All under one roof: Multi-generational living is the new normal

The world of telecoms may insist that 5G is the new standard. But the latest trend in homes is 3G — that is, three generations living under the same roof.

It’s not unusual for parents to have their grown-up children co-habiting with them well into their 20s or 30s thanks to high house prices and, more recently, the pandemic meaning students returned home.

Insurance firm Aviva says that even before coronavirus this 2G-living was the pattern in 34 per cent of the UK’s homes, accounting for nine million households. 

Full house: There’s plenty to consider when three generations live together under one roof

But now an estimated 14 per cent of homes – about 1.3 million households – have a grandparent or two living there as well. 

The phenomenon of three adult generations in one property has risen by about a half in just five years according to Aviva, which surveyed 4,000 adults.

‘Many young people are living with parents to save for a deposit or ‘boomeranging’ back after university, while some older people are living with families for health or financial reasons,’ says Gareth Hemmings, a managing director at Aviva and author of the survey. ‘This is simply a way of life for these households.’

Research by the NHBC, the body representing British housebuilders, has found that multi-generational living is much more established in other parts of the world, such as the U.S., Singapore and Japan. 

Housebuilders there have specific designs aimed at this sector, such the American firm which markets a ‘NextGen’ home with the slogan ‘For the family you’re raising and the family that raised you’.

The advantages of this way of living in the UK are obvious and the pandemic has accelerated their relevance.

Loneliness will be less of a problem in a multi-generational home and there is the increased security for older members of the family of having someone on hand in an emergency.

On a practical basis, combining homes means there’s likely to be reduced council tax and utilities, and services such as Netflix and broadband can be shared. Buying a property together means more space and lower stamp duty costs than three generations buying separate homes.

‘The multi-generational house is one where more of us should be living,’ says Matthew Smith, of Knight Frank estate agency.

‘Not only is it cheaper for families to live and eat and learn together, but it helps parents cover alarmingly high childcare costs and helps the elderly from feeling alone.’

There may be downsides, however, mostly concerning lifestyle.

Will everyone get on together and will older members need care? Will there be sufficient privacy? 

Family lifestyles need to be discussed before buying a property that’s large enough for three generations. 

There is also the issue of a highly-customised house designed for three generations reducing the number of potential buyers when it is eventually sold.

But if multi-generational living is the way forward for your family, what should you consider? First, there’s ownership.

There are two types of agreement – a Joint Tenancy, where the property is owned in equal shares, and Tenants In Common, where each person has a fixed, but not necessarily equal, share of the property.

Second, consider the mortgage; remember it may be harder to get a top-value mortgage deal if all generations apply jointly. 

While some lenders now offer mortgages to the over 70s, they are not always at the most competitive rates. It might be easier for the ‘middle generation’ to own the property for the optimum deal.

Third – and most important – is the property itself.

Consider the likely different needs of different generations. Will younger adults want loud music and frequent guests? 

Will the oldest generation want a part of the house with the easiest access? Will the middle generation of 40-somethings now have to be working from home for substantial periods, even post-pandemic?

Then consider what you might want to do together. If that includes regular meals, the kitchen and dining areas need to be large enough.

If all three generations have cars, try for a property with sufficient off-road parking. Consider, too, who will use the garden and maintain it.

Finally, weigh up the future. Is the property adaptable if older family members become frail?

After decades of generations proving their independence by living apart, the pandemic generated a new spirit of dependence and the feeling that lockdown was made easier by being together.

On the market… with lots of space 

Best mortgages