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Multiple generations under one roof

Multiple generations under one roof


Take a look around your neighborhood. You’ll probably find a home down the street, up the street or even next door with three or more generations living under one roof.

Houses that can accommodate more than one family are becoming more and more in demand.

Multigenerational living arrangements were common decades ago and portrayed in classic television shows such as “The Waltons” and even the “Addams Family” — several generations sharing one home. Then we went our nuclear ways. Now, things are slowly shifting back, with new homes being built and others being renovated to accommodate multiple generations.

According to a National Association of Realtors profile in 2013, 14 percent of recent buyers purchased a home for a multigenerational household. One-quarter of these homes were purchased because children over the age of 18 were moving back into the home and for cost savings.

U.S. Census Bureau data on multigenerational families — defined as family households consisting of three or more generations — show that in 2000, 3.7 percent of households in the United States were multigenerational. By 2010, multigenerational households increased to 4 percent.

In today’s tough economic times, it’s not uncommon for parents with kids to move back in with grandparents. Aging parents, divorce and other factors also contribute.

“While saving money is certainly an incentive for buying a home that accommodates multiple generations, the benefits go beyond just financial reasons,” says Jim Dohr, president of Coldwell Banker Gundaker. “With two or three generations living under one roof, families often experience more flexible schedules, quality time with each other and the ability to juggle child care and elderly care.”

Holly Lincoln’s dad, Richard Lincoln, moved in to the home Holly shared with her partner, Denise Lincoln, when Holly’s mother died. Richard relied on most of his daily care from his wife. In August 2007, he had heart surgery, which increased his need for physical and financial assistance. His only form of income was Social Security.

“In October 2007, he moved into our house,” says Denise. At first, Richard stayed in their guest room. But, in 2010 the couple needed the room for their new baby, so they turned the guest room into a nursery. Richard moved into their finished carport that housed a bar and game room. The couple removed all their items, installed a wall and Richard had a new bedroom. They bought an armoire for closet space.

Holly’s dad died in 2013. “Most of the time it was OK sharing a home,” says Denise. “There were many times that it was tough because Richard was always at our home. We lost ‘us’ time, and we had to adjust our communication.”

Additional laundry, increased grocery shopping, cooking and another room to clean were added to the couple’s daily and weekly duties.

Michael and Sherry Nelson bought a 4,500- to 5,000-square-foot home in St. Charles last year. The home features an open floor plan with three bedrooms on the main level and two bedrooms on the lower level — one oversize and one standard. A large family room on the lower level offers a kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave and a full-size bar, plus a walkout to an in-ground pool.

Michael and Sherry share their home with their son, Matt, 18, their daughter Susan Rite, 34, her two kids, Jordan, 11, and Ethan, 5, plus Sherry’s mother, Audine McGahan, 81.

The four-generation family divides expenses. Audine pays the electric bill and helps with groceries and household items. Michael and Sherry take care of the mortgage and other utilities.

They also divide household chores. “We usually get home around 5:30 p.m. and try to have dinner together,” says Sherry.

They made a few cosmetic changes in the home. “We added doors to a room downstairs for Susie, but Brandon McNamee, our real estate agent, worked hard to make sure the home we found was right for us.”

They were able to keep Audine on the main level, avoiding stairs. “We all get along, but if you need some space everyone has some.”

The only thing the family would like to add is a bedroom with its own bathroom for Audine on the main level.

Tammy Mitchell Hines, owner of Tammy Mitchell Hines & Co. in Columbia, Ill., has sold three multigenerational homes over the past few years and in all cases, one generation eventually moved out, once they got on their feet or went to assisted living.

“Afterward, the one generation is left with a home that was purchased with the other family member(s) in mind,” says Hines. “Many times the person making the financial investment ends up with more house than they need.”

Extended families purchasing a home together should consider signing a written contract outlining everything from finances to chores and child care. “Each family should assess their situation individually and find a plan that works best for them,” adds Hines.



Consider these factors when buying or building a home for a multigenerational family.

Separate entrances • If you’re preparing to share a home with grandparents or adult children, consider separate entrances. They provide independence and offer privacy from the other generations when coming and going.

Privacy • House plans with an in-law suite or apartment provide even more separation between living spaces. This type of floor plan is perfect for adult children and elderly parents. Outdoor patios and laundry areas can be added for additional privacy.

Kitchen • Constructing a second full-size kitchen in the home can enhance the resale of your property and offer an area for private dining. Some local ordinances prohibit such facilities. If a full kitchen is not an option, think kitchenette with a microwave, fridge and sink. This will allow family members to enjoy light meals by themselves on their own time.

Bedroom • Dual master suites are common in multigenerational homes. Within the floor plan, the master suites are usually located on two different floors. Spacious bedrooms located in the lower level can include a service bar with a sink, a sitting area (couch and television) and even a game table for entertaining guests.

Bathroom • Older people may need special accommodations such as adjustable shower heads, shower seating, easy-access tubs, nonslip flooring and dimmer switches for lighting. During remodeling, adapt a floor plan with plenty of square footage to accommodate multiple people. For accessibility, doors and hallways may need to be wider.


• Tammy Mitchell Hines, Tammy Mitchell Hines & Co. in Columbia, Ill., serving Columbia, Waterloo, Dupo, Red Bud, Smithton, Fairview Heights and Maeystown. or call 618-281-4663.

• Coldwell Banker Gundaker, serving the St. Louis metro area. or call 314-298-5000.

• The Villages at Wingate in Shiloh. Dettmer Homes offers second master suite options and second kitchen plans to accommodate multiple generations. 618-581-7931 or

• Mosby Building Arts specializes in multigenerational homes. The team consists of certified aging in-place specialists (specializing in elderly accessibility) and universal design-certified professionals. 314-909-1800.

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Karen Deer is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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