After college some people say they'll never have another roommate but tough economic times are making people consider multi-generational housing. In fact, the latest figures report that 4.4 million U.S. homes had three generations or more living in the same home in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.
Three generations living in one home is becoming so popular that builders are designing for this target market. Toll Brothers is replacing some of its family rooms with floor plans that include a guest suite complete with a kitchenette (perfect for grandma.) This type of design used to be only a custom option but is now becoming much more mainstream.
Other home builders are redesigning one of the two-car garages to create extra space inside the home so that the floor plan can accommodate a guest room.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "doubled-up households" have grown tremendously (10.7 percent) from 19.7 million households in 2007 to 21.8 million households by the spring of 2011. Doubled-up households include an extra, non-student, adult who isn't a partner or spouse but lives in the house.
These households include many adult children who are now living with their parents due to being unable to find work. The Census Bureau reports a 25 percent jump in the number of 25- to 34-year olds living with their parents from 2001 to 2007.
I've written about this change in living arrangements in previous columns, but it's becoming so prevalent that it's worth taking a look at what makes the living conditions work. There are now more books than ever popping up that provide tips and guidelines to a successful multi-generational living arrangement.
However, those who have done it advise others to give the idea good long consideration and to have many conversations with those who are planning to move in together. Sometimes these living situations are a matter of necessity and there isn't much time to "think things over", but if it's not urgent, the experienced say, make a list of the pros and cons and weigh everything carefully.
Sometimes when different generations live together, it can be a blessing and save money in many ways such as the grandparents may be able to help with small children and ultimately save on child-care costs for the working adult children.
This, though, can be tricky. Just like an older teenage child might not want to babysit the younger ones, some grandparents aren't interested in spending their golden years raising even their own grandchildren.
The lesson is this type of living arrangement can't leave anything to chance or assumption. Don't assume that family members will take on certain roles. Have conversations about the challenges, benefits, needs, and even when and where each family member will get space and time alone.
While there are many things to consider, the good news is that there are more homes that are either newly built or remodeled with the multi-generational family living arrangement in mind. That means your house-hunting can be tailored to your specific needs and you may not need to make as many, or even any modifications to fit your needs.