The fasted growing segment of our population is people who are over age 65. One of the growing trends we have noticed in our market is an interest in In-Law apartments. Many reasons exist that make In-Law additions a viable and desirable option for families looking to ensure that an aging parent has a safe and comfortable place to to live in their older years. Additionally, having a multi-generational family under one roof can bring a quality of life that can't be achieved in other ways.
When considering an In-Law space there are a number of factors that come into the decision making process. One of the first is financing. Often the parent is selling their primary residence and using part of the proceeds to create a new space. In some cases it can be a joint venture between the parents and children where the children may also take advantage of the construction to make some improvements to the existing home.
After financing is determined it is time to think design. There are a number of issues associated with designing an In-Law apartment and most of them deal with size. The first place to start is the zoning by-laws of the town you live in. Most towns have specific zoning to address In-law apartments (although not all towns call it the same thing). Most towns put size limits in terms of sqft. of the addition or space within the home. Additionally, many towns have language that ensures that an addition does not detract from the character and style of the house. Many towns also have a license or permit process that allows an In-Law addition to be used in that capacity, by a family member only, for a certain period of time and it must be renewed. The real key here is that towns do not want people building money making apartments on the side of the house which means that when the space is no longer being used by a family member then the kitchen must be removed and the space can be re-purposed. Because of issues like this it is important to have a future plan for the space within your home when it is no longer needed by a parent. In those towns where size limits are enforced design is even more crucial because you may have to design a space within 650sqft and in that space you need fit a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living room and a couple of closets. While this is achievable, in many cases it is a substantial reduction is size from what a parent might be used to and at the same time a reasonably sized addition that must be sensitive to the existing house style so that the addition adds value in the long run.
Utilities are another important consideration both at the time of design/construction but also on an ongoing basis. In many cases parents are concerned about paying their fair share for heat and electricity. In order for that to happen it often means separate meters. This will drive up costs and is not permitted in some towns. We suggest that parents and kids work out a reasonable contribution to be made on a monthly basis that will cover additional utility expense as well as any tax increase the addition has created.
Among some of the other key considerations for an In-Law addition are planning for infirmity. While Mom or Dad may not need it now, there may be a time that grab bars and accessible features like a ramp will be welcome. This is not a big deal, especially if it is something that is discussed in the planning stage. Access between the addition and home is also important. Most parents moving into an In-Law apartment want to be with the family but also want independence which means considering where the connection(required by many towns)should be such that it creates access but affords privacy for everyone.
When done right an In-Law addition can be a great way for families to address the needs associated with aging parents. Open communication and good planning can make it fun, exciting and rewarding. We at Blackdog have a long history of expanding homes to meet changing needs and would love to work with your family.