Home Finances - Living under one roof
This Old House Magazine|Fall 2021
What it takes to make room in your home for mom and dad—or members of the younger generation
ELLEN STARK

For a growing number of Ameri-cans, home is where mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the kids (and sometimes their kids) are. A 2021 survey by Generations United, a national advocacy organization, found that 26 percent of us live in households that include three or more generations. The same survey in 2011 found that only 7 percent were residing in multigenerational housing.

While the pandemic and resulting economic pressure may have driven some families together, many are now sold on big family meals, more hands to help with schoolwork, and the ability to keep a closer eye on elderly parents. In the Generations United survey, nearly three-quarters of those in multigene households say they will stick with the setup. “People may have come together by need, but they are staying together by choice,” says Donna Butts, the group’s executive director.

The ideal way to accommodate aging parents or adult children, often with kids of their own, is with a separate apartment that has its own entrance, called an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) but commonly known as an in-law suite, granny flat, and the like. In addition to a bedroom, these typically have a bath, a kitchenette, and a living area. As a result, adding one can be complicated and costly. Here are some things to consider.

EXPECT A MAJOR RENOVATION

When the National Association of Home Builders surveyed homeowners about renovations in 2019, it found that one in five remodelers had completed an ADU project in the past year. For eight out of 10 of them, that project cost $50,000 or more.

To keep the price down, start with what you have—be it basement space, an attic, or the garage—before you commit to an extension. “Try to work within the envelope of your home,” says Kevin Kennedy, a remodeling contractor in Richboro, PA, and co-host of the podcast Your Valuable Home. “That can keep costs down by about 25 percent.”

Bear in mind that these renovations can entail more than new walls, doors, finishes, and plumbing. Since a septic system can be based on the number of bedrooms, Kennedy points out, you may need to expand it. Your current HVAC system may not be able to support a larger living area. Plus, if the space is for grandparents, you may need to include grab bars and a no-curb shower as safety measures (for more aging-in-place upgrades, see page 55).

THINK AHEAD TO A FUTURE SALE

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