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Coliving offers a reduced cost of living, workspace security, and the chance to join a like-minded community. It’s been around for decades in many forms, including flatsharing, fraternities, boarding schools, and senior housing.
The recent popularization of coliving, however, comes as a response to increasing housing costs, the growth of the sharing economy, and a desire for more flexible lifestyles.
A Gallup Report on How Millennials Work and Live found “Over one in three millennials (35%) live in homes with three or more adults—including parents or other adult relatives, domestic partners or roommates—compared with 27% of Gen Xers and 28% of baby boomers.“
The combination of high housing costs, debt, and more frequent job changes mean more millennials are living with multiple adults compared with other generations. Others are observing the same trends:
- Home prices are rising faster than wages in 80% of U.S. markets
- San Francisco workers who make less than $90,000 a year are moving into dorms with shared bathrooms
- Millennials buy homes cautiously, trying to spend less on housing
All of these factors have contributed to the rise and popularization of coliving. Euromonitor named coliving as a top consumer trend in its Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2018 white paper, noting that coliving is the next step in the sharing economy phenomenon.
Businesses are aggressively pursuing coliving opportunities, with global funding in the coliving space increasing by more than 210% annually since 2015.
With more and more choices available, especially in larger cities, how do you know which coliving space is right for you? Read on to discover what to look for when selecting a coliving space, including questions you should ask and advice from the coliving community.
Why Choose Coliving?
There are several benefits to coliving, but it’s not a perfect fit for everyone. It’s most appropriate if you:
- Want reduced housing costs without the hassle of finding your own roommate
- Are traveling slowly (stays of a month or more)
- Want a curated community of like-minded people
- Need guaranteed remote workspaces (Look for a coliving space with an attached coworking area)
Minimum and Maximum Stays
Coliving is geared towards living vs. traveling. If you want to hop around to a new city every couple of weeks, you’re likely better off looking at Airbnb or alternative short-term rental sites.
Coliving rooms often have a minimum and maximum limit on stays to deter both short term tourists and those looking for permanent housing.
Coliving + Coworking
That being said, there are coliving businesses that are geared towards remote workers looking for reliable workspaces. Outsite, OpenDoor, and Roam, to name a few, are marketed as coliving + coworking, with added benefits for remote workers like conference rooms, quiet workspaces, and office supplies.
These coliving spaces are built around work and play, offering location-independent workers short or long term community living at an added cost.
What’s Your Budget?
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a coliving space is your budget. Prices range considerably depending on the extras, such as a coworking area, gym, or outdoor spaces. The higher your budget, the more privacy and comfort you’ll be able to afford, with private bathrooms and larger rooms.
What Will You Lose and What Will You Gain?
Consider what luxuries you might lose staying at a coliving space versus a private apartment or hotel room. You won’t have your own kitchen, and you may need to share a bathroom as well as other common areas. If these are important to you, coliving may not be the best option.
On the other hand, there are benefits from sharing common spaces, especially when it comes to costs. You’ll save money on things like internet, toilet paper, and kitchen supplies.
Cooking for yourself when traveling has a lot of hidden costs, since most rental accommodation doesn’t reliably stock kitchen basics. Each time you change location, you need to get set up with supplies all over again. It gets old, fast.
“In the kitchen, there are often so many spices and other extras for sharing. At Nomad Coliving, where I stayed this summer, rice is provided, onions, and garlic. Coffee, tea, milk. All for cooking communally. If you cook for people one night, they volunteer to feed you the following nights. So you end up spending less on food.
People also stay in a lot during the week, but still get to socialize and have fun. Having a beer on a Wednesday night is cheaper and more relaxed because you have it at the coliving space and not at a bar.” – Tiffany Joseph, Salesforce Consultant
Think about all of the amenities and other purchases you’ll save on such as books, office supplies, shared dinners, and other shared equipment.
