Multi-Gen Housing Is Back in Vogue

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beverly hillbillies American families are going back to the future, with multiple generations shacking up together for the same reasons that young un-marrieds once did -- to save on housing costs. The trend has resurfaced over the past 12 months, reports Coldwell Banker in a new survey conducted among its agents, as families seek big homes with features like geographically separate bedrooms that let the middle-aged share space with adult offspring and/or aging parents.

"More than one third of our sales associates have seen clients express a need for a multi-gen home," Diann Patton, Consumer Specialist at Parsippany, N.J.-based Coldwell Banker Real Estate, tells HousingWatch.

Indeed, Coldwell Banker's survey says that 37 percent of Coldwell Banker agents have heard this request, and that among those seeking a "multi-gen" home, the top reason is financial savings (39%), followed by healthcare costs (29%) and family bonding (6%).

Patton says that families interested in multi-generational homes will look at models with "mother-in-law" or accessory units, but also homes with remodel-ready attics and lots of separate entrances.
In her area of Northern California, she knows of two parties shopping for multi-generational living situations. In one instance, she said, a family and their elderly mother/grandmother combined financial resources so that the elder could move out of a pricey retirement community and put her funds toward a shared family home where younger generations could look after her needs. In another instance, Patton said, a family bought a home on a lot large enough to accommodate construction of a separate living space.

Coldwell Banker isn't the first organization to note the trend. The AARP reported that 25 percent of the Baby Boomer generation expects that they'll share homes with an aging parent at some point. And our friends at AOL News report that there were about 5.5 million multi-generational households, according to the 2009 Census.

Developers are catering to the trend by building homes designed for "the sandwich generation" as the New York Times dubbed it recently. Fittingly, the International Builders Show's 2010 New American Home (which, also fittingly, perhaps, was not completed in time due to a financial default) featured geographically separated bedrooms that put needed breathing space between generations.

While Americans may think the phenomenon is reminiscent of 1970s TV cohabitating families -- The Beverly Hillbillies's Clampitt family and The Waltons come to mind -- Patton says that the upsurge in multi-gen living seems to indicate an interest in living the way prior generations did.

"It's a more European way of living," she notes.

Then again, it's a very American thing, too: Even President Barack Obama is now living with his mother-in-law, who moved to Washington DC and into The White House with the First Family last year.
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