Co-opting roommates: the co-living fad

Being in the real estate industry, I attend loads of conferences where “tech” and “disrupt” are like contestants in a spelling b, spitting out words as fast as their little minds can organize them, when the appropriate combination of letters are assembled, Silicon Valley comes a knockin’.  Long exposed to the concept of Co-working – Co-living was new-ish to me, and it definitely caught my attention.

I read quite a few articles about this new trend, the majority of which bashed it for not being new at all.  You’ve heard of roommates before, haven’t you?  That’s not a new concept.  You may even have heard of Boarding Houses or single gender hotels of old, places that a single women or man, traveling from far afoot to NYC for the very first time, could go, stay, be with other singles, build friendships, and live in a city that they otherwise knew no one.  Pretty good idea.  So what makes this Co-living thing any different?  Good question.

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I have no issues with millennials.  In fact, as I said in my speech last week when I received my volunteer of the year award, I’ve learned that I really do love them, so much so that I wish I were one of them.  Now, admittedly part of this desire comes from my shear jealously over their youth, but it’s more than that.  They are technically saavy, they are entreprenureal, they are open to ideas, and if I have learned anything along the way, reinvention is critical to survival.  In the olden days that was called “adaptation”.  You see how we just created something new and hip, out of something old and staide?  That’s what Co-living is all about.

My ears perked up because as a flipper, and a non-liquid one at that, I move a lot.  I often need temporary quarters to reside between purchases.  I’ve lived with friends, a situation that might be classified as “roommates”.  I’ve slept on sofa’s at family members homes, I’ve lived in furnished Air B-n-B’s, and short term leased, furnished properties.  If you mooge all of those together – Co-living seems to take shape.  Not so dissimilar to the popular rental “communities” that are popping up all over Boston.  Swimming pools, pool parties, wine tastings, common rooms for working and play, fitness, coffee, concierge services of all kinds.  I’ve written about my experience living at the Ink Block in Boston’s South End.  Were it not for the kindness of friends, away in Europe for 4 months, I would likely be there right now.  It was the easiest living that I have ever experienced.  It is like living in a hotel.  So what does Co-living have that Ink Block doesn’t?  I’m glad you asked.

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Owned by National Development, the Ink Block concept – build a community and they will come, was a home run for Ted Tye and company.  Common, pushes around the edges of this concept by offering furnished apartments, bedrooms within units, with roommates that you don’t know until you arrive.  Sort of like college.  All the amenities that you have come to expect within these “communities” exist.  The “members” have some extra benefits that you don’t find at a traditional leased property – house cleaning.  Yes, you get maid service.  Once a week a light clean, once a month a deep clean.  You can walk into your new home with a tooth brush, a carry-on, and your kindle and make yourself at home.  Every last item you need to live is already there, down to the face cloth and the dust mop.  You can stay for one night, one week, month, year or more.  It’s entirely up to you, and by the way, your fee includes all the bills you might otherwise pay in an apartment.  Brilliant – I would love to stop paying all those pesky bills and reliquish the responsibility to my Commune-leader.  If this is a cult, I want to join it.

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Not this kind of like minded community.  The other kind.

With all of the negatives that were bandied about in the articles I read, I didn’t hear mention of the “gig-economy”.  Growing in popularity, there will come a time when contract employees make up the majority of the workforce.  There are challenges that come along with that – think health care, and oy vey – sexual harrassement laws which archaically only provide recourse for FT employees – but there is tremendous freedom too.  Why not try out six different cities in as many months before you decide where you want to live?  Why not indeed.

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