Here’s some food for thought: In 2012, 57 million Americans lived in multi-generational households, double the number from 1980. It’s called the “sandwich generation” – parents sandwiched between their kids and their own parents – and the trend continues to rise.
The National Association of Realtors says 4 percent of U.S. home purchases in 2014 involved a multi-generational household of adult children, plus parents, grandparents or both. So under one roof you can find a newborn and someone who can tell you about listening to Franklin D. Roosevelt on the radio.
So there’s no question, the sandwich generation is giving Realtors plenty to chew on.
Agents and brokers regularly tell me they’re seeing more and more multigenerational buyers seeking a place to live and that’s not an easy task. Each generation has unique expectations, experiences, preferences, lifestyles and values.
So what do you need to know to keep the sandwich generation well served (and fed)? Here are four ‘bites’ to keep in mind:
Bite #1 – Get the full picture. Work to understand each person’s perspective by starting with oldest and working your way down to the youngest person. Consider all the logistical challenges each generation may face in a new home and then work to find a happy medium. Balance is what you’re striving for here. It will take a bit longer than working with just a single buyer, but the time you spend on the front end will save you time on the back end when you end up showing the family properties that simply don’t fit a multi-generational situation.
Bite #2 – Don’t make assumptions on size. At first glance you might think a bigger house is better for a multi-generational buyer, but that’s not always the case. A larger home with an open floor plan may seem like the logical answer, but sometimes a smaller home with its own distinct living quarters like split-levels or an in-law apartment can fill the need. Everyone wants and needs their own space. When you begin your search, keep an open mind.
Bite #3 – Think ‘how’ instead of just ‘how many.’ This is a good segue from bite number two. So instead of asking how many bedrooms they want, consider asking how the rooms will be used. Versatility is key when you have three or more generations sharing a home. Think about homes with spaces that can be transformed easily. Maybe gramps will need to go down to the first floor and one of the kids will want that cool upstairs space.
Bite #4 – Consider mobility and accessibility. Both of these elements tend to be important for multi-generational buyers. Lots of stairs may not work for the older residents who tend to like more open floor plans with easy-to-access bedrooms, kitchens and living areas. In fact, many builders now have made the first-floor bedroom suite a standard feature, so don’t rule out looking at new homes as well.
Bite #5 – Rethink location. If the older occupants are still active you’ll need to consider what they’ll prefer to be near, such as churches, healthcare providers and perhaps public transportation. And of course you’ll need to think about schools and entertainment spots for the kids.
So the plate is set. Are you ready to get your fill? Sure, helping a multi-generation family takes a little extra work, dedication, understanding, empathy and patience. But once you find the right house, you will have helped more people and that always makes you feel good (and full!).
Share what’s on your mind. Are you seeing more multi-generational clients? If so, what have you learned from working with them? What will you do differently, if anything, next time?
Bubba Mills is executive vice president of Corcoran Consulting and Coaching Inc. (800-957-8353), an international consulting and coaching company that specializes in performance coaching and the implementation of sound business systems for residential REALTOR, mortgage brokers and real estate companies.