Why parents are moving back in with the kids. By Jane Slade

“My daughter refers to us as the gipsies at the bottom of the garden,” laughs John Dier hugging a cup of coffee in the Scandi-log house he and his wife call home.

Chef John, 63, and Pearl, 79, moved from their grade II listed property in the market town of Dursley in Gloucestershire to the back garden of their daughter and son in law’s house nearby a year ago.

“We spent a lot of time in wooden homes when I was working in Scandinavia and in New Zealand and actually prefer them to bricks and mortar,” explains John who bought a 40ft by 20ft three-bed timber frame lodge for £135,000 after selling the family home for £325,000.

“It’s warm, economic to run and we have so much space” he adds.

He has more disposable income too. They didn’t need planning permission as their home is defined as portable so comes within the caravan act and are exempt from the community charge.

John also reduced his costs further by project managing the build and arranging for a plumber, electrician and scaffolders himself.

His daughter Yvette and husband Mike Edby work full time but since he and Pearl arrived they have benefitted to – they have no childcare costs for their daughters Molly 10 and Maddie 6.

“We take the children to school, pick them up, help with homework and feed them during the week,” Mike explains. “Having said that we live very independent lives, and have a separate access which is important. They have their friends and we have ours.”

“It is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” says Pearl, a retired hotel manager. “The girls keep us young and it’s very reassuring Yvette and Mike are close by if we have any problems.”

The Dier’s chose a lodge from the Norwegian Log company. Company founder Nick Forrester has seen a huge increase in demand for his 21st century granny annexes. “In the last five years business has grown by 40 per cent and we are now building one a week,” he says.

“Children want their parents to live close so they can either look after them when they need to or monitor their care. Also if one parent dies the other can feel less lonely living near family.”

Average spend is £80,000 for 40 sq m including a fitted kitchen and bathroom but the starting price is from £54,000. There is no VAT to pay either. You don’t need a massive garden Nick argues but it must look in proportion.

“We are building good quality homes and fitting wet rooms, flooring on one level, and wide doorways for wheelchair access. All utilities have to be connected to the main house and the property can’t be sold separately. But if the family’s circumstances change they can also be used as guest accommodation or a home office.” (norwegianlog.co.uk)

Divorcee Carita Wilson, 71 moved to the bottom of her daughter and son in law’s garden in Bagshot, Surrey a year ago after spending 12 years in Hong Kong but wanted a more conventional construction.

“I wanted proper foundations and something that looked like a proper house,” she said. She chose a home built by Granny Annexe which required planning permission. “I wanted vaulted ceilings and a big kitchen so I chose an L-shaped bungalow backing onto the woods. I have my own access and a deer which visits me.”

Carita discovered that her property has boosted the value of her daughter’s home. Shell and Lee’s two-bedroom cottage was worth £395,000 before mum moved in. Now it’s worth £525,000. Carita’s garden property cost £95,00 but she spent an extra £30,000 on landscaping.

Daughter Shell Sperling, a photographer, 41, says she loves having mum in the garden – particularly when she runs out of sugar or tea. “Mum always has a lot of stock.”

Her daughter Izzy, 6, loves it too. “When she has had enough of us parents she grabs her onsie, opens the back door and yells ‘I’m going up to Nanny’s’!”

Stuart Anderson set up Granny Annexe 10 years ago and reports a huge uplift in his business with 10 to 12 inquiries a week. “People want affordable retirement options,” he says.

“People are now wanting bigger and bigger homes. Ten years ago the average spend was £45,000, now it is £80,000 for a 140 sq m property.

“People want a cottage in the garden with nice rendering, something that complements the main house – they don’t want a square box.

“We always to check that people have had the conversation with the family about the risks; and make sure they have a good solid relationship with their children. www.grannyannexe.com


Carita Wilson’s 10 tips on building a granny annexe
  1. Storage is limited so get rid of your clutter.
  2. Separate access important for your privacy and your family’s.
  3. Budget extra for landscaping.
  4. Need to have a great relationship with your family and discuss what would happen if they wanted to move.
  5. Get a property valuation before and after.
  6. An open plan layout with big patio doors offers lots of space that would cost much more in a traditional house.
  7. Think about the future i.e. installing a wet room, level floors, space for a wheelchair so you can keep independent for as long as possible.
  8. You will feel safe and secure on your own with your family close by.
  9. Make sure there is space to park your car.
  10. You don’t need a big garden – but think about privacy.