Room for all the family as couple follow America’s lead

The Nook, Bedale, is for sale as its owners move on to multigenerational living
The Nook, Bedale, is for sale as its owners move on to multigenerational living
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Paul and Hilary Berriff are selling their cottage in Bedale to try multi-generational living. Sharon Dale reports on a trend that is booming in the USA.

Photographer and film-maker Paul Berriff has had a foot either side of the Atlantic for years and splitting his time between Yorkshire and the USA has put him in prime position to spot trends that will translate.

Paul and Hilary Berriff with their grandchildren

Paul and Hilary Berriff with their grandchildren

So many have, of course. The Americans gave us burgers, the Blues and popularised Botox. They have also been pioneers in property development. The world’s first skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, built in 1885. It towered ten storeys and peaked at 138. Eco-friendly straw bale building originated in Nebraska at around the same time. The US real estate industry spotted a market for retirement villages. The first was in Sun City, Arizona, in 1960.

Now, says Paul, the Americans have started to build more “intergenerational houses”, a property type that is rare on this side of the pond. He believes that with an ageing population and boomerang kids, Britain is crying out for homes with separate or adjoining accommodation for parents, grandparents and both young and grown-up children.

“In America, they are now building a main house with a smaller property in the grounds that can be used for elderly parents or for grown-up children. It’s such a great idea. I think if a British developer cottoned onto it, the properties would sell really well. There is a market for them,” says Paul.

He should know. He and his wife Hilary, both 70, are selling their pretty cottage in Bedale to join forces with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, who are aged, eight and five. At the moment they can easily cope with the detached home, which is on the market for £325,000.

However, they say the benefits of living side by side with their family will bring many benefits for all those involved. The rural property they are buying jointly has one family-size home and another, smaller property in the grounds.

“It makes perfect sense. We do a lot of babysitting for the children so being on hand to do that will help all of us. Then, 20 years down the line when all we can eat is soup, my son and daughter-in-law will be able to help look after us.

“It also takes away that awful dread of ending up in a retirement home,” says Paul, who was awarded an OBE in this year’s honours list.

He and his family get on well together and have no fear of falling out but it can help to talk the financial arrangements through with a conveyancer and a tax expert.

As for hunting for what British estate agents call “multigenerational” homes, this can be difficult. There are very few and most are at the top end of the market.

Those with middle-sized budgets struggle even though there is an increase in demand for houses that come with an annexe. Many buyers resort to carving up an existing property or converting an outbuilding.

As yet, developers show few signs of building intergenerational homes, not least because land here is in short supply and comes at a premium.

However, Richard Conroy, of Holmfirth-based Conroy Brook is trialling separate garages with a guest suite above at a development in Hoylandswaine.

He says: “Demographics tell us that there is a need. We are dipping our toes in by putting rooms above the garage that could be used for anything from an office to a guest suite.”

The team at Redrow Homes is thinking along the same lines. Stuart Norton, Group design and technical director for Redrow Homes, says: “Multi-generational living options are something we have looked at in the past and it’s a trend that we are still keeping a close eye on to see whether demand increases. Although we don’t offer self-contained annexes, we may be able to make arrangements if there is a demand, by building above the triple garages in our Country Homes range.”

Paul, who lived and worked in America for years, most notably when he was caught up in the 9/11 terrorist attack, is convinced that developers are missing a trick.

“We struggled to find a property that could accommodate two households so there is an obvious need. In 15 or 20 years when baby boomers like me have got older and the retirement homes will be choc-a-bloc. It’s going to be a major accommodation problem for society.

“Intergenerational homes would help solve that and surely it’s a happier way to live?”

**Paul aand Hilary Berriff are selling their home in Bedale to try intergenerational living. The Nook dates back to the 17th century and is in a hidden away spot just 200 metres from the market place. It is £319,995 and has a wealth of period features, a sitting room with open fireplace and separate dining area, a dining kitchen, two double bedrooms and a bathroom plus a summerhouse designed as separate accommodation with adjacent shower room. The property has a secluded cottage garden. The thriving market town of Bedale is now just three minutes from the A1 thanks to a new bypass. For details on the Nook, visit Rightmove or tel: 03339 397826