Things to look for in your Property Search 

With the rising cost of housing in Toronto, more and more homebuyers are looking for creative solutions to homeownership. One strategy is multi-generational housing. Not does your budget potentially increase when multiple generations team up during the house hunt, multi-generational living helps with other issues pressing adults today- child care and caring for aging parents.

Multi-generational living is growing in popularity, according to Statistics Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family. According to the latest Census data, multi-generational living is the fastest growing household type, up nearly 40 per cent between 2001-2106.

That said, this very specific living arrangement requires special considerations as well as housing that lends itself nicely to this goal. Here are some things to think about when you are looking for a multi-generational home.

Pros and Cons of Multi-Generational Living

First, let’s look at some of the benefits and potential challenges to seeking a multi-generational home.

One of the main benefits of pooling resources to combine generations under one roof is affordability. Not only does your house hunting budget possibly increase, your options for homes and locations might expand with a bigger budget to work with, getting you more bang for your buck.

It can also assist with sharing costs for maintenance and operating expenses. For seniors, not having to manage home maintenance all on their own as they age can be a comfort, and can help them to age in place for much longer.

It can be helpful for working parents to have childcare provided by someone that they trust, right in their own homes. It is convenient and cost-effective. Similarly, if an aging parent requires greater physical or mental care, it is often simpler to be able to provide that care right at home.

For seniors, having that kind of daily social and mental interaction is good for maintaining physical and mental health. There is also the opportunity for multiple generations to share culture and to learn in a unique way about their family unit.

That said, there are a few potential drawbacks as well. It can be a challenging to determine who is the “head” of the household. Similarly, having privacy can be an issue, depending on configuration and available space in a home. It can cause friction with division of household chores and responsibilities.

In these cases, it can be helpful if rules and expectations are clearly laid out right from the beginning. Communication is key.

Great Design for all  Generations

Finding a home that can accommodate many different people at different stages of their lives, all while providing a smart layout that affords privacy is ideal. The real key is to find a home that provides a versatile design, or that has the opportunity to be built, recreated or reconfigured to suit your needs.

When looking at homes, it is ideal if you have some sort of flex space that could be altered to suit your needs as parents age.  A flex room could be a bedroom, a home office, a playroom or a hobby room for a senior.

Open concept space is preferable often for seniors and for young children. For young children, it is easier for parents to keep an eye on kids while multi-tasking in an open layout. Similarly, open concept living is more helpful with mobility with seniors. Sharp corners and closed off rooms can be harder to navigate, particularly if using a walker or wheelchair.

It is preferable to have at least one main floor bedroom, for accessibility purposes. You need a full bathroom on the main floor as well- and even better if it is an ensuite. Having a bedroom or two on the main floor can help create a natural, comfortable division of the space and also help with privacy.

No doubt, one of the biggest issues with living with multiple generations under the same roof is the lack of privacy. It is a good idea to be able to dedicate one space (or a collection of spaces)

What Type of House Should you Buy?

Depending on the needs of your family, it could be an idea to purchase a home that already has a secondary suite built in. If you’ve got a rental unit with a kitchen, laundry and a separate entrance already available, that could be a great solution that supports both privacy and independence to accommodate two families in the same home.

Another option is to purchase a duplex or a multi-plex, where one generation occupies on part, with other generations occupying the other.

If condominiums are your housing type of choice, you could always consider buying multiple units that are neighbouring. In some cases you might be able to renovate them, depending on the rules of the building, to create a larger, more usable space plan for your multi-generational needs. Or perhaps you’d like to get two separate units close by each other in the same building, which would easily facilitate childcare and family time.

If you are looking at single family homes, there is always the option to build an addition or even build two neighbouring homes on the same lot (depending on where you are located). When looking at a potential home, make sure that any plans for renovations, new builds, extensions or additions are possible based on available space- and are permitted by the city and/or neighbourhood.

Role of Amenities

In real estate, it all comes down to “location, location, location.” This is even more essential when it comes to choosing multi-generational housing. For example, having easy access to social amenities and stores is important for seniors, particularly if they aren’t driving. It’s also important to be close to public transit. It’s a bonus if you’ve got good hospitals and health care nearby- and schools as well to meet the needs of the whole family.

Another family-friendly amenity close to home that is good for all ages are parks and green space. Whether it is having place to run and play, or an area for the whole family to get fresh air and exercise together, having good parks near your home is a plus.

Don’t forget to include a neighbourhood amenity wish list with your housing hunt.

Multi-generational housing is a creative and fulfilling way to achieve your goal of homeownership. Have you considered the possibility?