In today’s uncertain times, just knowing we have the support and protection of our family as we grow older can make all the difference. For those who can, building an in-law apartment can bring some much needed peace of mind to the entire family. But, like most things in life, the process and options aren’t as simple as they appear. 

Let’s walk through it. 

The Simple Stuff:

There are a lot of very easy questions to ask yourself as you begin to explore whether an in-law apartment is going to work for you. The first, and most obvious, being: 

Does everyone want to live together?

living with in-laws

If your spouse and kids are all for it but your aging parent isn’t, well, that’s a hurdle you need to deal with before progressing. And vice versa. If bringing your parent into the home is going to cause you or your spouse considerable distress, it’s best to sort that out before forcing the situation, causing resentment and spoiling the relationship. 

Clarifying Expectations

Once everyone’s on board, here are some other points to consider:

  • What daily activities will you do together?
  • What considerations will you have for privacy?
  • What financial responsibility will the in-law have for household expenses, if any?
  • What will be required of you to help in their physical care, if any? 
  • If they need semi-round-the-clock supervision or care, is someone going to be home for that or will you need to hire medical assistance?

These all might seem obvious, so obvious that you might think you don’t need to answer them, but do. The answers to these questions are no less important than how you’ll finance the addition or the design. Tempering expectations and setting boundaries early will ensure you all enjoy the years you’ll spend together. Deciding on these things up front will go a long way in sparing hurt feelings and avoiding resentment. 

Who’s the boss?

This isn’t a psychology blog and I’m not going to try to pretend to know what I’m talking about in that regard, but keep in mind that you and your in-laws are both accustomed to being the head of the household. You’re both used to making a decision and having that decision stand, for the most part, unopposed. 

This is why wolf packs don’t have two alpha males. But maybe if wolves could politely ask one another to commit to having dinner together three times a week, that parenting decisions will be decided by just the immediate parent, or that you don’t, in fact, need constant reminders that “that’s not how it worked when I was raising kids,” maybe they wouldn’t be at each other’s throats so much. 

But, again, I’m not a psychologist. 


The alternative to having your in-laws stay with you, of course, is some form of assisted living. Surely the costs must be comparable, right? Additions aren’t cheap, after all, and assisted living is just renting with overly glorified neighborhood watch and a higher than average bingo and checkers community, right? 


The answer is the direct opposite of yes. The national average monthly expense of assisted living is just short of $3000. The average of assisted living in Connecticut, where we’re based, is almost double that. Double! Apparently in the state of Connecticut, we don’t believe you’re really being taken care of unless you’re zipping from water aerobics to that butterscotch pudding dessert on a Rascal designed by BMW across sidewalks made from ancient Italian marble. 

And while that all sounds nice, at their age, if your in-laws slip on that marble sidewalk, well… I mean, my hip almost broke just writing that sentence. 

So let’s compare that to the cost of this addition. The national average of an in-law addition is $50,000-$150,000. If you hit the average of that average, let’s assume you’re paying $100,000 for this addition. That means, even at the national average, instead of Connecticut’s FanciCare, that addition is cheaper than just three years of assisted living. In Connecticut, it’s just a year and a half. 

So… yeah… 

Part II Up Next

We’ve covered the family dynamics of deciding on an addition, and we’ve proven that your bank account prefers that you build an addition. In part two, we’ll go over the more technical issues, including taxes, financing and zoning issues, along with design choices.