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The increasing popularity in multi-generational homes

From left, Bryan Edwards, 61, his wife Cheryl, 62, their daughter Rachel Cordova, 39, her husband Jason Cordova, 33, and their children, Grant, 3, and Nora, 5, in front of their home in the ChampionsGate community in Florida. (Zack Wittman/for The Washington Post)

When Bryan and Cheryl Edwards’s daughter Rachel Cordova went on her first date with her future husband Jason Cordova, she told him that she was a “package deal” because of her close relationship with her parents.

Thankfully, Jason accepted the package since the couples now live together along with the Cordovas’ two young children, Nora, 5, and Grant, 3.

“We’re fully ambulatory and independent and still working, so we don’t need to be living with our daughter, we’re just a close family,” says Cheryl, who is 62. “When we lived close to each other in Connecticut, Rachel wanted us to move in with them, but it wasn’t until Bryan was in the hospital for a week that I realized I didn’t want to deal with snow and home maintenance on my own. We sold our house and they added an in-law suite to theirs.”

The two couples have lived together since 2016 and are now in their third multigenerational home, a Next Gen home built by Lennar at their ChampionsGate community near Orlando. The Next Gen homes in that community are priced from $426,490.

“Our house has nearly 4,000 square feet with six bedrooms and 4 1 / 2 bathrooms and my parents’ side of the home has 700 square feet with a private driveway and garage,” says Rachel. “We communicate really well and even though we live together we’re not always together. We even vacation together to get quality time as an extended family.”

Ironically, the family moved to Florida in part because the Edwardses were looking for an affordable assisted-living facility for Cheryl’s mother, who is in her 80s but opted to stay in Connecticut. The Cordovas had purchased a slightly smaller multigenerational house by Lennar last year.

“Once covid-19 hit and three of us were working full time at home, we decided to move to a bigger version of the home that has six bedrooms so some can be used as offices,” says Bryan, 61. “We own this home but we live in the Next Gen suite and our daughter lives in the big master suite. They rent the first Next Gen house they bought to another family.”

Many builders today offer floor plans that work for multiple generations living together to accommodate a variety of family configurations. Typically, the multigenerational suite will include a bedroom and full bathroom and a kitchenette. Ideally, the homes include a private entrance and a living area.

Privacy and togetherness

Lennar began building its Next Gen homes about a decade ago during the financial crisis to help families who needed to take care of their aging parents and to make homeownership an affordable option for families to share expenses, says Jon Jaffe, co-president and co-CEO of Lennar. Today, between 5 and 10 percent of all Lennar homes include a Next Gen suite. In Phoenix, the company’s most-popular market for multigenerational homes, 25 percent of all Lennar sales include a Next Gen suite.

“Our multigenerational homes were created to help families deal with the financial challenges of aging parents and to help make the family connections that are missing in our society today,” says Jaffe. “We’ve found that these multigenerational homes are a game-changer psychologically that are making a profound difference to make it easier for families to live with their loved ones.”

Approximately 20 percent of Americans, about 64 million people, live in a household with two or more adult generations, according to a 2018 study by Pew Research Center.

Working out the financial and emotional logistics of sharing a home is essential for family members, particularly when they’re accustomed to living apart.

“It’s important to be upfront about the money and define who pays for what,” says Rachel. “We all needed to make the decision together on the house and not have anyone dictating anything to anyone else.”

The Edwardses pay one-third of all utilities, taxes and homeowner association fees, while the Cordovas pay two-thirds of those bills.

“We also are fortunate that we can put savings into an account in Rachel’s name for those bills and home maintenance so that when we stop working we won’t be a burden on her,” says Cheryl.

For Renea Gasper and her husband, finding a home that works well for their daughter and grandson as well as their needs was a priority when they were getting ready to move in December 2019.

“We looked at a couple of resale homes with two master suites, but we wanted our daughter to have a private entrance to her part of the home,” says Gasper, who is in her 50s. “Our daughter is 34 and went through a divorce, so it was important for all of us to feel like we were buying a home together that works for everyone, not that she was moving into our home.”

Gasper and her family chose a Savannah 4 model by Brookfield Residential at Audie Murphy Ranch in Menifee, Calif., in Riverside County east of Los Angeles, where the multigenerational homes are priced from the low $500,000s. Gasper and her husband included their daughter on the title and she pays them $500 per month as her contribution toward household expenses.

The 2,900-square-foot floor plan includes a multigenerational suite with a private entrance that is similar to a studio apartment with room for a couch, coffee table, bookcase and king-size bed, says Gasper. The suite includes a kitchenette, a closet with a washer and dryer, and a private full bathroom.

“We moved into this house in September and we love it because she has her own space and an entrance to the main house that makes it feel like one big house,” says Gasper. “Our grandson’s room is just down the hall from her in the main part of the house. We love living together and taking turns making dinner, plus she has a built-in babysitter when she needs one.”

While Gasper anticipates that her daughter and grandson will stay in the house for a few years, she and her husband also thought about how the one-level floor plan could work in the future.

“Our parents are in their 80s, so we know that this space might work for them someday to live with us,” says Gasper. “In between, we could always use the suite as a game room with a pool table.”

Families are evolving and multigenerational living provides support not just for aging parents but for children doing distance learning with their grandparents’ help, says Caitlyn Lai-Valenti, senior director of sales and marketing for Brookfield Residential in Costa Mesa, Calif.

“These homes accommodate privacy with a separate entrance, a separate kitchenette and a separate laundry room, but they make it easy for families to connect when they want to,” says Lai-Valenti. “We think they’ll become even more popular in the future, especially as people live longer and want the support of their families.”

From a design perspective, these newly designed multigenerational homes are an add-on to a house that doesn’t take away from the space in the main house, says Jaffe.

“We originally designed them to be a living space and bedroom for aging parents, but now that home is everything, including a place to work, exercise and do schoolwork, we’re finding people are using the Next Gen suite for a home office or a yoga studio,” says Jaffe, the co-president and co-CEO of Lennar, adding sales are up 20 percent for their Next Gen homes in 2020 compared with 2019.

“The separate entrance is an important feature and allows for as much or as little interaction between family members as they want,” Jaffe says. “It provides tremendous flexibility.”

Flexible floor plans are also a priority for many buyers who anticipate evolving family configurations and want to be prepared with the privacy and space to accommodate every family member.