December 23rd, 2019 at 11:00 am


Sooner or later, many adult homeowners will face a common situation: Should our parents or other older family members move in with us?

While every situation is different, there are several common solutions that can make addressing this crossroad easier and potentially less stressful. 

Someone who knows about the subject intimately on both a personal and professional level is Chula Vista REALTOR® Jewell Buenavista. Jewell is not only certified by the National Association of REALTORS® as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist®, but she also is founder of the Let’s Talk Seniors Realty Group, which advises seniors and their families about life transitions, leads tours of senior communities, and conducts a monthly lecture series that addresses topics of interest to seniors.

A private place for parents

With updated regulations for so-called “granny flats” in the news lately, we talked to Jewell about how having live-in or live-nearby parents might benefit families on many levels.

“When I was looking for a home about 10 years ago, I wanted to have a place where, in the future, my parents could live with us,” Jewell recalled. “But I knew that my dad, like a lot of retired seniors, didn’t necessarily want to live with his children. They want to have their own space. So I learned about granny flats and found that there are some neighborhoods where builders actually built granny flats or guest suites as part of the house. I knew this was probably a great option for me to look into, and that’s what I ended up doing. We purchased a house with a guest suite.

“I showed it to my dad, who was retired and living in Las Vegas at the time, with the intent of having him and Mom live there in the future. I asked him what he thought about the place, and he jokingly said, ‘We could move in here.’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,’ and they moved in soon after. The beauty of it is, they really have their own private space, attached to our house, but with their own separate entrance.”

A win-win on many levels

Jewell and her parents think of this as a win-win living arrangement for multiple reasons. Her parents are on a fixed income, so it saves them money vs. the costs of homeownership. They are close to family in case any medical issues arise. Her parents get to see their grandchildren more often, and can help with babysitting and other needs. When Mom and Dad want privacy, all they have to do is not answer the doorbell.

What’s inside the guest suite? It has one bedroom, a small living room, one bathroom, and a kitchenette. That’s all her parents really need, Jewell said. They’re out much of the time, either in her house or her brother’s house, bowling, or grocery shopping. At other times, they like to stay inside and watch movies all day.

Cities easing the way for granny flats

With housing and rental costs rising in Southern California and elsewhere, some cities are making it easier for homeowners to add a granny flat, or convert existing space into living quarters for seniors, college students, or even renters.

For example, the city of San Diego has lifted past restrictions, making it easier and cheaper to build granny flats by providing several preapproved design plans that homeowners can use to accelerate permitting and save thousands of dollars on architectural work. In nearby Chula Vista, the City Council dropped the requirement that homeowners who add granny flats live on the premises, canceled development-impact fees for granny flats smaller than 750 square feet, and reduced the fees for larger “accessory dwelling units.” Loosening regulations such as these opens up housing opportunities not just for seniors, but for all homeowners as well, Jewell said. Adding more square feet of living space can potentially increase a home’s equity, too. Some cities even allow a separate address for the granny flat.

Worth looking into

Homeowners who are thinking of remodeling or updating their house should think about making room for parents, grandparents, or college graduates who are waiting for their first real job so they can move out, Jewell said. If family is important to you, a granny flat can be a blessing in many ways.

“I knew when my parents were living in Las Vegas that in the future, it might be difficult for me and my siblings in San Diego to be far from them if they ever needed assistance in case their care needs increased,” she said. “So I was looking ahead in dealing with those possibilities, I always think of like future, which is why we bought a home with a granny flat. I encourage other families to do the same because at the very least, having that extra living space can increase your home’s value when it’s time to sell or tap into its equity.”

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