With more and more Americans looking for ways to reduce household expenses and care for aging family members, the idea of multiple generations living together under one roof is appealing to many people. And why not? You can keep Grandma and Grandpa comfortably in their own home while saving money and simplifying their care. 

If your family is thinking about finding a house where everyone can live happily, here is a 3 step guide to getting it right.

Write Down the Arrangements. Before you find a real estate agent and head out house-hunting, sit down as a family and hash out what everyone is looking for and what each person will be able to contribute. How will the cost of the new house be split up? How will ongoing monthly and irregular expenses be parsed between families? Will there be a joint bank account, or will one person act as the family's accountant? Who is responsible for what maintenance? What will the house rules be? It's a good idea to get this in writing, to avoid conflicts later, and perhaps even in a somewhat formal contract. An objective third party -- such as a lawyer, accountant, or different family member -- can be helpful in talking these matters out calmly. 

Focus on the House's Potential. When you and your real estate agent are looking at homes, you're unlikely to find the perfect floor plan for a multigenerational setup. And, if you do, it's probably going to be an expensive find. Instead, focus on what you can do to alter an existing home layout to meet your needs. Is the space large enough to accommodate the addition of walls, bathrooms, or another kitchen area? Is there enough room in your budget left over to do remodeling work? Can you create separate entrances? Are the foundation, roof, and utilities in good condition? Will the outdoor space be sufficient for the kids in the family? Is there enough parking? Can you get permits to add more living areas? Look past the current interior structure to see how you can tweak it to make it work. 

Give Autonomy. One of the best ways to keep multiple generations from getting on one another's nerves is to give them their own space. For most people, this means at least a private area with its own kitchen or kitchenette, bathroom, bedroom,and living area. Creating an autonomous home for each family unit shows respect, dignity, and understanding about each other's needs. In addition, autonomy for different members of the family should extend to designing their own living spaces, decorating them, and supporting the household financially. 

By considering these 3 steps when shopping for, planning, and designing your new multigenerational house, you can help ensure a happy family for years to come.