Baby boomers may be ready to trade in their large family homes and long work commutes for luxury accommodations close to the action downtown, but many of them are not downsizing in one area: Adult children.
Welcome to the 21 century. Boomerang kids – adult children of Baby Boomers who return home – is a big trend, according to several studies. The Pew Research Center reports that over 21 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds live in multi-generational homes – the highest level since the 1950s. The Canadian census found over 25 per cent of 25 and 29 year olds were living at home in 2011 — more than twice the percentage in 1981. And TD Canada Trust's recent study revealed that 43 per cent of baby boomers have adult children living with them rent free.
Chestnut Park Realty broker Justine Deluce has encountered the phenomenon among clients living in Forest Hill, Rosedale and Moore Park. What she's found is not adult children moving home and staying forever, or kids needing a place while they find that first fulltime job after university, but for other life reasons too. "You might find yourself unemployed, or getting divorced. The temporary solution is to move back home with parents to save money, or get assistance if you have small children to care for."
Janice Fox, director of sales at Four Seasons Private Residences says she's lost track of how many residents have adult children returning home. "Some just sort of grin and bear it, because the Four Seasons has enough services and large enough units that they don't have to worry about waiting on their kids, being cramped, or even having them lose their keys – we have concierges for that kind of situation."
Some have asked about rental options in the same building, others made their purchase thinking ahead to the possibility of a child moving home. As in a two bedroom with den that can be turned into that extra bedroom – big enough to accommodate them, but not big enough to make them want to stay forever.
Ms. Deluce says some of her downsizing clients in the high end neighbourhoods are also thinking ahead about that prospect. "The economy and the job market is very different than it was for boomer parents, who obviously have empathy for their children who find themselves in different world, and parents want to help no matter how old the child is," Ms. Deluce says. But none have moved in order to accommodate those children.
Because he sees this trend "100 percent," developer Sam Mizrahi has made provisions within his company's two luxury condo projects at 133 Hazelton and 181 Davenport. Because so many buyers discussed the possibility of a child moving back home, they custom-designed some of the suites to include a second but smaller master bedroom, or even two extra bedrooms.
He has recalls many conversations with buyers about the guest suite option. "If the child is coming home temporarily, like for a school break, or while they are interviewing for work, a guest suite would do very nicely. Gives children their own space separate from parents – eliminates strain on the relationship – while still enjoying the benefits of a boutique hotel style suite."
Still other buyers have purchased additional, smaller suites for their children at either 133 Hazelton or 181 Davenport. "It's there when needed, but can be rented out in the meantime," Mr. Mizrahi points out.
When children leave home – for university or marriage or work – the experience can be hard emotionally on parents. But their return can be just as hard – especially once a child has a taste of independence and bridles under parents' rules.
One option – among stand-up comedy circles – is to make the space so uncomfortable they can't wait to move out. That's not likely in luxury digs when room service, spas, infinity pools, personal trainers, and housekeeping are at their fingertips.
As far as how to make the space work for everyone, Mr. Mizrahi has noticed some buyers incorporating a second smaller master bedroom into their suite. It's not only a self-contained space for an adult child, but "a smart investment, too," Mr. Mizrahi says. "You aren't jeopardizing your financial future since that second master bedroom is a great resale feature. The same goes for purchasing a smaller unit, say one bedroom and den at 750 square feet, ideal for an adult child just getting on their feet, but also very easy to sell later when it's no longer needed."
Of course, it might be hard to nudge those kids out given that high-end luxury finishes are part and parcel of all the suites at both 133 Hazelton and 181 Davenport. "The four finish packages are standard, so it's not like they're ordering something cheaper for their child – we wouldn't want to compromise the overall building quality by offering cheaper features."
Included in the resident services package at Mr. Mizrahi's two projects is a housekeeping feature and Mr. Mizrahi has had buyers asking about it not only for their own home but their kids' as well. "These are clients who come from larger homes, but still want to have their space cleaned three times a week."
At the Four Seasons, Ms. Fox sees people making careful space planning decisions, working with designers, and spending money on built-ins to make the most of their space. But mostly in the high end luxury condo projects, people buy for the available services and amenities. "This works really well when you have grown children coming back and forth," Ms. Fox says, "because parents, single or couples, want to live their own lives, and let their kids live theirs. The Four Seasons has enough services and large enough units that they don't have to worry about being cramped or having to wait on their kids. Most set up an account at the hotel, and give their children signing privileges – within reason – for the amenities."
However, for most parents – and adult kids as well – moving home is only a temporary solution for an unfortunate bump in life's journey. Ms. Deluce – and each of her four siblings – has at one point or other ended up on the third floor of their parents' home "during specific life circumstances. I was fortunate that they had a home I could do that in, and that there was space, but even so I was motivated to get out of there as soon as circumstances changed."
That was many years ago, and some of Ms. Deluce's clients are themselves parents of adult children. "They're not making things comfy, because they want their kids to get back on their feet. From what I see it's definitely a temporary helping hand because neither the parents nor the children see this as a long term solution."
That said, a recent Toronto Dominion Trust study conducted by Environics Research found that 44 per cent of Boomer parents have adult children living with them rent free and are paying off significant bills for them. The study is advising those parents, who may have at most a decade of earning capacity ahead of them, to be cautious in financially supporting an adult child, because they may be putting themselves at great financial risk for retirement and their declining years.
Author and speaker Christina Newberry has made a career out of her experience as a boomerang kid. At 21, just finished university, she headed home until she found a job. Then again at 29 she returned after a divorce. While her experiences were positive, she says many others haven't been so lucky. To address the situation, she started a blog, adultchildrenlivingathome.com, which was later developed into a book The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home.
Ms. Newberry advises sitting down with your child before they move home, or very soon after moving in, to cover ground rules such as how long they plan to stay, what steps they will take right away to move towards getting out, the ways they can contribute to the household, and what they need to do to not "drive you crazy."
On her you tube video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXY8egZrgks, she says "you want to help but you can help too much, and if there's potential of damage to your long-term relationship you need to take action … stay rational, stay calm and develop a plan, which will ultimately be part of their journey to independence as well."