Far from a temporary, pandemic-era adaptation, multi-generational households are more popular than ever. Find out what NAR’s recent study reflects and how you can be sensitive to the needs all of your buyers.

In March’s Marketing and Branding Month, we’ll go deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, Realtor.com and more. Top CMOs of leading firms drop by to share their newest tactics, too. And to top off this theme month, Inman is debuting a brand new set of awards for branding and marketing leaders in the industry called Marketing All-Stars.

Attitudes toward multi-generational homeownership can vary widely depending on the traditions and norms of various cultures and depending on the individual needs and circumstances of family members. Now, however, according to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, “multi-generational buying is back near an all-time high” of 14 percent.

Interestingly, while it might make intuitive sense to think that multi-gen households would be more prevalent among older, repeat buyers squeezed between adult children and elderly family members, the study found that, in fact, buyers across the board were almost equally likely to purchase a home with multi-gen living in mind: 15 percent for first-time homebuyers and 14 percent for repeat buyers.

What’s different between these two groups, however, is the reason behind the multi-gen home purchase. For first-time buyers, affordability is the primary reason for heading up a multi-generational household, with 28 percent citing cost-related motivations and another 28 percent specifying the need for multiple incomes.

For repeat buyers, the primary motivator given is “Health/caretaking of aging parent” at 23 percent. The second-highest-ranking reason among those repeat buyers who articulated a specific motivation for their purchase was “Children/relatives over 18 moved back home.” This number has remained elevated throughout the pandemic and does not seem poised to go back down to pre-pandemic levels.

Unsurprisingly, among generational cohorts, Gen Xers are the most likely to purchase a multi-generational home. Squeezed between responsibilities to teen and adult children and aging Boomer parents, this group may feel particular pressure to buy a larger home, either for current needs or projected future requirements.

Racial and cultural differences were represented in the numbers as well, with 18 percent to 19 percent of Black, Asian-Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino purchasers favoring a multi-gen residence, as opposed to 10 percent of white homebuyers. When correcting for differences among cultural groups, the most common reason for buying a multi-gen home was for “Caretaking and spending time with aging relatives” according to the study.

What does this mean for your marketing?

One question to consider based on these numbers: As the aging Baby Boomer generational cohort retires and experiences decreasing mobility, will they move into homes that are already optimized for multiple generations, or will they and their Gen-X or millennial children sell and then purchase together? In other words, are the increased numbers of multi-gen buyers working on short-term or long-term preferences and requirements? 

To stay ahead of the curve, consider the following strategies for optimizing your listings and marketing to multi-generational households:

Create content that appeals to a variety of generations

Although you may have an ideal client avatar in mind, don’t ignore the needs of other demographic groups when it comes to your content. Provide value-added blog posts, podcasts or videos on downsizing, home cleanout, enhanced accessibility features, and so on to ensure that you have meaningful insight into the needs of your multi-generational buyers — and a place to point them for information.

Develop expertise and your professional network

Consider added training to help you better meet the needs of senior clients and seek out connections with professional service providers who can help facilitate adaptations that will make your buyer’s home work for each member of their household.

Develop your expertise when it comes to different ownership structures and strategies so that each member who contributes to the purchase of the household is financially protected and properly represented.

Highlight space utilization potential

You may be used to marketing a finished basement as a family room, playroom or media room. Instead of, or along with, these ideas, be sure and highlight the potential for multi-gen households, especially if there is also a bedroom, full bath and kitchenette on that level. Alternatively, a ground-floor bedroom and full bath in a two-story home may make a perfect ad hoc living space for elderly family members with mobility issues.

Research regulations around tiny homes and ADUs

Remember that multi-gen properties may not be totally self-contained. An elderly parent or family member or an adult child may be more comfortable, and enjoy more autonomy, in a secondary dwelling located on the property. Find out what your local municipality requires for using one of these units as a permanent residence, including permitting, structural requirements and lot size.

Focus on flexibility for future needs

Just because someone isn’t currently living in a multi-generational household doesn’t mean that they won’t be a few years from now. Consider discussing future needs with your buyer clients, not just current needs. If they think that they will have elderly parents moving in or college-aged students returning home within the next five years, they might need to go ahead and plan for that when determining their buyer wishlist.

Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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