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KIRO Radio's Tom Kelly digs deep into the Puget Sound real estate market

Real Estate

Understanding 'aging suites' and mother-in-law units

More homeowners are remodeling their dwellings to create suites for aging parents with features to make them accessible and safe while providing plenty of space and privacy.

Rodney Harrell, AARP senior policy adviser, said demand for the suites is on the rise as baby boomers age, and with the cost of care-giving facilities and services soaring, it may be more affordable for parents to move in with their children.

Senior specialists say homeowners should plan for the long term when designing "aging" suites, ensuring they can accommodate other uses and will add resale value. These suites generally are integrated into the home and are intended for older or disabled relatives, meaning they are not considered separate or "accessory dwelling units" that require special permits and are difficult to build under strict zoning rules.

The suites often are located on the first floor to eliminate stairs and feature flush thresholds; large bedroom and living areas; showers with ramp entries, built-in benches, and grab bars; and wide doorways - giving parents their own space but keeping them close enough to interact with their children and grandchildren.

In some jurisdictions, in-law suites can have a bedroom, sitting area, bathroom, and a couple of appliances, but adding a stove or full kitchen could require special permits.

The trend builds on a report that builders are increasing home sizes to include additional generations and Coldwell Banker Real Estate's finding that younger parents are more accommodating of adult children staying at home for extended periods.

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