Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Brought to you by
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

8 Ways to Transform Your Home for Multigenerational Living

Create news spaces for a caregiver or loved one moving in

spinner image a row of houses with a hand holding a magnifying glass over one of them
Getty Images

If you’re thinking of moving in with your daughter and her family as you get older — or having them move in with you — space and privacy are often top of mind for everyone.​

Older adults and their caregivers may need to transform living spaces to accommodate more people. It’s a growing trend. The number of multigenerational households nationwide increased 11.4 percent for the 10 years through 2021, according to data from U.S. Census Bureau. Aging boomers and the need for affordable housing are two of the main drivers of the explosion of home conversions and new building projects across the country to meet those needs.​

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

“We’ve seen this really taking off,” says Emily Hamilton, a senior research fellow and director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, in reference to alternative housing options. “This might be a way that families can work together to save costs through multigenerational living. Retirees as property owners may want to rent out part of their space for income or have housing that meets their needs.”​

A popular way to add extra living space is through accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are separate living units on the same property as the main dwelling. So far, nine states have legalized ADUs in some format, and some states, such as Virginia, allow temporary ADUs for a sick or disabled family member, Hamilton said.​

Many other options to add living space exist. People often base their decision on the prevalent type of housing in their area. In Washington, D.C., for example, the most popular type is a basement apartment because there are so many town houses with walkout basements, Hamilton said. In Los Angeles, you see a lot of garage conversions because the dry climate makes that feasible, and home additions are popular in New Hampshire, she added.​

Video: How to Create an In-Law Suite

The feasibility of home conversions varies based on local regulations and building and safety codes. Consult with professionals, such as architects and contractors, and local officials to ensure compliance and obtain the necessary permits.​

Construction prices vary widely based on location and type and size of project, ranging from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prefab modular options, however, may be more affordable — and easier.​Consider these eight home conversions to create more living space:​

1. Convert a garage

One of the most popular options, this usually entails converting the entire garage or building a second-story living area above the garage.​

2. Rebuild a basement

Particularly attractive for homes that already have walkout basements, conversions range from simply adding another bedroom to creating a separate apartment with its own bathroom, kitchen and external entry. This can be a more affordable option because a basement already has framework and possibly plumbing, electricity and ventilation systems. However, you may need to raise the ceiling height at an extra cost.​

3. Finish the attic

Unused attic space can become loft living, with an extra bedroom and den. This may involve upgrading flooring and adding stairs, insulation and windows. The stairs, which may be steep, may make this a less attractive choice for some older adults.​

4. Build an addition

Building an extension onto your existing home is a simple way to create more living space, especially if you don’t have a garage or basement. Depending on your budget, you may add one room, a second floor or an entire wing.​

5. Divide and multiply spaces

One of the most affordable options is to simply split a large room into smaller rooms to accommodate more people. You can install temporary or permanent partitions — from movable screens to new walls.​

Home & Real Estate

ADT™ Home Security

Savings on monthly home security monitoring

See more Home & Real Estate offers >

6. Repurpose rooms

It’s increasingly common for families to convert little-used rooms, such as a formal dining room, a porch or even a closet, into more suitable living space. A closet, for example, can become an extra bathroom, or a dining room can become an extra bedroom.​

7. Build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

Also known as a granny flat or in-law suite, an ADU is a separate living unit on the same property as the main dwelling. An ADU can take different forms — above a garage, in a basement, as an attached addition or a stand-alone unit — but it’s typically smaller and includes a separate entrance, kitchen and bathroom.​

A survey by mortgage giant Freddie Mac this year found that roughly one-third of people are interested in having an ADU on their property, in part to accommodate family members.​

8. Go tiny

Tiny homes offer most of the usual amenities, but typically are up to 400 square feet, stand-alone super-compact homes, often built on wheels. ​

For people who think they may want to move to a family member’s property or accommodate a family member in their home in the future, consider the feasibility of adding on extra space when making a home purchase, Hamilton suggests.

That may include making sure the property has a garage that could be converted into living space or enough yard space for a detached ADU or home addition.​​

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?