Tips to consider when buying a home with family members

The industry that brought you the iconic “location, location, location” has a new one for you: “multigenerational housing.” No, it’s not a new concept, but housing that caters to several generations under one roof is gaining in popularity.

We started seeing the demand during the recession, when unemployment propelled younger workers back to Mom and Dad’s house. Then, there’s the fact that millennials are tending to put off marriage and remain at home longer, according to Diana Olick at CNBC.

Immigration is also a driver of the multi-gen housing market. “In Asian and Hispanic cultures, multigenerational living is usually the rule. As these immigrants move to the U.S. in greater numbers, they bring the trend along with them,” Olick suggests.

Burns Consulting surveyed 20,000 homebuyers last year and found that 44 percent said they wanted room for their parents. Forty-two percent were parents wanting room for their adult children.

Thinking about moving in with your kids or your parents? Read on for some tips gleaned from the 51 million Americans who have done it.

Home shopping tips

The most important aspect to consider when shopping for a multi-gen property is privacy. Each member of the family should have some space to call his or her own that provides a place to retreat. This may mean building an “in-law” unit or constructing new walls to divide rooms.

You’ll need to look into the local zoning laws if you choose the former or find a large home to take advantage of the latter.

Lucky you if you choose a community in which home builders are catering to the trend. Lennar, for instance, offers NextGen homes, also known as The Home Within a Home®. They’re currently offered in 13 states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland).

The money stuff

Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but the financial aspect of the home purchase and ongoing costs are a discussion that needs to take place early in the process. And, the discussion should not be “a parent-kid thing,” according to John Graham, co-author of “All in the Family: A Practical Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living.”

He goes on to caution that families should aim to “level the hierarchy of the family,” treating each member as adults. Some of the topics of these conversations should include:

  • Who will buy the property?
  • How will title be held? It’s important to understand the different ways of holding title. For instance, what happens to the home upon the death of the primary buyer?
  • How much will each adult contribute each month to the mortgage payment?
  • Lists of each family member’s must-haves in a home and those he or she can’t tolerate.

Talk to your attorney to ensure you’ve discussed all the ramifications.

Talk to one another

Some families excel at open communication while others find it challenging. “The biggest factor in successful arrangements is communication,” Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United tells Sue Campbell, author of “The Aging Well Revolution: How new communities and technologies help us live.”

“You need to sit down before someone moves in and talk about expectations and parameters, including how you’ll divide up food, utilities and responsibilities. Another important question to ask is whether the situation is permanent or temporary,” Butts concludes.

Get clear on mutually-agreed upon house rules, preferably before everyone moves in together.

Dysfunctional families may find the thought of multigenerational living intolerable, but for those families who enjoy close ties and harbor respect for one another, it may just be the ideal lifestyle.

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