Keeping it in the Family with Multigenerational Housing

by Chicago Agent

With home prices falling, and financing and appraisals in a precarious position, the renting market is often mentioned as a rising form of real estate. New data out of the Pew Research Center, though, highlights a remarkable upward trend in a different form of housing – multigenerational, or, homes with at least two generations of adults.

From 2007 to 2009, Pew reports that the number of Americans living in multigenerational homes increased from 46.5 million to 51.4 million, or, just shy of 17 percent of the population. The trend, Pew says, represents “the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households in modern history.”

Since 1980, the number of multigenerational residents has risen by 23 million.

Unsurprisingly, Pew believes that economics are the driving force. The poverty rate of Americans in multigenerational homes was 3 percent lower than the national average of 14.6 percent, and among unemployed Americans, the poverty rate for multigenerational dwellers was nearly 13 percent lower than the 30.3 percent average.

As Jodi Summers of the The SoCal Investment Real Estate Group at Sotheby’s International Realty points out, though, economics is not the only factor; the recent influx of immigrant families and the rapidly aging baby boomer population are also hotly considered contributors. Summers writes, “While 13 percent of whites live in a multigenerational household, that number rises to 22 percent of Hispanics, 23 percent of blacks, and 25 percent of Asians. (According to the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population was the fastest growing in the nation.).”

Additionally, Summers quotes Nancy Thompson, a senior media relations manager at AARP, who predicted a further increase in multigenerational housing “because there are so many Boomers just reaching their retirement years. The first Boomers are just reaching 65 this year.”

So what does all this data mean for Realtors? Simple – that new construction properties or housing renovations will have to incorporate a broader list of structural requirements for this new type of client. Janet B. Cook, president of Cook Remodeling, suggested several examples in an op-ed for the Arizona Association of Realtors:

  • Have at least one zero-level entry into the home. Fill in sunken rooms.
  • Have interior doors with a minimum 32” wide opening and 36” wide hallways.
  • Raise the height of the dishwasher, oven, washer and dryer.
  • Have base cabinet shelves roll out. Incorporate visual cues in the floor or countertop to delineate edges.
  • In the bathroom, brace walls around the tub, shower, and toilet for grab bars. Have anti-scald controls, adjustable/handheld showerhead and a shower seat.
  • Faucet and door handles should be levered hardware for ease of use.
  • Specify that electrical outlets be located higher off the ground.
  • Have adequate lighting and rocker light switches.
Easy, practical, and most importantly, versatile for the needs of the homebuyer, regardless of his or her age.

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