Real Estate Market

Multigenerational households go back to the future

(03/17/2010) The nation's First Family mirrors a growing housing trend in America.

Marian Robinson, lives with her daughter, Michelle Obama; her granddaughters, Malia and Sasha; and her son-in-law, President Barack Obama.

The primary reason other families triple up is often an economic one that doesn't impact the First Family, but the White House home it is an example of why multigenerational living isn't only about hard times.

"To have grandma and grandpa living with their grandkids, getting to know them better, bonding and caring for each other is a an experience they would not have had living separately," said Diann Patton, the Coldwell Banker's real estate consumer specialist.

Over the past year, more than one in three Coldwell Banker real estate professionals surveyed said they've noted an increase in home buyers looking to create a multigenerational household.

A multigenerational household typically is one in which there are more than two generations, say grandparents, parents and children, including adult children, but it can also include aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members.

A U.S. Census's report, "Current Population Survey (CPS) - America's Families and Living Arrangements: March 2009" says there were nearly 5.5 million multigenerational households in America last year. In households with parents and their kids, nearly 2 million households also included both grandparents; another 2.8 million included a grandmother; and another 655,000 included a grandfather. Gardena, CA-based Geriatric care manager, Dr. Marion Somers, Ph.D. (AKA says having an older person in the house helps keep the family roots firmly grounded.

Multigenerational households are a way, in the oral tradition, to learn about ancestors and family history and to reincorporate old, long lost family traditions.

For many ethnicities, multigenerational living is simply a cultural way of life.

"Multigenerational homes are certainly wonderful for older and younger Americans on an emotional level, but aside from this, it may be a necessity. As our population ages and lives longer than ever before, we're beginning to turn to our children and other family members for financial, physical and emotional help as we age," Dr. Somers said.


Indeed, topping the list of why families are huddling more generations under one roof is a financial decision.

Thirty-nine percent of Coldwell Banker agents cited financial reasons as the trend's driving force. Sharing the mortgage and having adult children paying rent makes housing more affordable.

"The current economic climate has certainly contributed to the increased demand for multigenerational housing. Not only are we seeing parents with dwindling retirement accounts move in with their children, we're also seeing children move in with their parents," said Kurt Gleeson, vice president of sales for

Likewise, sharing other household costs -- insurance, property taxes, upkeep, groceries, etc. -- helps keep a roof over head.

"My mom was a single mother. My sisters and I lived downstairs and my grandparents lived upstairs," said Kim DiBenedetto, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Del Monte Realty in Carmel.

"It's good for children because they have grandparents around, as well as the savings on property taxes, utilities and other shared expenses. If you are pooling resources you can get something larger and nicer, also" she added.

Health care Among Coldwell Banker agents approached about multigenerational living, 29 percent said health care was a reason. The bottom line, again, is saving on the cost of assisted living or other health care facilities, but there's also the psychological benefit of not shipping older relatives off to some strange place.

"The current economy just reinforces the fact that nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other care facilities may no longer be financially-viable options. We're only going to continue to see more of this trend," said Dr. Somers Family bonding Family bonding was another prominent reason for multigenerational housing being on the rise, according to Coldwell Banker agents surveyed. Grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins under the same roof creates a stronger connection, a close-knit family.

"I think this is one of the unexpected surprises that come with multigenerational living," said Patton.

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