By Jane Paige, writer for New Homes & Ideas
Today’s homes are stretching and bending to meet the needs of ever-changing families. And local home builders are working to shape these various housing visions into a bright future for everyone.
From single professionals to families with young children to retirees who want to age in place, homes are being built for all life stages. Across the Triangle, there also is an increased need for multi-generational homes as families open their doors to returning adult children and aging parents, industry experts agree.
“Homebuilders today work to adapt floor plans for all life stages,” says Brant Chesson, president of Homes by Dickerson, Raleigh-based custom homebuilders. “We also are seeing an increase in the need for multi-generational homes in the area.”
Today’s homeowners can see a lot of family changes over the years from welcoming a newborn to making room for aging parents. These changes are only expected to increase as babyboomers age and living modifications are made.
“The home building industry has definitely adjusted to meet the lifestyles of various age groups and personal lifestyles,” says Allison Moriarty, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes, a national homebuilding company with Triangle communities. “I have seen single-family homes become more transitional where owner’s bedrooms are downstairs. M/I Homes builds a collection of villa style homes where main level living is the focus. These homes often come with the lawn maintenance included.”
When it comes to preparing your home for every stage of life, adaptability is key. One way to prepare for life’s different circumstances is to make adjustments so that your home can change for you and any family members who may live with you.
For instance, if you’re planning to raise children, you’ll likely want to consider the amount of space you’ll need for a nursery and then a full bedroom when your child is grown. If you plan on retiring in your current home, you might want to plan for a first-floor bedroom or a house that’s all on ground level. Elevators also might be an option for larger homes.
The first and most vital question to consider is whether you’re currently in your final home or a starter home. This will impact the decisions you make because of how you’ll use the home long-term, local builders agree.
Families today also are planning for multi-generational living. Homes by Dickerson has built numerous custom designed homes with this concept in mind. Separate suites located in basements, over the garage, third floors with an elevator or off the main living floor are ideal for new college graduates or grandparents.
“More and more families are seeing this as an option in their home planning,” says Chesson. “We are seeing this multi-generational living at all price ranges.”
Architects and project managers can help guide homebuyers through the planning process to create the ideal home design for various life stages or multi-generational living. Sometimes, baby boomers will merge their incomes with their adult children to help make possible the combined living, Chesson says.
Also seeing a need for multi-generational floor plans, M/I Homes has plans with second bedroom suites and dual owner’s suites. Both have been popular over the past several years, Moriarty says.
Originally known for building traditional single family homes, M/I Homes now has expanded with townhomes and villa/ranch-style offerings.
“Not only do we offer plans with owner’s suites downstairs, but many floor plans appeal to those working from a home office,” says Moriarty. “Flex rooms also are available in many of the plans and hold endless possibilities of how they could be used.”
Various alterations can be made in homes as needs change through the years. Whatever direction you choose to take with your extra space, take time to plan ahead. If you’re thinking about retiring in your current home, consider the adaptability of your home and any changes you might need to make in preparation for growing older.
According to a 2015 study by the United States Census Bureau, from 2025 to 2050, the older population is projected to almost double to 1.6 billion people globally. Approximately 50 million Americans will be 65 years or older and nearly 50 percent will acquire some health challenge that will affect their functional mobility.
Consider now any home renovations you might need to make to accommodate the physical limitations that come with aging while staying in your home, particularly in your kitchen and bathroom.
Kitchen equipment should be adjusted to arm’s reach. This means moving cabinets down to a more realistic height and raising the height of any equipment installed near the ground, such as dishwashers, so that you don’t need to reach or bend too far.
Bathrooms also can be modified to fit the needs of changing families. While bathtubs are ideal for families who need to bathe young children, the tubs can become obsolete for empty nesters.
Justin Johnson, owner of The Bath Shop in Raleigh, says older homeowners can make bathrooms much safer and convenient with some changes in the master bathroom. Walk-in showers with seats and grab bars can be added. Removing unused tubs and adding higher vanities that allow space for sitting in a wheelchair often are requested.
“Families who plan ahead for their bathrooms can make changes that allow them to stay in their homes for many years to come,” says Johnson. “These bathroom changes let the owners age in place.”
Over the years, Johnson has seen more homeowners making most of these changes in the master bathroom. Tubs can be removed and a larger, more accessible shower added. Today’s shower surfaces also are easier to clean than the tile and grout from years ago.
In order to accommodate future families with children, tubs can be left in other bathrooms when changes are made to the master bathroom, Johnson says.
As families continue to vary through the life stages, it remains important for homebuilders to change too.
“The housing industry is changing along with how people live today,” says Moriarty. “Advancement in technology has influenced the way we build homes today and certainly will in the future. We now have ‘connected’ lifestyles and therefore, connected homes. It will be critically important to keep up with these trends as we build into the future.”