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One big happy family

 In Finance Help

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More Australian families are moving in with parents or in-laws in a bid to stake their claim in the property market and save everyone a bundle along the way. Multi-generational housing has risen by more than 60 per cent over the past three decades, according to a 2013 report by the University of NSW City Futures Research Centre.

With property prices escalating and new land at a premium in most major capital cities, more families are deciding to pool their resources and take up digs together.

While not for every family, there are clear benefits to kids, parents and grandparents bunking in, not least of them being big savings.

Already more young adults are living at home longer to stave off the increasingly high costs of independent living, save for travel or squirrel away a deposit to buy their own place. And while that arrangement probably suits the adult child more than mum and dad, the concept of multi-generational living tends to have more mutual perks. The oldest generation, for example, might be looking to down-size and make their superannuation go further without compromising their lifestyle, while their children might want to step up to a bigger property in a better location. Together, they are able to meet their financial and lifestyle goals.

Advantages

Savings for all

One of the most obvious benefits of families sharing a property is greater buying power. Naturally the property needs to be big enough to cater to a large number of people (and they can be difficult to come by) but once economies of scale kick in, families who combine their funds can usually pick up a higher calibre of property than if they were on their own.

Sharing families who can’t find the home they need may choose to build their own or renovate an existing one. Some are opting for a duplex-style arrangement where a wall splits the home in two to create entirely separate living areas with separate entrances. Designed properly, the property can maintain its Residential A zoning without attracting all of the red tape and costs associated with developing a proper duplex. Check with your local council what rules apply for your property.

Whether you build or buy, the savings can stack up in terms of loan repayments and rates and utilities, providing there are sound agreements in place for splitting expenses (see tips).

Extra care

Another advantage of multigenerational living is built-in childcare, providing it is mutually agreeable. Grandparents are often willing to help out with children, which can help tally up further savings or create greater flexibility for busy working parents. Even if children don’t require fulltime day care, having a grandparent on hand for school pick-ups or extra-curricular activities can help ease stress on the family dynamic. And it may not be just children who require the care. Some families choose to live together to provide emotional or physical support to an aging parent who may be struggling to maintain their independence.

Fringe benefits

Although probably not top-of-mind for co-located families, there are plenty of incidental benefits when generations reside together:

  • There is someone on hand to care for plants and pets when one family goes away.
  • Senior residents can attract discounts on home insurance and improve security if home most of the time.
  • Old and new skills can be passed between generations – for example, grandkids can teach grandparents about technology, while grandparents might teach grandkids how to cook an old-fashioned favourite.
  • Many families report increased respect and understanding between generations.

Tips for multi-generational living

Although there are many advantages to multiple generations living under one roof, the arrangement is not without its challenges. Prior planning and plenty of ongoing, respectful discussion are often required to help things run smoothly. Here are some tips on what to consider to help ensure the situation doesn’t get too close for comfort.

  • Discuss what each party expects to get out of the situation so there’s agreement from the outset.
  • Get legal and financial advice and ensure there are agreements in place to avoid any grey areas over who pays for what when establishing the home – buying or building – and for all ongoing expenses, such as groceries and household bills.
  • Be clear about responsibilities so each family member understands what jobs are expected of them.
  • Establish a routine for meals – who cooks, when the family eats and whether everyone eats together.
  • Set up rules for privacy to instil boundaries if needed – grandkids, for example, might be asked to give a grandparent some time out after dinner.
  • Consider whether holidays and outings involve all family members or just some, and try to make plans well in advance so there are no surprises, clashes or confusion.
  • Grandparents should be clear from the get-go about how much they wish to be involved in caring for grandchildren.
  • Make time to discuss how the situation is tracking for everyone involved so any grievances can be aired productively.

Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.

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