Better Together: Why multigenerational living is on the rise

Picture your dream home. Is it a traditional single-family home designed for a conventional nuclear family? Or does your idea of home include extended family — maybe your parents, in-laws, or a favorite aunt or uncle?

If so, you’re not alone. While single-family living continues to be the dominant housing choice in the US, there’s a new arrangement that’s steadily gaining in popularity across the country, including in the greater Chicagoland.

According to a report by Pew Research Center, the number of people who live in multigenerational households quadrupled between 1971 and 2021, now representing 18% of the US population. What’s driving this growth? The Pew study found financial reasons motivated four in ten respondents, 28% said it’s how they’ve always lived, 25% are caring for a family member, and 12% said help with childcare was a driving force in their decision.

The Benefits of Multi-Generational Living

Multigenerational living isn’t for everyone, but many families who live with a range of ages under one roof wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an arrangement with many unique perks, including:

Emotional Support and Companionship

Sharing a home means companionship is built in. That’s especially important for elderly residents, as a number of studies have demonstrated a link between longevity and social interaction. If grandparents and grandkids are living under the same roof, it also allows those two generations to create deeper connections. Having an extra set of eyes and hands to help with childcare is also a bonus.

Shared Responsibilities

In a multi-generational home, responsibilities like cooking, upkeep, childcare, and bill paying can be distributed among family members, who might have a particular affinity or talent in those areas. That can cut back on everyone’s stress levels and workload.

Shared Expenses

Sharing mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, and other expenses makes homeownership more affordable and frees up money for education, travel, investments, and more.

Finding a Home that Checks All the Boxes – for Everyone

House hunting looks slightly different when searching for a multigenerational home versus a single-family home. You still need to consider the basics like the neighborhood, home size, aesthetics, and style, but you also have to weigh other priorities to make your living arrangement a success.


You’ll want to think long-term if your household includes multiple generations. For older family members, this means a home that’s easy to navigate. Look for features like two primary suites with en-suite baths – at least one of which is on the main level. If a family member uses a walker or a wheelchair, then accessible features like wide doorways and step-free entryways are important.

You should also consider proximity to services that are a priority for individual family members, such as public transportation, a nearby park and playground for little ones, or a senior center for older family members.

Separate Living Areas

Even the most close-knit families need time apart now and then, so a flexible design and layout are key. Look for homes where everyone can carve out their own private space to entertain friends, work, or just relax. As you look at homes, think creatively about how different areas can be used for these purposes. An extra bedroom or bonus room can be converted into a home office, a playroom, or a sitting room, and an apartment can be built out in a coach house  or lower level.

Another option that’s unique to Chicago homebuyers is the two-flat or three-flat, which houses multiple apartments in one building. These structures offer all the benefits of multigenerational living while providing completely separate, self-contained homes, giving occupants a much-needed sense of independence in a communal setting.

In the market for a multigenerational home? Contact your @properties Christie’s International Real Estate agent to talk through your unique needs – and to find a house that’s right for your family.

Written by @properties
@properties Christie’s International Real Estate is Chicagoland’s #1 brokerage. Through our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, our network spans nearly 50 countries. No matter your real estate needs, we’ve got you covered.