Tips for Navigating Multigenerational Living

August 04, 2023

Back in the good old days, it was common for several generations to live under one roof. In recent years, multigenerational living has made a big comeback, and with it more innovative housing choices. In fact, one in five American households are comprised of adults from different generations such as parents and their adult children, or grandparents, parents and children, according to census data.

If you are thinking about merging households, there are many decisions you'll need to make. Here are some tips to help you plan wisely.

First Things First: Should You Do It?

Although you may be considering multigenerational living, is it right for you? Many families attest to the benefits of living together, including grandparents bonding with their grandkids and helping with childcare, parents helping adult kids with rent until they can afford their first home, or adult children caring for ageing parents. With the pros, come the cons: lack of privacy, lifestyle differences, managing the ins and outs of finances, or not having the ability to care for parents with serious health issues.

If you decide living together is a good idea, here are some other things to consider:

  • If you buy a house together what are the best types of housing and mortgage options?
  • If you're sharing an existing home, what improvements do you need to make to accommodate everyone?
  • If family members are renting what will the monthly rent be?
  • How will you share financial obligations such as utilities and other expenses?
  • How will you divvy up chores?

Having a frank discussion will everyone involved will help you decide what living arrangements may be right for you or whether living together is simply a bad idea. If your initial planning is positive, you may even consider meeting with a financial advisor for additional advice tips. Then write down your plan and have everyone agree and even sign it so that you can refer to it when needed and not get off track with your decisions.

Finding the Right Housing Fit

Depending on your family's needs, there are many choices available for multigenerational living including:

  • Professional homebuilder models. National homebuilders offer home-within-a-home solutions that include two kitchens and separate living spaces. These are a boon for many families because they are affordable and offer privacy and independence.
  • Two homes on one lot. Common, especially in rural areas where there is more land to build on.
  • Granny units or casitas. These are smaller quarters built on the same lot as the main home.
  • Duplexes or halfplexes. A duplex is one home divided into two apartments with a separate entrance for each; a halfplex is one-half of an attached residence but has its own parcel number so is considered a personal residence. A halfplex is more affordable than a single-family residence.
  • Homes with dual master suites. The family shares common areas such as a kitchen and living room.
  • Handicap-friendly room and bath. Accommodations made in a single-family home for an ageing loved one.
  • Other additions. This includes garage apartments or renovated basements.

Buying a Home Together

If you decide to buy a home to accommodate your blended family, an experienced real estate agent and loan consultant can help you search for homes and find the right financing. Keep in mind that when you first set up the loan, you won't be able to have more than one mortgage on the property, so you'll need to determine who will be on the title. Most likely, you'll want all the owners to be on the loan, unless someone has bad credit and could preclude you from getting the best rates.

Renovations and Additions

If you decide to remodel, you might consider using a home equity line of credit or HELOC or take out a construction loan. If you decide to build a granny unit, or make other renovations, make sure you understand the building regulations in your area. In California for instance, new laws have made it easier for homeowners to make such additions. There are also contractors who specialize in this type of construction and understand current laws and restrictions to help you make the most of your money, save time and make the right additions.