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Home for us, mom and kids

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Friday, August 24, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

My husband and I are building our retirement home, and it includes a mother-in-law suite -- a bedroom, bath and an oversized living room and kitchen, with a separate entrance. We're equipping it with a refrigerator and a microwave, but not a stove because the zoning board in our little town wouldn't approve it. But we have installed separate heating and air conditioning units.

We see this space as part of our plan for long-term care. If we need help as we age, someone can live there. We think we're on top of a trend driven by the health industry and Medicare to encourage more home-based treatment because it's cheaper and healthier for infection-prone older people.

This idea of building a home that can accommodate two separate households isn't unique to us. Several of the larger regional and national developers are incorporating these kinds of homes in their offerings. Miami-based Lennar Corp., which specializes in retirement homes, has introduced a whole line of multigenerational homes it calls "NextGen."

John Baayoun, division president of Lennar's California Coastal Division, says the company started working on the idea two years ago and introduced the concept in Arizona, where it did very well. Since then, it has been expanded to other West Coast states and Florida, and will soon be added to the East Coast and Midwest lineups.

The typical buyers, Baayoun says, are empty nesters with a child returning home or a parent moving in for convenience or long-term care. "The response has been tremendous," he says.

That isn't surprising because between 2008 and 2010, the number of U.S. households that included three or more generations of residents increased 15 percent, according to Pew Research. Pew indicates that this appears to be a lasting trend, not just a short-term response to the Great Recession, because satisfaction levels with the arrangement are high.

Making this trend part of your retirement planning could be as simple as remodeling a portion of your existing home or buying an older duplex. In many parts of the country, these homes haven't been exceptionally popular so the prices are modest. The cost of new Lennar NextGen properties varies by region, with homes in Florida available for less than $200,000. In California, these properties start at about $700,000.

I grew up in a multigenerational home, as did many of my friends. It's funny how what's old is new again.

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