodation of a family member and not often taken into consideration. If planning to build in an area that has a homeowner’s association, be aware that in all probability you will not be able to rent the unit out in the future. If that is important, check with the homeowner’s association before building. You may also need to check with the city in which you build. For instance, in the city of Cary you cannot build a home with two ovens, so including a floor plan with an apartment style accommodation is not possible, at least not one with an oven.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL HOMES NEED ACCESSIBILITY
No matter what you do to make your home a multi-gen home, there are some characteristics that apply to all categories. Sadler, a big believer in multi-generational homes, has been building them for 18 years. “These are houses,” Sadler stated, “that allow families to stay in their homes longer, to plan for future situations, to accommodate new needs in their family’s lives.” He adds characteristics from universal design like one level first floor with no carpet, electric outlets at higher levels, shower entries at floor level, and stairless ingress and egress. “It isn’t just aging parents who occupy the junior suites we build,” he pointed out. “It frequently involves members of the family with injuries from sports or automobile accidents. These are situations that may require these spaces short-term or long-term.”
Photo Courtesy of Sadler Construction
Sadler hopes that other builders will apply the universal design to their homes. Its general definition is the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors, designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. Sadler’s Parade Home in Riverstone Estates, features 4 bedrooms, 4.5 Baths, 4,569 square feet, a first floor owner’s suite and guest suite, and will be showcased in the Fall Parade of Homes starting the weekend of Sept. 26th – Oct. 18th.
FINANCING IS NOT A PROBLEM WITH MULTI-GEN HOMES
Due to both their uniqueness and the high demand for multi-generation homes, banks have no problem providing financing for multi-gen homes. New communities of multi-gen homes are appearing in many suburban areas of the Triangle. Resale value of the homes will be good, and the home’s appraisal value will be high. This type of home will be a good investment.
Another aspect of financing for multi-gen homes comes from the fact that when aging parents move in, they often have sold their homes and, in turn, invested that money into this new house they are now sharing with their children and grandchildren. They will no longer have the costs of owning a home like insurance, upkeep, utilities, lawn care or taxes.
MULTI-GEN LIVING IS BOOMING
Multi-generational living is growing everywhere, especially during the current changing environment, and the Triangle real estate market is no exception. Builders are responding to this forward-looking desire of baby boomers and millennials who see the future possibilities in their family needs. New designs from builders offer better living situations to accommodate this growing trend. Neighborhoods are filled with housing possibilities that will solve future family situations while providing everyday usability from the day the home is purchased. Builders understand the future of the homes and how they will be lived in.