Smart Moves

The Great Recession is fading into memory. But many of the young adults who came of age during that austere period are still living in a spare bedroom in their family home. What happens when their parents wish to sell the place? Generational conflict.

“It’s a combustible situation when parents decide to downsize, but their kids don’t want to move,” says Tom Early, a veteran real estate broker and past president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org).

Zhenchao Qian, a sociology professor at Brown University, says that despite improvement in the overall economy, the number of young adults living with parents remains at a “relatively high level.” One factor is that millennials are marrying later than previous generations and are more likely to use their parents’ residence as a safe base before they settle permanently.

“Many children of baby boomers are stuck in a prolonged adolescence. They’re used to getting their way and many parents have been willing to float them indefinitely,” says Bruce Tulgan, author of “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y.”

Tulgan says parents who decide to sell the old family house are often surprised to get a “world of guff” from their grown kids who want their childhood memories left untouched.

“No matter their age and level of independence, lots of kids insist that the family house be kept like a museum -- where they can return at any time and stay in their childhood bedroom,” Tulgan says.

Do you have a grown child living in a residence you plan to sell? If so, these few pointers could prove useful:

-- Solidify your moving plans before informing your offspring.

Kathleen Shaputis, author of “The Crowded Nest Syndrome,” says the parents of grown children should put their own housing preferences ahead of their kids’ wishes and not give them veto power over their choices.

“Make sure your plans are firm before breaking the news to your kids. If you tell them before you’re certain, they’ll smell fear and confusion and might try to take advantage of any cracks in your thinking,” she says.

On the other hand, Shaputis says it’s unwise to make a major real estate move without informing your grown children before the changes occur.

“If you spring your plans on the kids after they’ve happened, this could come as a rude shock that causes needless conflict within the family,” she says.

In what setting should you choose to tell your grown kids of your plans? Shaputis says it’s ideal to choose a restaurant or another public venue.

“Any outbursts that might occur are easier to handle in a public place,” she says.

-- Help your kids with the emotional elements of the move.

“Some kids are very tradition-oriented. For instance, they could be very upset that Thanksgiving dinner will no longer be held in the same place as it was for years,” Shaputis says.

Though you don’t want to forfeit your overall housing plans to shield your grown children from disappointment, she says you can help them make a smoother transition with reassurances that they’re welcome to visit no matter where you live.

-- Assist your children in finding another place to live.

Do you have grown children living with you who will need to move when your home is sold? If so, Shaputis says you can help soften this transition by helping them identify ways to live independently.

“Sit down with them and brainstorm about how they could make it on their own. Maybe they could use some help finding an apartment and a roommate to help share the rent. Or maybe they need suggestions for finding a second job that lets them become economically self-sufficient,” she says.

Of course, financial realities may require both parents and their grown children to make some temporary accommodations.

“Sometimes, the whole family simply has to pull together to make ends meet. This has been going on since the beginning of time,” she says.

-- Realize that good parenting is not always about yielding to the kids.

Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist and author of several books on parenting, says there’s no reason parents should feel guilty when they assert their right to make their own housing choices, especially after their kids have finished their schooling.

“What’s important is that you keep on loving the kids and show them you do. That’s what they really want. And remember, you can love them from any type of home -- even a high-rise condo in the city,” Schafer says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at ellenjamesmartin@gmail.com.)

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