Above: Homes with an ADU tucked in the back, such as this one fabricated by Modern-Shed, fit the bill when buying for a multigenerational family. Photo by Dominic Arizona Bonnuccelli (AZ Foto)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 18 percent of Americans now live in multigenerational families. That means a growing number of home buyers are seeking dwellings that work for households that include adults from two or more generations, or that have grandparents and grandchildren living under the same roof.
Because these homes can be so difficult to find, we’ve asked Elba I. Cox, Principal Broker and Owner of EcoPro Realty Group in Lake Oswego, what smart buyers should look for. “Be on the lookout for several features,” she says. “To ensure everyone’s privacy, look for a house with multiple master bedrooms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a suite, but it should have a bigger bedroom and a bathroom.” Another option is to consider a home with a mother-in-law suite, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), or a large enough lot that you can build an addition.
To accommodate ever-changing people and needs, look for homes with flexible rooms. “Family life is very dynamic,” Cox says. “Some days you have multiple generations living there, and then maybe something happens and they leave.” Kids come and go from college and jobs; an elderly parent may get sick and pass away. Look for a home with lots of open space and rooms that can be used for multiple purposes (such as a bedroom that can eventually be converted to an office).
It’s also important that the home be adaptable. “Grandparents might be mobile today but not so mobile tomorrow,” Cox says. Look for features such as zero- or low-step entrances, and hallways and doors wide enough to accommodate a walker.
Cox focuses on sustainable housing, and she says multigenerational families shouldn’t sacrifice their green principles because they’re worried about cost. Green homes can be more affordable to maintain and operate, which is important for homeowners supporting multiple family members.
In addition, “One important component of sustainability is health,” Cox says. “Because you have people with the two extremes in ages—the elderly and young—living under one roof, it’s important to create a healthy living environment with things like low VOC paints and flooring with fewer chemicals.” When everyone is healthy, members of multiple generations get to stay together even longer.