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Choose a Mother-in-Law Suite

Written by Carla Hill on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 7:00 pm
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Several factors have increased the recent precedence of mother-in-law suites across the nation. Namely, harsh economic conditions. As many families struggle to make ends meet they find that they are better equipped to hold on to their houses if multiple generations call them home.

Another prime factor in the mother-in-law suite game is the growing size of today's home. In the 1950's the average size home was just over 1,000 square feet. Homes today are double that size, coming in at over 2,300 square feet. There is simply more room for multiple generations.

In many cultures and other countries it is commonplace to have multiple generations of one family living under the same roof. Assisted and senior living communities are all but unheard of. This hasn't been the case in the United States. In addition to a society that puts youth above all else, to the detriment of the old and wise, our mobile society means families are spread out across many cities, states, and regions.

Families choose to keep older loved ones close for a couple different reasons. Some are simply close-knit families that don't want to hide away an aged family member. Others, though, are having to make tough financial decisions. Recent reports have indicated that while baby boomers may have seen decades of booming economy, their children and younger generations will make less. Where will the money for housing come from?

How will your family pay for rising healthcare and housing costs? Will there be funds to pay for nursing or assisted living communities? Should you consider investing in a home with a mother-in-law suite or renovating your own home to include one?

First, what is an mother-in-law suite? In general these are first floor master bedroom suites that include their own sitting area as well as handicap accessible bathrooms. Many of these suites even have their own kitchens. Some families have detached apartments on their property, while others have the suite in the main living area.

These suites can be a great solution to both the financial and emotional health of a family.

Having multiple generations move into one home, though, can present a myriad of "problems." In our independent society we are used to having autonomy in our own space. What sort of relationship do you have with your aged family member? Will your home still be your sanctuary or are you inviting a war zone into your own home?

How much care will this family member require? Some elderly remain mobile and practically self-sufficient well into their 90's or older. Others require more daily help that many assisted living communities provide. Are you able to help bathe, feed, and properly administer medication?

Next, what is the loved one expecting? They may be giving up living independently or living in a home they've spent their entire adult live in. This can be a tough time. Make sure to have open dialogue about what each party is expecting out of this arrangement.

In terms of home value be sure to consider resale of your home before making renovations. Don't renovate past your competition. Most buyers aren't looking for handicap accessible bathrooms or homes and might even see these as things that need replaced. This could severely affect your asking price.

On the flip side, having a mother-in-law suite is like having two master bedrooms or (if zoning allows) even a rentable apartment later on.

A good question to ask before making any major renovations is if this is a temporary situation or if your in-law will be living with you permanently. This may help dictate what sort of improvements you make to your home.

If you are in the market to buy a home with a mother-in-law suite then all the same rules for buying a home apply. Do you have at least 20 percent to put down? Do you have at least an 8-month emergency cash fund? The bottom line should always be if you can afford the home you are wanting to buy.

As our country continues to age, the question of where aged family members will live will become a bigger and bigger issue. Be sure to consider all the pros and cons of a mother-in-law suite before deciding if this solution is right for you.

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