Dear Jen: Multi-generational Living
Article and Photos courtesy of Jen Zweiacker, Zweiacker & Associates
My name is Keri. I’m writing to you for advice because we have a wonderful (and challenging) new life situation. My husband and I have 3 children ages 12, 8, and 6 and we live in a home that we absolutely love! It is a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home and it has been perfect for us for 4 years. We live near a park and our younger children can walk to school. Our backyard is huge! We have the best neighbors. I’m telling you all of that because we lost my father-in-law last year and my mother-in-law is going to come live with us. We’ve talked about buying a new home and have all loaded into the car to drive by homes that are for sale and none of us can get behind the idea of leaving our happy home! We’ve priced doing an addition to our home with a bedroom, bathroom, and living area, but it is so costly and we are worried that we would never get our money back when we get ready to sell in the (distant) future. So, we’re stuck. We’re very excited to have Mimi coming to live with us…we just want to make the best financial decision.
Will we be able to get our money back in the future or do we need to just try harder to embrace the idea of leaving our dream home?
Thank you so much for reaching out. Multi-generational living is on the rise and many people are facing a similar dilemma. The good news is that research shows that everyone in the household can benefit from multiple generations living under one roof. Our older family members have life experience and so much knowledge to share and studies also show that seniors benefit greatly from the sense of connection and purpose that often comes with a multi-generational living situation.
Some home additions add value to a property, while others will not yield a return on the investment. Several things are important to keep in mind. A larger addition can be constructed for a lower cost per square foot. For example, adding one bathroom to a home is usually not cost-effective. On the other hand, too much square footage can price you out of your neighborhood (or phase of your neighborhood) when you are ready to sell. You do not want to have a 5,000 square foot house on a street of 2,000 square foot homes.
Often, people with parents coming to live with them will add on one large bedroom. I encourage you to consider that the key to healthy multi-generational living is to create a floor plan that allows everyone to live together – and apart. It is equally important to have both communal spaces to bring the family together and to have areas where people can go to be alone and recharge. I recently had the opportunity to work with a family that had a great approach to cover both types of spaces and do so in a cost-effective manner. They loved their 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home, and chose to add-on rather than move or build a new home when they learned that a family member would be coming to live with them. Typically, when building a space for an aging family member, you want to be certain that it is a one-story addition with ADA features such as wide doorways and the ability to add grab bars. This particular family also realized that their 3 children needed an additional play space, so they built a 2 story addition! Downstairs they built a suite with a living area and a spacious bedroom. Upstairs, they built an enormous game room! It is less expensive to build a 2-story structure than a 1-story with the same square footage, so they saved money on construction. This also allowed them to continue to have a ton of outdoor play space. Additionally, they had the contractor do a “refresh” on their main living room and kitchen area so that everyone felt great about the shared living space.
If you are truly weighing your options, I’d love to offer a suggestion regarding a move to a new home. I’ve learned that to feel comfortable with anything new (including a new home), you must first place your focus on all of the positives that come with the new situation. If you only focus on what you are leaving behind, it is very difficult to feel good about change. Perhaps you can look for homes within your neighborhood or homes that feed to the same schools to keep a sense of normalcy. You may want to ask a Realtor to show you some homes that are larger to see how it feels. It could be a fun family project to make a list of “pros” for buying a new home and a list of “pros” for doing an addition. You may be surprised at where you land.
As long as you follow the guidelines above, you can’t go wrong either way! I’ve included photos of the beautiful addition that Matt Hamilton constructed to illustrate how the addition mentioned above looks.
We are blessed to have many talented, caring Realtors in our community that would love to help you find a new home that will fit both your needs and budget.
Best Wishes, Jen
Do you have questions about home ownership or real estate? Please feel free to contact Jen Zweiacker at 979.450.0455 or visit zarealestate.com