A recent article in Real Estate Economy Watch offers a wealth of statistical data supporting the observation that “Today’s housing depression has again forced generations to move in together, but as the housing recovery takes hold, many plan to stay together and revive the multi-generational lifestyle of the past.” The article also, quite naturally, focuses on how this changes the real estate market. At least one commenter notes that the “biggest upside” of the trend is “more housing for the money.”
I’m not sure I agree. I might agree if the analysis was that this trend means different housing for money. Too often, we view the world as one dimensional and in America, it’s all about the money most of the time.
When I am teaching people who are studying for a real estate license, I tell them the biggest mistake one can make after getting licensed is to start out “poor.” It’s a horrible basis on which to make decisions and one can discover him or herself chasing commissions instead of objectively counselling clients.
I think that advice applies across the board. A real estate buyer who posted about a “Catch-22” he’s caught in is clearly caught there in a large part because he doesn’t have the money required to complete a painless transaction. Even he sees an option of passing on the current purchase until he can save up some more money.
We shouldn’t–can’t really–ignore economic reality. But when we are thinking about living arrangements, we need to look beyond the economics. The personal and social impact of multi-generational living arrangements can be both positive and negative. Those impacts are something we can have some control over.
The Amish understand this with homes and farms where multi-generational living is the norm. (I would suggest you research “Gros Daddy Haus” except when I did, most of the references are to porn sites! That might say something about our society…) Actually, it’s more than a norm–it’s an expectation that is based on their larger definition of community and their tendency to carefully consider how changes will impact that and their way of life.
Given our economic environment, the likelihood of families facing these sorts of choices in clearly going to increase and in many cases “there won’t be a choice.” Even if you believe that, don’t just add up the dollars in the process–consider how that “forced” choice is going to impact you and your way of life. You aren’t just letting somebody move in with you, you are changing your way of life and with some forethought you can control the impact.
If, as the article suggests, you want to “stay together and revive the multi-generational lifestyle of the past,” understand that lifestyle isn’t something that just happens to you–it’s something you can consciously define and adopt.