There was a time in our past when it was common for families to live in multigenerational households. But during most of the 20th century, there was a decline in multigenerational living, as more people lived on their own and nuclear families separated from extended families. However, in recent years, interest in multigenerational living has been on the rise, which could influence the types and locations of housing that Virginia families are looking for.

What Is a Multigenerational Household?

Multigenerational households are homes where two or more generations live under the same roof. More specifically, multigenerational households can include:

  • Three or more generations (e.g., grandparents, parents, and children),
  • Two adult generations consisting of adults and adult children (e.g., Millennials and their parents), or
  • Grandfamilies, which are households headed by grandparent (or grandparents) living with a grandchild (under age 18).

Many families live in multigenerational households because of the social and health benefits multigenerational living can offer. People also live with other family members out of economic necessity. Whatever the reason, multigenerational living has been on the rise since the Great Recession in 2008.

How Many Virginians Live in Multigenerational Households?

According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2.4 million Virginians—or 29% of all Virginia residents—live in a multigenerational household. This is slightly lower than the share of the U.S. population living in a multigenerational living situation (31%).

Since the Great Recession, the biggest increase in multigenerational households has been among those where adult children (age 25+) live with their parents. In Virginia, it is estimated that one out of five residents (20%) lives in an “adult-adult” multigenerational household. These households can include both those where young adults are living with their parent(s), or where older adults are living with an elderly parent or parents. However, the biggest increase over the past 15 years has been among the former—that is, Millennials moving home to live with mom and dad.

The number of three-or-more-generation households also increased in recent years. In Virginia, nearly 700,000 people—or about 8% of the population—lives in a three-or-more generation household. The number of grandfamily households has remained a relatively small share of the multigenerational households in Virginia. About one percent of the population in Virginia lives in a family with a grandparent and grandchild but no parent.

The number of multigenerational households has increased across different demographic groups, though Hispanic and Asian individuals are most likely to live in a multigenerational setting. Recent immigrants are also more likely to live in households with multiple generations.

What is the Outlook for Multigenerational Living?

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, 12% of all homes purchased nationally in 2020 were multigenerational homes. The pandemic increased interest in multigenerational housing, with multigenerational homes accounting for 15% of purchases taking place after April 2020.

The main reason buyers said they bought a multigenerational house was to be able to care for or to spend more time with aging parents. However, a sizeable share of buyers indicated that they were looking for a multigenerational home in order to save money or to allow multiple generations to pool their money to make the home more affordable.

Demographic factors and economic trends suggest that demand for multigenerational homes will only increase in the years to come. Recognizing the growing demand, many homebuilders have begun offering floor plans designed for families who wish to house multiple generations, including an attached suite with amenities such as small kitchenette, private bedroom, and bathroom, and a private entrance that also connects to the main home. Owners of existing homes could see value in renovating their own to allow space for different generations and extended families.

Click here to send any comments or questions about this piece to Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD.