Working in real estate can be a challenge in itself, but when you're working with a multigenerational buyer—a household of more than two generations—things can get even more complicated as you work to meet the diverse needs of parents, grandparents and children alike. However, as the housing market continues to fluctuate, more and more multigenerational households are emerging, so knowing how to work with this unique family dynamic is important.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Preferred Properties REALTOR® Judy Cerra says she has been seeing more and more multicultural buyers come into the fold over the past several years looking for multigenerational living options, while ERA Pro Realty agent Magda Morales speaks about the increase in the “sandwich generation,” adult children who offer in-home care for their aging parents while simultaneously raising their own children.
“Overall, the high cost of day-to-day living, a downward economy and the high cost of retirement and assisted living communities, combined with astronomical childcare costs, motivate today’s families to move in together,” says Morales.
Below are a few tips for working with multigen buyers. Don't worry – a home with an elevator is likely not necessary.
Make sure everyone is on the same page. When working with a multigen buyer, you will likely be lugging mom, dad, grandma and grandpa (and maybe a second cousin or four) around to showings. Before you begin your property search, request that everyone is on the same page with needs and wants. That way, if a home with a separate “in-law” suite is a must-have, you will know before you head out, saving time and energy. As an agent, don't shy away from involving the entire household in the discussion before a search has begun. You never know who has the final say.
Consider space and accessibility. Accessibility is crucial with multigen buyers. A home with an abundance of stairs—or even five stairs up to the front door—may be too much for grandpa's knees, and this is important to consider from the get-go. Open floor plans and wide doorways are common multigen must-haves, as they make moving around a breeze for everyone under the roof. In-law suites with their own private entrance can also help bolster the older generation's independence and accessibility.
Seek versatility and privacy. “Rather than asking buyers for the preferred number of bedrooms and bathrooms, agents need to also ask how rooms will be used,” says Morales. When three or more generations are sharing a space, that space needs to be versatile, as it will likely shift over the next 5-10 years as family members age and needs evolve. A home meant to meet the needs of a six-year-old child and a sixty-five-year-old grandparent will likely be outdated when the child is sixteen and the grandparent is seventy-five. So, seek homes with spaces that can rotate; perhaps grandma will need to move into that first-floor bedroom, and little Timmy—who is not so little anymore—will really enjoy that finished basement as a private hangout for him, his friends, and their gosh darn rap music.
Find adequate storage. An extra generation means an extra lifetime of stuff. A home with above average storage space will be necessary. Look for an abundance of closets, a spacious attic or a garage with space for shelving.
Just like any other buyer, multigenerational shoppers will have specific needs in mind. Below are a handful of typical multigenerational requests:
- Main floor bedroom, living area. For those who may have trouble tackling stairs (we're looking at you, granny), easy-to-access bedroom, kitchen and living area may be on the want list.
- Finished basement or playroom. Space is key when the house is full, so a finished basement or playroom may be key for keeping the kids—and parents—happy.
- Nearby public transportation. Is there a bus stop nearby so seniors can savor their independence by catching a ride to bingo?
- Top tech. These days, many homes have automated technology built-in. Auto locking doors or appliances that shut themselves off may be key for living with forgetful kids and seniors.
“Today’s listing agents essentially must pause, re-evaluate and seriously consider “re-purposing” traditional household living areas in ways that will best serve the needs of the multi-gen buyer,” says Morales.