My husband and I recently completed construction of a new home, where we plan on retiring sometime in the future. When we were offered the option of building a detached guest house, we jumped at the chance; loving the idea of having frequent guests visit us to play golf and enjoy the Florida sun. We approved construction of a separate 385 square-foot cottage for guests to enjoy while staying with us, giving everyone their own individual space and privacy.
Here in Miami, the concept of a “granny flat” or “casita” (literally a “small house” in Spanish) is nothing new — I have helped clients buy, build, and sell dozens of casita-adjoined houses throughout the city over the course of my long career. While the idea of a nearby guest house or accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is certainly appealing to people of all backgrounds and nationalities, I have definitely noticed particular long-term interest among my Hispanic clients, who tend to share housing across multiple generations. (More on this in a moment.)
CASITAS FOR EVERYONE
But I have also noticed a definite spike in casita interest with many more of my recent clients regardless of background, and some newly published research bears out this trend. The Pew Research Center estimated that 64 million Americans (about 20 percent of the population) live in a house with at least two adult generations as of 2016, or with grandparents and grandchildren younger than 25.
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After 1950, the number of Americans living in a home with multiple generations continuously dropped from 21 percent to as low as 12 percent in 1980. However, the percent of people in “multigenerational homes” (remember this term, it will soon become part of the residential real estate lexicon) has increased steadily since that time.
The most popular type of multigenerational home included a minimum of two adults from different generations, with “adult” being defined as anyone over the age of 25. Young adults are the age demographic that most commonly live in multigenerational homes. Research shows that 33 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 live in homes with multiple generations, and the most common living arrangement for young adults ages 18 to 34 is in a home with their parents.
Sure enough, my casual observations were backed up by this Pew research, which shows that Hispanics are more likely than Anglos to live in homes with more than one generation, and Americans born in other countries are more likely to live in multigenerational homes than Americans born in the United States. (Specifically, about 27 percent of the Hispanic population lives in multigenerational housing as of 2016; compared to 29 percent of Asians, 26 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Anglos, and 20 percent of the entire population.)
In real-world terms: The long-gone college graduate is back, mom and dad have moved in, and/or grandchildren are coming to “visit” for long-extended periods, and people suddenly need much more living space. While specific data showing that more Miami homes are being listed with ADUs/guest homes as added features, or that the value of casita-adjoined homes outpaces non-casita homes is very difficult to find, I can tell you anecdotally that these are trends that my colleagues and I in Miami real estate see clearly.
BUILDERS TAKE NOTICE
We are also seeing builders support this trend by including age-friendly amenities and extra privacy features that appeal to multigenerational living conditions in new homes and during renovation. This might include two master suites, or a first-floor den with full bathroom that can be converted into a separate living space.
I work primarily in Coral Gables, and recent multigenerational-sensitive projects that come to mind are Almeria Row Town Houses and Valencia Townhomes. They offer bedrooms and separate guest suites over the garages that are separate from the houses. (One of my buyers purchased there because he had children from a first marriage who decided to attend college in Miami, and he had younger children from a second marriage who live in the main house.)
Still, I believe the ADU is a better solution than trying to fit everyone into one residence. From my own perspective, we are very much looking forward to putting our own casita (which has a small refrigerator, coffee bar, walk-in closet and full bathroom) to good use. When our grandchildren visit, they can easily bring friends because they won’t be interfering with our normal routine. Guests can set the air conditioning however they want, watch TV until 3 a.m., take midnight swims, or use the fire pit right outside their door without bothering us. We have no intention of moving children or parents into our casita full time, but honestly, who knows what the future holds? (This Pew research is pretty eye-opening!)
From my own experience, and depending on city zoning, lot size, and contractor, the cost to build a casita in Greater Miami would be anywhere from $170 to $250 per square foot, and 350 square feet is a good starting point.
A final thought about the value of a casita: My husband and I will almost certainly need help as we continue to age, and this guest home is the ideal place for a caregiver to live. With the annual cost of private assisted living and nursing homes on the rise, we take great comfort in knowing we will be able to enjoy our new home for as long as possible.
Nancy Iliffe is a member of the Master Brokers Forum, an elite network of the top real estate professionals in Miami, and an agent with Shelton and Stewart Realtors. She can be reached at 305-632-9229 and/or Niliffe@aol.com.
▪ This column, written for Business Monday in the Miami Herald, is an opinion piece representing the view of the writer. It does not necessarily represent the newspaper’s view.
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▪ Other articles in Business Monday by the Master Brokers Forum: