As a start I’ll define what coliving is to me:
- Smaller than normal living space
- No kitchen, instead this is available in a shared area. A cafeteria or canteen also seems like a great thing to have and another to generate revenue.
- Month-to-month lease
- Defaults to community. Unlike moving into a typical apartment building, in coliving spaces it is assumed that you will get to know all your neighbors. In fact that’s the point.
- Membership based, you have to apply
- If a typical studio or 1 bedroom in the same area is $2,000/month, you might expect to pay $1500 for the coliving space. Yes it’s much smaller, but it’s also less expensive and comes with potential friends.
- Great for folks moving to a new city
- I think each unit should have it’s own bathroom
- Free weekly room cleaning
- Laundry services or just available washer and dryer
- The community has a way to chat. This could be it’s own app or just a Slack channel.
- All utilities included and the wifi is stellar.
I’m personally not a fan of spaces that talk too much about their “unique community” or about folks taking too much ownership in the space. This doesn’t scale, you can’t build a brand around it. I want the coliving space to be a service.
Lyft tried their fist bumps and large fuzzy pink mustaches, but eventually these features have diminished because they are not scalable. What is scalable and liked by the majority is quality and consistency. This is why I think Welive and Common will become billion dollar businesses, while most of the others on my list will stay lifestyle businesses.
To me the Ace Hotel is a great example of what the space could feel like.
Where are coliving spaces going to flourish? In North America it’s the usual suspects: Austin, Boston, DC, NYC, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver. The cities where wealthier millennials are flocking.
Soft landing, and that’s it. I move to a new city and stay in the space for 3 months, then I make a couple friends and we all move out to get our own 3 bedroom. Is there always going to be a stream of newcomers to take the empty beds? Or, how to you design the same so that people stick around for longer. Common offers discounts if you sign a longer lease.
Do we really need to use the word coliving? Aren’t these just small apartments? Yes and yes. It’s important to use the word because it differentiates these spaces from others and carries with it all the bullet points above. I do think it will be important for early spaces to brand the word, otherwise people might recall images of college coop housing, which can be quite fun and nice, but is different from what’s being developed here.
So what makes coliving attractive?
Community and friendships. Access to a high quality living space and a high quality city at a lower price point. Many folks are happen to trade apartment size for convenience and access. Note that this lower overall price point for the end user does not mean that the coliving company and the real estate developer generate less income. In fact prices per square foot are and should be higher.