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What is Coliving? Pros and Cons of Coliving

By: Davina Ward
September 11, 2020

Making a move to a new city can feel like a wild adventure. You've got places to explore, people to meet, and tons of things to do. The very first step is finding a place to call home.

It's no secret that many major US cities lack affordable housing. That can put a damper on your big city dreams.

To combat exorbitant housing costs, people take to the timeless tradition of cohabitating. In short, they get roommates.

However, the new housing trend of "coliving" adds a modern twist to this tradition.

People have compared coliving to dorm life and communal living. Some people don't see how it differs from the standard roommate living arrangement.

However, coliving is its own entity. It has distinct features that make it a unique option for apartment hunters. But is coliving right for you?

This guide has everything you need to know about coliving and whether you should consider coliving during your apartment search. Let's dive in!

What is Coliving?

Coliving is a new rental trend. It’s a type of shared housing arrangement that has grown in popularity within major US cities.

Companies offer shared living spaces in which each resident has their own bedroom with shared communal spaces. This may sound similar to a typical roommate situation.

However, coliving differs in a few key ways, including:

  • The promise of living with like-minded roommates.
  • Access to a large coliving community.
  • Luxury amenities.
  • Lower living costs compared to the traditional shared living arrangement.
  • Reduced roommate conflicts.

Coliving has cornered the market of new residential housing in big cities like Los Angeles and New York. Those who move to these major metropolitan areas generally turn to shared housing to reduce costs. Unfortunately, shared living situations have had a bad reputation.

It can be difficult to find a roommate that matches your lifestyle. Conflicts regarding money, cleaning, guests, and pets crop up. Inevitably, those things sour the relationship.

Moreover, cost-cutting measures often mean that luxury amenities are out of reach for many new residents. In short, moving to a new city, finding decent housing, and matching with a great roommate is a herculean task.

Coliving offers a solution to this problem. By matching residents within a space, providing cleaning services, individual lease agreements, and offering luxury amenities, coliving companies make shared living arrangements an attractive option for new residents.

What Does a Coliving Space Look Like?

Coliving spaces are very diverse. However, as they’re typically based in large cities, the backdrop usually remains the same. Depending on the company that you work with, you'll have a wide variety of homes to choose from.

In Los Angeles, you might find a listing for a 144 sq. ft. bedroom within an apartment unit, including a shared bathroom and communal spaces. You can find a coliving apartment unit with two bedrooms and exposed brick in NYC.

As a part of their appeal, most coliving apartment units come with fully furnished communal areas. You'll typically find modern furniture and classy artwork.

They’re decorated in a way to maximize openness and coziness. So, you don't have to worry about living in a space that looks like a model home.

You’re free to bring your own belongings to liven up your bedroom space. However, you won't need to include any essentials such as toilet paper, dish soap, or paper towels on you.

Among the in-unit amenities, there are sometimes additional communal spaces. Those may include gyms and outdoor areas that are free to use for any coliving unit residents.

These amenities are more common in coliving spaces within apartment buildings or larger homes.

How Do Rent Payments Work?

As one of the most common roommate conflicts stem from rent or bill payment disagreements, you'll be happy to know that you can avoid these headaches in a coliving situation.

Coliving companies offer individual lease agreements. So, although you share the space with other residents, you’re only responsible for your portion of the rent payment.

You won't have to chase down payments from your roommates. A property manager will collect your rent via a digital payment platform.

You'll still have to pay a security deposit, just like a traditional apartment rental.

What's Included in the Rent?

When it comes to shared necessities such as toilet paper or cleaning supplies, there's no splitting the bill there either. They are included in your rent payment and routinely restocked.

In addition to basic household necessities, all amenities are generally included in the rent payment. A typical rent payment for a bedroom within a coliving apartment unit covers the following:

  • Wi-Fi
  • All Utilities (water, gas, and electric)
  • Cleaning Services
  • Maintenance Fees
  • Room and Board
  • Household Essentials

Typically, the price of coliving spaces is lower than that of a comparable apartment unit with the same amenities. With a larger number of residents within a shared unit, coliving companies can pass their savings on to you through reduced rent payments.

Pros of Coliving

There are obvious advantages to a coliving setup. However, this shared living arrangement isn't for everyone.

