Multigenerational households, an often overlooked real estate niche, offer agents prime opportunity in 2014

Understanding cultural expectations helps agents better market to buyers

Generations image via Shutterstock.Generations image via Shutterstock.

Offshore buyers, unemployment rates hovering between 12 and 25 percent for adults aged 18-25, and an onslaught of baby boomers has caused the number of multigenerational households to explode. If you’re looking for a great niche in 2014, specializing in multigenerational housing can be an excellent choice.

According to NAR’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:

“Fourteen percent of recent buyers purchased a home for a multigenerational household — a home that had adult siblings, adult children over the age of 18, parents, and/or grandparents in the household. One-quarter of these homes were bought because children over the age of 18 were moving back into the home and for cost savings. One of five multigenerational households purchased this household type because of health and caretaking of aging parents, while 1 in 10 purchase this type of home to spend more time with aging parents.”

The real driver: foreign-born seniors?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Neil Shah argued that what’s really driving the trend towards multigenerational households is not low income or high joblessness, it’s the fact the number of seniors born outside the U.S. has risen from 8 percent in 1994 to 13 percent in 2013.

According to Shah: “… Foreign-born seniors are four times more likely to live with their children. Around 25 percent of foreign-born seniors in the U.S. live with relatives, compared with just 6 percent for U.S.-born seniors. … Nearly half of all U.S. seniors born in India (47 percent) were living with relatives. Vietnam (44 percent), the Philippines (38 percent), Mexico (35 percent) and China (34 percent) also posted high shares.”

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“Moreover, African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic seniors born in the U.S. are all twice as likely as whites to live with relatives.”

Please keep in mind that even though the adult children may be buying the house, in many cultures, the parents or grandparents will take over the prime living quarters."

Compare this to rates ranging between 5 and 7 percent for seniors born in Canada, England, Germany and the U.S.

Even if the family doesn’t all live in the same household, it’s common for family members to purchase in the same condominium building or subdivision. Furthermore, many people from outside the U.S. have family members who come for extended stays. Consequently, their home must be able to comfortably accommodate these long-term guests.

Understand their needs

To begin working with multigenerational households, you must identify which groups are most likely to prefer this type of lifestyle. Even if you don’t specialize in this niche, chances are you will attract this type of buyer when you list a home that has dual master bedrooms, a casita, guesthouse, or some other separate area where the various family members can be together and still have their own space and privacy as well.

How to market to multigenerational households

To specialize in the multigenerational housing niche, you must be aware of the cultural expectations of those who are from outside the U.S., as well as being a resource for adapting properties to the special needs of someone who is suffering from lack of mobility or other health issues. Here are some strategies for reaching these buyers and sellers.

1. Create a list of properties that would work for multigenerational families
While you can run afoul of the fair housing laws if you target-market by ethnicity or age, you can describe your listings in terms of the actual features. For example, “dual master suites with spacious baths and walk-in closets.” Once you identify the listings in your area that are best suited for multigenerational buyers, you can create a list that you update regularly.

If you choose a niche with an international focus, have your list translated into multiple languages and/or advertise in your local foreign language newspapers.

A different alternative is to use Pinterest to illustrate the various options available to multigenerational families. For example, you might create a series of Pinterest boards illustrating what a casita is, which builders provide this as an option for new construction, or which subdivisions currently have listings with this feature.

Please keep in mind that even though the adult children may be buying the house, in many cultures, the parents or grandparents will take over the prime living quarters.

2. Become a resource for modifying properties to fit the needs of aging adults
For those with mobility problems, a one-story house is generally preferable to a two-story property. Even so, some homes are easy to modify, while others can be quite costly.

One way to be a resource to this group is to identify those properties that already easily accommodate someone with mobility issues. For example, does the master bedroom have a shower with a seat that someone could access even if they were in a wheelchair? Are the doorways wide enough for wheelchair access? How about the height of the counters and toilets?

By understanding the needs of these various types of multigenerational families and targeting your marketing to reach them, you can have a highly profitable niche now and well into the future.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.

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