Marlena Brown’s mom has made it clear she doesn’t want to move into a nursing home when she can no longer take care of herself.
So when Brown had a new house built two years ago, she had the builder create a second living space for her parents to live in when they’re ready. For now, Brown’s 24-year-old son is living in that portion of the house, enjoying the benefit of his own entrance, kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities.
Brown is one of four homeowners who bought in The Estates at Haywood Lane in North Greenbush who asked builder Hodorowski Homes to create an in-law suite, either because they were planning for the future or to accommodate parents who were moving with their adult children, said Kimberly Mesko, the real estate agent who sold the houses in the 73-home development.
Brown said she went into the design process knowing exactly what she wanted for maximum accessibility with doorways wide enough for a wheelchair and no steps to navigate.
According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, 12% of homebuyers in 2019 bought a multigenerational home either because they were taking care of aging parents or because their adult children were moving home, or for the cost-savings created by keeping several generations under one roof.
The data — a broad-ranging survey of what kind of property people bought between July of 2018 and June of 2019, and why — was collected from a nationally representative sample of homebuyers who purchased a primary residence. Data is also representative of the geographic distribution of home sales.
In Albany, city officials are in the process of updating zoning laws to meet the need for multigenerational living and keeping aging members of the community in their homes. Currently, the owner of a house in the portions of the city where only single-family houses are allowed may not add a dwelling onto their house, either to rent it out or for a family member to move in, explained Chris Spencer, the city’s commissioner of planning and development. Even if the home is in an area zoned for more than one dwelling under one roof, the homeowner must apply for a special permit. Under the forthcoming rule changes, which Spencer hopes to bring to the City Council within a month, homeowners will be able to add an accessory dwelling up to 800 square feet, either an addition, an apartment over a garage or a separate structure — think of the “granny pods” trending online. In addition to the size restriction, one or the other of the living quarters must be owner-occupied, but the other one doesn’t have to be occupied by a family member, it can be an unrelated renter.
“It’s consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and has a lot of support from AARP,” Spencer said, of the organization focused on retired people.
The permit process for adding onto your house varies between municipalities. In Clifton Park, homeowners in most residential zones are allowed to build an addition, with Planning Board approval on a case-by-case basis, said Steven Myers, director of planning and zoning for the town. It gets expensive, though, when the property owner wants to create a space that includes living, bathing, cooking, sleeping and a separate entrance. If all five conditions are met, it’s considered a second dwelling, and it has to have a firewall — a fire-resistant barrier between the two dwelling units to prevent a fire in one from spreading to the other.
A less expensive way to go, Myers said, is to design a space without the kitchen, then the town will consider the added space an addition, not a separate dwelling.
Lisa Marini, a real estate agent whose husband is Steven Marini of Marini Homes, has learned separate apartments are good selling points. Marini has her house at 22 Turner Lane, Loudonville on the market. When she and her husband built it five years ago, they left space above the garage for a potential in-law apartment. Although it was never used for their relatives, Marini said she made sure it was finished before she listed the house. The apartment is 1,500 feet and has stainless steel appliances, a washer and dryer hookup is located in a closet, a tiled bathroom, large closet and high ceilings.
“Accommodations for extended family are in demand,” Marini said.
Broker Alexander Monticello said he doesn’t see a lot of buyer clients looking for in-law space, but the popularity of Airbnb make them more appealing, even if the buyer doesn’t have plans to move family into the house.
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