Before making a final decision as to whether coliving is right for you, be sure to check out the benefits of it.

1. More Bang for Your Buck

Living in a big city can be expensive. Cities like New York and San Francisco have been facing an affordable housing crisis for years. In short, you'd be hard-pressed to beat the affordability that coliving offers.

With large, and often, newly renovated apartment units, coliving makes for the perfect housing solution for cash-strapped renters looking for a taste of luxury. You'll be moving into a fully furnished apartment unit with an all-inclusive single rent payment.

2. Reduce Roommate Conflicts

No one likes to get into roommate squabbles. Not only does it make for a tense environment, but it can blow up into a large problem that causes one of you to break the lease early.

There are tons of things to argue about in a traditional shared living set up. Those include late payments and uncleanliness.

Coliving removes those problems. You’re only responsible for paying your portion. If your roommate doesn't pay, there aren't any consequences that come down on you.

Most importantly, someone else is handling the cleaning. You can save time and avoid an argument about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Coliving is the perfect solution for someone who wants roommates without the conflict.

3. Living With Like-minded Individuals

Tired of feeling lonely while living alone? Having like-minded people around helps to alleviate those feelings. Coliving also serves as a sort of friend matchmaking service.

You’re generally housed with like-minded residents who have similar interests and are close in age. Though this isn't a guarantee of friendship, anecdotal evidence points to coliving as the perfect recipe for friendship.

Some coliving arrangements are tailored for certain groups, like artists or musicians. With a major shared common interest, there's always something to talk about and bond over.

Cons of Coliving

On the flip side of the coin, there are some significant drawbacks to this living arrangement that you should consider. Here's a breakdown of the biggest cons of coliving.

1. Limited to Major Cities

If you like the idea of living with a diverse group of young, like-minded professionals in a coliving setup, you must be prepared to move to a major US city. Unfortunately, as coliving is a relatively new trend, it hasn't spread outside of cities.

Though this could change later on, it's a significant drawback. If you don't mind the city life, but want a bit less urban feel, be sure to limit your search to places with outdoor spaces or that are near parks.

2. No Control Over Roommate Selection

Coliving spaces are typically designed to match residents who have similar interests together. However, there’s little control over the roommate selection process for current tenants.

While you certainly don't want to spend hours poring over potential roommate candidates, it's likely that you're also against a complete stranger moving in.

3. Shared Communal Spaces

One of the biggest incentives to coliving is the idea of living with roommates who’ll eventually become your friends due to your similar lifestyles. While that's a great concept, it doesn't really account for the trouble of sharing communal spaces.

Sometimes you just want to flop down on the living room sofa and watch a Disney marathon. This might not be possible if one of your roommates wants to watch a football game or another is planning on having a few friends over.

Though you can retreat to your bedroom, sometimes sharing communal areas can be more of a hassle than a benefit.

Is Coliving for Me?

Coliving can be a great choice for someone who wants to move to a big city, save big on a luxury apartment, and keep things simple.

However, for someone who wants to live outside a major US city and doesn't like the idea of sharing their space, it's not a great choice.

If you're considering coliving over traditional apartment living, you'll need to consider the following:

  • Do you want to live in a major US city?
  • What luxuries or amenities do you need? Which ones can you live without?
  • What’s the highest monthly rent payment you can afford? (Check out our rent calculator!)
  • Are you comfortable sharing communal spaces?

Ultimately, coliving can be beneficial. However, traditional apartment living can be a better fit, depending on your circumstances. If you want to live alone, then a traditional apartment rental would be preferable to a coliving setup.

Traditionally, apartment rental allows you to leave the possibility of roommates open, but you get to choose who lives with you. Additionally, you have control over the entire apartment, not just your bedroom.

Whether you decide to pursue coliving is a personal decision. However, it's essential to make an informed decision.

Don't rush. Consider all the advantages and disadvantages of both coliving and traditional renting. It's a big decision, and you should choose what works best for you!

Final Thoughts

Coliving is an emerging renting trend that looks to have some longevity to it. That's not surprising, considering the clear benefits the arrangement offers.

That said, it’s not the right choice for everyone. Before making a final decision on the matter, do your due diligence and a little soul-searching to determine whether it’s right for you.

Regardless of the decision you reach, Apartment List will be there to guide you through the apartment-hunting process.

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