Bob and Myrna Conrad, both 65, share a house with their son Wade, 41, his wife, Dana, 42, and their grandson Bryce, 21. Isn’t it crowded? Don’t they cramp one another’s style? Actually, no.
“We just set some ground rules, and it’s been working great,” said Wade Conrad, who has been living with his extended family since late 2013 in a NextGen multigenerational home, built by Lennar in Spanaway.
The number of Americans living in multigenerational households — defined, generally, as homes with more than one adult generation — rose to 56.8 million in 2012, about 18 percent of the total population, from 46.6 million, or 15.5 percent of the population, in 2007, according to Pew Research. By comparison, an estimated 28 million, or 12 percent, lived in such households in 1980.
“People lost jobs, and with tighter household budgets, a lot of homes consolidated,” said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Seattle-based housing website Zillow. “We’re seeing more children living with their parents, and elderly parents moving in with their adult children.”
Most multigenerational families live in ordinary houses, but the homebuilding industry is responding quickly to this shifting demand by creating homes specifically for such families.
The Lennar homes don’t offer just a spare bedroom suite or a “granny hut” that sits separately on the property or a room above a garage. The NextGen designs provide a separate entranceway, bedroom, living space, bathroom, kitchenette, laundry facilities and, in some cases, even separate temperature controls and separate garages with lockable entrances to the main house.
Family members can live under the same roof and not see one another for days if they so choose.
Wade Conrad acknowledged he was initially skeptical when his father suggested they buy a home together. Conrad, along with his wife and two children, had twice moved back home with his parents during job transitions — the most recent lasting a year in 2007 — and it did not go well, he said.
Back then, they butted heads over everything: food, parenting decisions, furniture choices and even TV programs. All these irritating memories came rushing back as Conrad pondered his father’s suggestion.
But once he saw the NextGen home, he was sold. Conrad moved his family from their crowded 1,000-square-foot town home into the 5,000-square-foot NextGen home.
They set some rules: No TV in the large common area, food is bought separately, all other expenses are split down the middle.
For the grandparents, who had been living in St. Louis, the spacious new home was an ideal way to reconnect with family. “It ended up being the best decision we could ever envision,” the elder Conrad said. “And my son can watch all the ‘Walking Dead’ episodes he wants.”
So what’s driving this trend?
The 2008 recession, high student-loan debt, rising rents and a tough job market for millennials caused many people ages 18 to 34 to delay leaving home, said Alex Barron, founder of the Housing Research Center. And then there are boomerang children, who return to their parents’ home because of a job loss, divorce or other reason.
This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times. To read more, click the link.