A three-in-one solution to the rising cost of buying a home

Having three generations under one roof can solve a host of problems, says Chiara Cavaglieri

A parent's work is never done, but the bank of mum and dad is run off its feet helping first-time buyer (FTB) children with their deposits as well as trying to support elderly parents with ever-increasing care costs. Increasing numbers of British families feeling the pinch are taking drastic action, moving to live together under one roof. But is multi-generational living such a bad thing?

Official figures show that there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of 20-to-34-year-olds living with parents since 1997. An ageing population and spiralling residential care costs are taking their toll too, and families are sprucing up spare rooms and adding extensions to cater for elderly parents. More than 500,000 households now contain three generations, according to the Intergenerational Foundation think-tank, and that figure could reach 556,000 by 2019.

Mark Harris, the chief executive of the mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: “'It can make a lot of sense for three generations of the same family to live together under one roof. It kills many birds with one stone – it resolves the problem of getting on the housing ladder for children, while also providing care and companionship for grandparents.”

For young adults, getting on to the property market has never been so difficult. Many are consequently taking much longer to move out of the family home – while the so-called “Boomerang Generation” of recent graduates is returning home after university. Saving up for a deposit is an almost impossible task, with rents increasing across most of the country while wages have stood still and unemployment is still hitting hard at 7.8 per cent.

There are signs of recovery, with mortgage restrictions loosening and interest rates falling to historic lows, but there is still an acute housing shortage and property prices are climbing, making getting a foot on the ladder an even bigger challenge. Londoners are finding it particularly tough, with rent swallowing up nearly 40 per cent of their pay packets and houses costing on average more than six times their salary, according to Nationwide Building Society.

Many of the people who have been able to buy their first home in recent years have had a significant helping hand from their parents, or a large inheritance. For anyone who has to save their own money for a deposit, cutting costs is crucial – and saving hundreds of pounds a month in rent is one obvious solution.

Not every household is ready to welcome their adult offspring and in-laws with open arms, but there are potential benefits for the whole family.

Families that pool their resources can make savings by splitting costs – even in a larger house with high running costs, bills and council tax are usually reduced as you pay only one standard charge. It may be the perfect opportunity to do without one of the family cars, too. The biggest attraction for extended families is childcare savings, if grandparents are happy to help, and likewise there are more hands on deck to share the load of looking after elderly relatives.

If there isn't enough room, mortgage-free grandparents could offer up some of their equity to cover the cost of extending an existing home.

Carol Peett at the County Homesearch Company says: “Pooling resources often means you can get more space for your money, so where a family could only perhaps afford a terraced house with tiny garden on their own, with the injection of extra cash from the sale of the grandparents' house, they can afford a more spacious house with annexe and large garden for the children.” She says old farmhouses are a good bet for multi-generational living, as they usually have outbuildings that can be converted into additional living space.

Any decision of this importance deserves careful consideration, however, and extended families should consult a lawyer and get some tax advice before committing to living together. There are various financial implications: for example, mortgage lenders are wary of lending to people past retirement age so elderly grandparents may not be able to get on the mortgage even if they are contributing a significant amount of cash.

What happens when the children do eventually move out and the grandparents pass away or move into residential care cannot be ignored. Parents who borrow more money to extend their existing home, or buy a larger property, could be left alone in a house that is too big, with a mortgage to cover by themselves. Downsizing again is one option but this would mean forking out for the associated costs, and the stress of selling up and buying anew. Occupied granny flats could pose problems too – they have been exempt from council tax since 1997 but once empty, this relief may be removed and parents could be forced to pay two council tax bills (although this is set to be abolished).

Families need to decide carefully how they plan to own their shared home, as under a joint tenancy, if one owner dies, their share automatically passes to the other, whereas tenants in common can set out where their share goes in a will. It's important to get legal documentation drawn up stating who has contributed what from a financial perspective, so everyone knows where they stand.

David Smith at the independent financial adviser Bestinvest says: “Property ownership can be as tenants in common with ownership split to reflect the financial contribution made by children, grandparents etc. Inheritance tax (IHT) would be payable based on the deceased's proportionate value in the property. There are no capital gains tax issues on selling a principal private residence”.

Grandparents wanting to leave their share of the family home will have to bear in mind that IHT at 40 per cent is payable on assets above the current nil rate band of £325,000 and that includes property as well as money and investments.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search




Fee-free, expert mortgage advice:

  • Find the right mortgage for you
  • Latest best-buy deals
  • Mortgage calculators
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss