5 Priceless Benefits of Living on the Same Street as Your Family, According to People Who Do

published Jun 5, 2021
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Some people might shudder at the idea of having their in-laws as next-door neighbors. Others would jump at the chance to have an extra pair of hands to wrangle the kids on the weekends. But the people who actually live beside their parents, siblings, cousins, or chosen family members understand there’s a delicate balance of pros and cons to the setup. Multigenerational living, after all, is nothing new.

Ever dream of creating an unofficial family compound, or talk a big game about somehow coordinating with your folks to buy a couple of houses on the same street? Here are some of the priceless benefits of living next to your family members — and how you could try to create a familial cottage cluster of your own — according to people who do.

Built-in childcare is something of a godsend.

Norcross, Georgia, resident Jamie Davis lives next door to the house she grew up in, where her mother still lives. Originally, she moved into the house across the street with her husband and daughter, after a longtime neighbor said she couldn’t maintain the place anymore and offered to sell it to her. Then, the neighbor beside her mother’s house retired and offered to sell their larger home to Davis and her growing family. So, Davis’ mother bought the house across the street — a small Craftsman — to rent it out to Davis’ siblings and keep all three homes in the family. Thus, their “compound” was born.

“The biggest benefit has to be childcare — we have a built in babysitter right next door,” Davis says. “Pre-pandemic, anytime my husband and I wanted to go out for the night, catch a movie, get dinner, whatever, we’d just shuffle the kids next door. And during quarantine, if I just wanted, like, two hours without the kids to catch my breath for a minute, I sent them to my mom’s. It’s also nice that my children get that connection with their grandmother. They’re thick as thieves and I know my mom is in heaven having unfettered access to her grandbabies.”

Not to mention access to good snacks.

Unfettered access is no exaggeration, according to Davis.

“I interact with my family all the time. I don’t know if I had any sort of expectation of how often I’d see my family, but we just walk into each other’s houses at will,” she says. “My kids go over all the time to take ice cream from [my mom’s] freezer. I don’t keep any in the house because I have absolutely no willpower. But being a typical grandmother, my mom keeps some in hers for the kids.”

That easy in-and-out mentality is also built into their layout. 

“When my husband and I put a fence in our backyard, we had a gate put between ours and my mom’s yard specifically so our kids could go between houses without walking out the front door,” David says. “It’s almost like living together without having to share space.”

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There’s plenty of fun to share.

Dana Bull is a Boston-area realtor with Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty. Growing up, she spent summers at her parents’ lake house, where she lived with her cousins. Her aunt and uncle bought a home two doors down from her parents, creating a cottage cluster of sorts. These days, the coupled lake homes serve as relaxing retirement homes for her parents and aunt and uncle.

“When I was younger, having my neighbors — my cousins — close by meant we would share stuff. Like, they got a trampoline. We had these toys and our parents were like, ‘We’re not going to be redundant and buy [certain] things, because you can just go to your cousins’ house.’” Access to a larger amount of toys definitely falls in the “pro” column.

The idea of keeping family close followed Bull into adulthood. She lives in a home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and eventually was able to buy the place next to it. “We really lucked out and that our neighbor ended up needing to sell her house,” Bull says. The space is being used as an office right now, but the idea is to allow her family to come stay in it.

The little things add up.

There are small things that a typical homeowner might not have access to, but are nice bonuses, Davis says. “Like needing to park our cars next door while we’re getting work done on our driveway. Or when I had to take my car in for service, I just walked next door and asked my mom if I could take her car to run errands,” she says. “Someone is usually available to let the dogs out if you find yourself out of the house for longer than expected. It’s like having a really good neighbor that you never feel guilty asking favors of.”

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Home maintenance is a cinch.

Being able to schedule home and yard maintenance tasks together tends to benefit everybody. “Things like landscaping or snow removal — being able to sort of bundle some of that stuff together is definitely advantageous.” Bull says.

“My family up at the lake has also benefited from that,” she continues. “When you go away, you have eyes on your property. If somebody you need somebody to check in on something for you, there’s the chance that one of the aunts or uncles is going to be home and able to just swing by and do that. It’s so convenient. And we’ve seen the benefits of that over the past decades — it’s come up so many times.”

Creating a “compound” of your own might be as simple as being a good neighbor.

If you’re thinking of creating a similar setup, Bull has one main real estate tip: let people know your plans, especially if another property in the neighborhood has sold recently. This could be a catalyst for other sales, she explains.

“It depends on the relationship that you have [with your neighbors]. For us, everybody knew we were living in a small cottage and we had a baby and a dog. Everybody knew that we wanted to stay in Marblehead, but obviously we needed more space. So when one of our neighbors caught wind that our next-door neighbor was selling, she advocated for us. She was the one who had that kind of inside scoop and was able to make the connection.”

Bull says those neighbors had lived in the neighborhood for about 30 years, so they valued each other’s opinions.

“I think you do need to, when you’re out talking to neighbors, fill them in on your situation and what you’re trying to do. Because then when they hear of something, they’ll be able to put the plug in, right?”

In this year’s red-hot real estate market, having the connections to create an off-market transaction is likely the ticket to creating a tiny neighborhood for your family. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more people kind of strategically trying to purchase properties and thinking very, very long term,” Bull adds.

In order to do that, though, “you have to start greasing the skids early,” she says.