The Rise of Multi-Generational Living

Looking for a home with a sprawling backyard for yourself, a separate living area for grandmom and granddad — and more than enough bedrooms for when the kids move back in after school? 

If so, you may be among the millions of homebuyers focused on finding a multi-generational home. 

Multi-Generational Living: A Growing Trend

Defined as “homes where two or more adult generations live together, or those that include both grandparents and grandchildren,” multi-generational households are becoming more and more common in Chicagoland and around the country — and multi-generational buyers are becoming more and more important in the real estate market, as a result. 

According to data from Pew Research Center, only 12 percent of Americans lived in a multi-generational household as of 1980; as of 2016, that number had climbed to 20 percent of the population, accounting for one in five Americans. In total, about 64 million Americans lived in a multi-gen household as recently as 2016, up from roughly 27 million back in 1980. 

As more families start to consider coming together under one roof, more buyers are coming to the real estate market with multi-gen housing in mind. According to a 2019 report from Realtor Magazine, up to 41 percent of Americans in the market to buy a home say that “they’re considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child.” 

The National Association of REALTORS’ 2019 Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, meanwhile, notes that about 12 percent of all recent buyers had purchased a multi-generational home. Among this group, the NAR points out that “buyers 39 to 53 years were the most likely to purchase a multi-generational home,” followed by buyers aged 54-63. 

What’s Driving the Popularity of Multi-Generational Living?

So, what’s behind the increasing demand for multi-gen home options? There are numerous factors driving this ongoing trend — some practical, some personal, and some financial. 

As the 2019 Generational Trends Report notes, buyers largely cited the desire to take care of their aging parents, save on housing costs, and make space for children over the age of 18 as their primary reasons for creating a multi-gen household. Among the factors inspiring recent multi-gen buyers, according to the NAR: 

  • 26 percent — Health/caretaking of aging parents
  • 25 percent — Adult children over 18 moved back/never left 
  • 22 percent  — Cost savings 
  • 14 percent — Spend more time with older generations 
  • 10 percent — Want a larger home that multiple incomes could afford together

America’s population is aging, with the average life expectancy currently sitting around 78 years. As a result, many households see moving in together as a way for the younger generations to help provide for older loved ones. Similarly, many young adults are staying at home longer or moving back in more frequently than their counterparts from earlier generations, making the need for more space and flexible accommodations a practical necessity, for many households. 

At the same time, many multi-gen buyers see living together as an opportunity to build stronger bonds and develop closer family relationships, across generations. In other cases, buyers may see multi-gen living as a way to share the costs of purchasing a home, and as a way to pool resources and limit spending on childcare, grocery shopping, home maintenance, and other essentials down the road. Indeed, a Parade report on multi-gen housing suggests that 61 percent of homebuyers cite “financial assistance” as a primary reason for creating a multi-generational household. 42 percent cite the need for “physical help,” 23 percent note the pull of a “cultural family tradition,” and 18 percent see multi-gen living as a way to get parenting help. 

Multi-Generational Housing: What Buyers and Sellers Should Know

The growing popularity of multi-generational living is having a significant impact on the real estate market, creating unique opportunities, and challenges, for buyers and sellers alike. 

For instance? As more buyers come to the market specifically seeking out homes for multiple generations to live in, there may well be an increase in demand for the types of homes that meet their needs. In Chicagoland, this could mean an increase in demand for larger housing, with features that can accommodate a large family, such as private entrances, multiple kitchens, and more full baths. At the same time, many buyers are going to have the safety and comfort of older loved ones in mind, which may spur even more specific wants, such as a first-floor bedroom, easy wheelchair access to the backyard, and so on. 

In the city of Chicago specifically, a surge in multi-generational buyers could have an interesting ripple effect on the local housing supply. For example, an increase in multi-gen buyers could lead to a surge of popularity for the classic Chicago two-flat, which offers the unique opportunity to purchase a building that is already subdivided into multiple functional apartments, perfect for housing several generations on one lot.

Similarly, there has long been a conversation bubbling in Chicago on accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes affectionately nicknamed “granny flats.” These are elements on a property converted into discrete living spaces, such as carriage houses, finished garages, or renovated attics and basements. In Chicago, development of these units has been limited since the 1950s, spurring high demand for properties with ADUs that have been grandfathered in. Moving forward, a demand for more affordable rental properties, coupled with the boom of multi-generational housing, could lead to more advocacy for bringing new ADUs to the city. 

Similarly, multi-gen buyers may be interested in exploring the features beyond the boundaries of their property. These buyers may be interested in homes located in highly walkable communities, with access to theaters, green spaces, gyms, grocery stores, and other things for all members of the family to do. 

Ready to Start Exploring the Chicagoland Market? We Get You.

Interested in starting the search for a home with room for your whole family? Curious about selling your current property with multi-gen buyers in mind? Whatever you’re looking for, Baird & Warner is here to help! 

At Baird & Warner, our goal is to make the real estate process easier for buyers and sellers, at every step of the journey. As Chicagoland’s largest independent and family-owned real estate services company, we know what it takes to help you turn your biggest goals into reality, and can guide you through the ever-changing local market with ease. With sales, mortgage, and title services all in-house, we put a fierce focus on making life easier for buyers and sellers across Chicagoland.

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