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Lennar design accommodates multigenerational families

In some cases, it may be Grandma moving in with the family. Other times, it may be a recent college graduate returning to the nest.

For all sorts of reasons — financial, medical, personal — a rising number of Americans are moving into extended family households.

Spotting a niche in the growing trend, Lennar Corp. has launched a new concept tailor-made for multigenerational family living.

It’s basically a house within a house: a smaller living unit next to the main home designed to provide independence but also access to the rest of the family household.

“People are really loving the whole concept,” said Carlos Gonzalez, president of the southeast Florida division of Lennar, a Miami-based home-building giant. “We adapted to the market from a design standpoint.”

In Miami-Dade County, Lennar is selling various versions of multigenerational homes in three new developments in Doral, Kendall and Homestead.

Louis Moreno of Kendall and his wife, Danilza Velez, signed a contract for a large NextGen home in The Vineyards development in Homestead last October — even before the models had been built.

“We loved it,” said Moreno, a 45-year-old engineer.

Moreno said his mother-in-law will be able to use the new suite when she visits, as will his family members who frequently come to town from Puerto Rico. “This will provide them with more comfortable space and more privacy,” he said. He also plans to use it as a game room and entertainment area.

The two-story Zinfandel home Moreno picked has three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in the main home with a family room and two-car garage. In addition, it has an ample 789-square-foot suite with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchenette. The suite has its own garage, a separate front entrance and an internal door connecting to the main home.

The Zinfandel, which has 2,249 square feet of air-conditioned space in the main house, starts at $283,990 in the Homestead community at 128 SE 28th Ter., but a similar home in Kendall would run about $100,000 more, primarily because of higher land costs, Fernandez said. (In Doral, there is a NextGen home priced at $677,990.)

Some multigenerational models have suites as small as 489 square feet, but all have a separate entrance, a bedroom, a bathroom and some sort of kitchen space.

The idea takes various shapes. One option at the Kendall Square development at 16950 SW 90th St. is a Granny unit above a detached garage.

“Independence is the key word,” said Frank Fernandez, director of sales and marketing for the southeast Florida division.

Depending on local zoning rules, some homes can have full kitchens, others are restricted to kitchenettes with a microwave but no stove. Similarly, some municipalities permit the space to be used as a rental, others prohibit it.

The choice is proving popular. Fernandez said in The Vineyards development in Homestead, 10 of the 14 homes sold to date are NextGen. At Kendall Square, 35 of 107 sales are multigenerational, and at the Isles at Grand Bay development at 11301 NW 74th Street in Doral, five of 48 houses are.

Adapting homes for special needs, such as wheelchairs and safety railings, is done at cost, Fernandez said: “That is company policy.”

As one of the nation’s largest home builders, Lennar has been rebounding strongly from the housing crash. Last week, the builder, whose shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange, posted better than expected earnings for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Nov. 30, 2012.

Annual revenue soared 33 percent to $4.1 billion, fueled by a 27 percent increase in new homes delivered and a 4 percent increase in the average price. It pared back sales incentives to home buyers amid strong demand.

Net income for the fiscal year rose to $679.1 million, or $3.11 a diluted share, after tax adjustments, from $92.2 million, or 48 cents a diluted share, the prior year.

Lennar started offering the multigenerational concept in Arizona and Nevada more than a year ago and has been rolling it out to more markets.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, multigenerational households have been steadily on the rise for a variety of reasons. It’s a popular lifestyle with many immigrants. It saves money — a driving factor during the recent downturn. And many young people are marrying later in life.

According to a Census Bureau study issued last October, 5.6 percent of the 76 million U.S. households lived in multigenerational settings during 2009 through 2011.

In Miami-Dade County, the percentage was far higher —10.4 percent or more — the census study said.

Some home buyers just like the flexibility of a home within a home. Jenny Diaz and her husband, Rolando, are planning to move next week from Hialeah to their new home in The Vineyards with their four kids ages 13, 9, 7 and 5.

“It’s perfect for us. You have options of what you are able to do with the space,” said Jenny Diaz, who works in quality assurance at a doctor’s office.

Her family picked The Shiraz, which includes a 600-square-foot suite adjacent to the main home, a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath-room, two-story structure.

“It’s a very good way of being with the family,” she added. “I’m going to use the whole house.”