I recently read an article in The Atlantic by Iliana E. Strauss – “The Hot New Millennial Housing Trend Is a Repeat of the Middle Ages.” The article addresses the trend in “co-housing,” in which people are choosing to live in housing with communal eating and socializing space. The author writes:
“Homeownership is still viewed as a central component of living out the American dream, but the ways that many present-day Americans are pushing back on modern living arrangements closely resemble what came centuries, even millennia, before in other parts of the world. Family members, relatives, neighbors, and strangers are coming together to live in groups that work for them—a bit like medieval Europe.”
From what I see in my everyday practice of real estate, this trend is not exclusive to millennials. Baby Boomers are also following suit. On a regular basis, I meet with local buyers and sellers who are part of this phenomenon. Is this trend related to the changes in the traditional family structure, economics, and/or the current desire for socializing? The article points out that communal living was the way humans existed throughout most of history. It really was not until the early 20th century and the Industrial Revolution when households shrank to house just nuclear families.
My Own Experience: In late May, my husband Marty and I began a second experiment in home sharing. Our first go at it was six years ago when my daughter, Amanda, and her now-husband, Ben, moved into our home after college graduation in order to save money for law school. Our home has a generously sized lower level so there was a bedroom and bath for Ben plus a second family room. Overall, it went well after some adjustment of living as empty nesters for four years. This go-around, Allison, her husband, Doug, and my grandson, Brooks, have moved into our lower level while their house is being totally renovated and expanded. This arrangement not only helps them afford a major renovation, but it allows us to see our sweet grandson every day. We are able to help with childcare and they help with making meals and household tasks. Overall, it’s a win-win situation for all parties.
The Benefits of Shared Housing: As a result of our current living arrangement, I have been tuning into the concept of house sharing.
This trend is being brought on by so-called “boomerang” kids, aging parents living longer, and the high costs of housing and childcare in urban areas.
Because the “typical” family structure has changed dramatically, we are seeing people look for co-housing options, in which homes offer private space but also communal areas for meal preparation and socializing. Homeowners rent out rooms or take in exchange students so they can afford to stay put. Single people are purchasing homes with someone other than a spouse so they can enjoy homeownership at an affordable price. We have all had a taste of communal living, as college students in dorms or sharing a house with roommates just out of college. It saves money and for most young people, it is a lot of fun. As people move into their 30s and are more financially stable, this desire for communal living tends to disappear. But it does come back. I can’t tell you how many buyers in their 40s and 50s are looking for homes with options for a main-level room for parents to stay either for long visits or permanently. In addition, over-55 communities are a great alternative for those looking for homes with accommodating floor plans and robust social activities. As homeowners are approaching their 70s and 80s, many head to communal living in places like Goodwin House, The Fairfax, and Greenspring. Often, our seniors are living in homes that are increasingly hard to maintain or get around in. Their neighborhoods are less social as more neighbors work and are not home during the day. In the new “retirement home,” they are finding that social interaction and the option for communal eating is a huge benefit to them.
The Bottom Line: Co-housing, shared housing or having housemates, builds a sense of community, offers social benefits, and saves money in an area that is getting more expensive each year. Both millennials and Boomers (and everyone in between) are a part of this trend. If you need advice on how to think outside the box regarding your current living situation please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to help.
Sue Goodhart is with Compass Real Estate. In 2017, the Goodhart Group helped 120 clients achieve their real estate goals. Led by Sue and Allison Goodhart, they have been named a Top Agent by both Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazines. The Goodhart Group can be reached at 703-362-3221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.