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A Growing Trend in Senior Housing: In-Law Apartments

With the number of elderly people in the United States growing at a fast rate, it is becoming common knowledge that most seniors wish to stay out of nursing homes and similar facilities as long as possible. In addition, research has shown that seniors who stay in their own homes or communities tend to stay the healthiest, physically and mentally, longer on average than those who do not. As a result, one of the hottest new trends in real estate is having the added amenity of an in-law apartment.

In-Law Apartments

For domestic and foreign buyers alike, a growing trend in real estate amenities is to have an in-law unit – an apartment carved out of an existing home or a separate dwelling built on the property meant specifically for aging parents and in-laws. The benefit is tri-fold: the adult children get the peace of mind of having their parents nearby, the elderly parents get to remain out of nursing home facilities, and the extra accommodations are adding value to the property.

Otherwise known as accessory dwelling units, in an analysis of real-estate listings the units with in-law apartments were priced on average around sixty percent higher than similar properties without them. The analysis covered all new listings that occurred in major cities over the last four years. Putting aside the jokes about living with an in-law, in 2012 a survey of 550 homeowners with one or more living parents a total of 32% of respondents stated that they expected to have an aging parent live with them in the future.

Until recently, many homeowners were not allowed to build in-law units on their properties because of local regulations that made them illegal or too complex to build. However, efforts by lobbyists for the AARP and other elder organizations have resulted in loosened regulations in many states.

Responding to the Need

Architects and home builders have responded by creating a variety of options for in-law units. One option is a stand-alone unit that is built on the property. Another option builds a unit onto an existing home, and some are attached to the main home but have their own separate entrance. Community developers are now focusing on building neighborhoods that have large single-family homes in additional to smaller residences that are designed for empty-nesters and aging parents.

Adult children and their parents have gone about implementing an in-law unit in a few different ways. Some elderly parents pay for the renovation or construction themselves, while some adult children that can afford it will pay for it themselves. In addition, some parents pay rent to live in the in-law unit while other parents do not.

Dealing with the Transition

Many adult children and senior parents that have made the move to in-law apartments have found that there is a transition period, but having family that close makes it easier. One of the biggest issues is downsizing furniture and possessions from a larger home into a smaller space. Another issue for some is dealing with the health problems of some parents. Many children are unaware of the effort it takes to keep up with the health demands of the elderly. Still, most families that have utilized the in-law apartments agree that the benefits of having family close by far outweigh any issues that come with aging.

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