All in the family
Michael Cox and Aimee Norwood, married baby boomers, sold their home and were about to sign a contract for a newly built house in Virginia when their lives took an unexpected turn.
“My stepfather’s health declined quickly, and he passed away while we were deciding on a home,” Cox says. “We realized that my mother would be ready to downsize and that we wanted her to be closer to us.”
Cox and Norwood opted to upsize rather than downsize and bought a house that includes an optional suite of rooms designed for multigenerational families. The couple estimates that the addition cost about $60,000, including design upgrades chosen by Cox’s mother, Janice Charlip.
“My mom came to the design center to pick out the finishes she wanted because we all see this as her own space to live in the way she wants to live,” Cox says. “It just happens to be attached to our house.”
Cox, Norwood and Charlip share the home with the couple’s two daughters, ages 11 and 12, and the family dog. Cox’s two adult children from a previous marriage are frequent visitors along with their friends, and the approximately 6,000-square-foot home accommodates everyone.
Record number of multigenerational families
Although extended families living under one roof is common in various cultures, the inability of many people to get on their feet after the recession and the increasing longevity of Americans have boosted demand for homes that accommodate several generations. Since 2011, when Lennar introduced its “NextGen” model designed to meet the needs of multigenerational households, the company has sold more than 3,000 of the homes in 13 states.
“We came up with the idea of the NextGen home in Arizona, which was among the hardest-hit markets during the downturn,” says Kim Ashbaugh, director of NextGen brand management for Lennar. “We would see multiple cars in every driveway because there were so many recent grads from local colleges who couldn’t get a job, plus a lot of retirees who chose to move there and were facing higher expenses than they anticipated.”
According to the 2015 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, 13 percent of all home purchases in 2014 were by a multigenerational household, consisting of adult siblings, adult children, parents and/or grandparents. A 2012 Pew Research study said the number of people that year living in multigenerational family households reached a record 57 million, double the number in 1980.
For parents, children alike
The biggest reasons for a multigenerational purchase, according to the NAR report, were cost savings (24 percent) and adult children moving back into the house (23 percent). Younger boomers represented the largest share of multigenerational buyers, at 21 percent, with 37 percent of those saying the primary reason for their purchase was because of adult children moving back home.
In contrast, Lennar’s research shows that 55 percent of its buyers nationwide are purchasing a NextGen home with the intent of bringing an aging parent into the residence, Ashbaugh says.
“We were surprised that only about 7 percent of families were buying these homes to make it easier for their adult children to move in,” she says.
Two key elements of every home designed for multiple generations are privacy and flexibility. These new multigenerational designs, while varying from one builder and one location to another, all have a separate exterior entrance as well as an interior door to the rest of the house to allow for privacy and independence along with a close connection to the family.