Real estate: New-home builders offer a fresh take on in-law quarters

Lennar Homes is offering a NextGen Home model that includes a separate one-bedroom unit for, say, an elderly parent. The unit connects to the main house, but has its own entrance (left), kitchen and living area. "What we've found ... is that more and more families live together," says Jacque Petroulakis, a Pulte spokeswoman.

When Tom Moser went to his friends' holiday party, he learned their house had been modified to give personal space to some older relatives.

Moser liked the idea. And with an 81-year-old father who may need some help in the future, he decided to research the options he had in the Tucson area for sharing a home with his dad.

While online, he came across a new type of home offered by the builder Lennar specifically designed for multi-generational living.

Lennar offers its "NextGen" homes at Dove Mountain in Marana northwest of Tucson, at Star Valley southwest of the city and at a development in Vail.

Attached to the home is a one-bedroom suite with a private living area, bathroom and kitchenette. The suite has a separate entrance, its own garage and a locking door between it and the main house.

Moser, 58, thought that sounded like the right fit for his family and his father.

"The Lennar home would allow us to be with our father, but he's independent," Moser said.

He purchased one of the homes in Dove Mountain. It will soon be under construction and should be completed in June, he said.

Lennar isn't the only builder exploring multi-generational options for home buyers in Tucson. Pulte Home has a floor plan that offers a separate casita at its community at Dove Mountain. KB Home offers floor plans in Tucson with two master bedrooms, so feasibly, adults could share those houses.

"What we've found, for quite some time, is that more and more families live together," said Jacque Petroulakis, a Pulte spokeswoman.

A growing number of U.S. households are made up of three generations, Bloomberg News has reported, using numbers from the Census Bureau. In 2010, 5.1 million households had three generations, compared with 3.9 million a decade earlier, Bloomberg reported.

Also, competition to sell a home has grown increasingly fierce since the burst of the housing bubble. Home builders have to compete with low-priced foreclosures and short sales.

With buyers extremely cautious, new-home construction in the Tucson area slowed to a crawl last year and builders started looking for ways to make their product stand out from the used- housing stock.

Multi-generational housing is one way they're trying to do that.

Moser, who's lived in his current house for 22 years, sees the new home he's buying as an opportunity to build a community. His sister purchased a home near it in Dove Mountain, and plans for her mother-in-law to move into the one-bedroom suite.

Moser said his family came from a small Amish Mennonite community in Indiana where extended family lived close together and could support one another.

That provided a catalyst for his idea, he said.

He said his father wouldn't likely have agreed to move in if he didn't have his own space. That's mainly because, as they age, people don't want to make life harder for their adult children.

"They don't want to intrude on the lives of their kids that are more active, and the last thing they want is to be a burden," Moser noted.

The home could also work for a family with grown children who move back home. It's that versatility that makes this type of home appealing to buyers, said Alan Jones, president of Lennar's Arizona division.

"It's the most flexible plan we've built in the past 20 years," Jones said.

The home is a little more expensive. At Dove Mountain, traditional four-bedroom homes are priced from $268,900, while Next Gen Homes are priced from $296,990, the builder's website says.

Right now, Lennar is offering the homes in California and Arizona, but eventually they could be available nationwide.

Patroulakis, the Pulte spokeswoman, said her company is also looking at offering multi-generational homes across the country.

Moser said his new home will give him the chance to build a lifestyle in close connection with his elders. Also, if he goes on vacation, his sister can check in on his dad and he can do the same with her mother-in-law. And when Moser's adult children come to visit, Grandpa will only have to open a door and he can pop in for dinner.

Another benefit: It will cut down on the need to travel during the holidays, Moser said. "It really simplifies Christmas."

Contact reporter Dale Quinn at or 573-4197.