Whether you work remotely or just enjoy chilling with Netflix, reliable Wi-Fi is essential. If you require a fast connection, check reviews for any red flags, and reach out to current or past guests to ask about internet speeds and reliability.
Questions to ask include:
- How fast is the Wi-Fi? You can request a speed test done with a tool like Speedtest.net
- How many people share the Wi-Fi? Is there a strong connection everywhere in the building?
- Are there any limits on the amount of data you can use, or the number of devices you can connect?
- Can you gain wired access to the network if you need it?
Consider the location of the coliving space, and what type of neighborhood you want to live in. Do you want to be right in the middle of the city? Near the beach? In a new up-and-coming neighborhood?
Check out the surrounding area on Google Maps to see what’s nearby, and ask current or past residents about the location to be sure it provides what you’re looking for.
How far is the coliving facility from the places you need to travel to on a regular basis? Consider the distance, along with the available transit options.
How far will you be from:
- Work (or your coworking space)
- Grocery and convenience stores
- Parks or green spaces
- Restaurants, bars, and cafe
- Metro or other public transport
Coliving Common Areas
Another important consideration for coliving is the nature of the shared spaces. What are the areas like for quiet work and downtime? How about the spaces for socializing and getting to know the community?
“When designing Nomad Coliving, we knew it was essential to designate specific zones for certain activities and to make sure residents felt empowered to enforce these zones. We have spaces where priority is given to quiet work and other spaces for socializing.
If someone is sitting in a social area on a conference call, and others come in to have fun and unwind, the working person would need to move to the office or Skype room, and vice versa.” – Maria Kinoshita, co-founder of Nomad Coliving, the first coliving in Canada
Workspaces are important to consider if you work from “home”, even if you only do it in the evenings or every once in a while. If you can, look for a coliving environment with its own coworking space. You may work from elsewhere as well, but it’s good to know that the place you live can handle all of your work needs.
You should ask:
- Are there any areas you can work from?
- How many power outlets are available in that area?
- Is it a high-traffic area? How noisy is it at different times of day?
- Is there a desk in your room? And enough charging outlets?
- Is there a private, quiet space you could use for conference calls?
- Is there a printer available if you need it?
Consider what extras are most important to you. Luxury amenities will cost more. Is a mountain or ocean view a must-have? Do you want an on-site movie room, bar, or gym?
Which of these extras are most important to you?
- Storage locker
- Recreational equipment (bikes, surfboards, paddleboards, etc.)
- Garden or other outdoor space
- Pool or hot tub
- Games room
- Event space
Think about which extras are “nice-to-haves,” and which ones you’ll actually use. A higher-priced coliving space with a hot tub, pool table, and gym are only worth the cost if you’re going to use them.
Community is a big one. For many people, it’s the main reason they consider coliving in the first place. You’re going to be sharing a space with other people, which means you need to make sure they’re people you want to spend your time with.
“The hard part is finding the people you want to be around as nomads who inspire you and help you to reach your goals. So, in a coliving space, I look for a really curated membership—people who are in my niche, especially entrepreneurs, who are there to get something out of the community rather than just hang out and party.” – Jessica Rohde, SciComm Trainer
What type of community are you looking for? Marketing material is one thing, but reviews often give a better insight. Don’t be afraid to reach out to previous or current residents — often travelers are eager to speak about their accommodation experiences. Ask specific questions about the community and social dynamic.
Questions to ask include:
- How active is the community?
- Are there scheduled events? What sort of events are they?
- Is it common to share cooking and meals?
- Are there excursion options?
- Are there learning opportunities? (entrepreneurship, yoga class, guitar lessons, etc.)
- How noisy are the common areas?
- Do people often stay up and socialize together?
- What do people do on the weekends?
As with any type of accommodation, the perfect coliving space comes down to personal preference and perspective. Take the time to consider what factors are most important to you, and ask plenty of questions, so you can make the most of your coliving experience.
Have you spent time in a coliving environment? What was it like? Is there anything else you look for when choosing one?