The Ultimate Guide to Co-Living
It’s the age of disruption. Every major industry is either in the process of disruption, or people are talking about The Next Big Thing to happen. From shared cars to filling extra space in your suitcase transporting items for others; the world has begun to take advantage of surplus space through the rise of the sharing economy. The housing industry is no exception.
The rise of co-working is a natural predecessor for widespread co-living: the concept that people can live in a shared space without recreating the feeling of living in a college dorm. Taking advantage of large houses and lonely millennials, co-living has become the newest disruption of surplus space. While there are certainly bumps on the road ahead of the new co-living industry players — legislation, supply and demand, and the standard stresses of shared accommodation – the future looks too bright.
Co-living, at its core, is a diverse concept that is difficult to accurately describe in its many forms. That said, there are some commonalities in the co-living experience: shared kitchens and living spaces, shared amenities, more residents than an average housing situation, and the presence of a co-working space. Additionally, almost all co-living spaces offer multiples lease options: nightly, weekly, and monthly residents all reside together.
We decided to take a deep look at co-living: the past, present, and future of this industry we are proud to be a part of. As the founder of Outsite, I have a special interest in helping educate others about co-living, and this piece is a means to do that. Whether you’ve considered living in a co-living space or have never heard the term before, this guide will give you the information you need to understand this movement — not trend — in the housing industry.
A Brief History of Co-Living
While many believe that ‘co-living’ is a recent development due to the newness of the term, the idea of shared living and work spaces has been around for centuries. As early as the 19th century, homes were organized for women in New York to provide social support, safe accommodation, and employment opportunities. Though often utilized primarily by immigrants — later co-living opportunities were available for both men and women separately, whereas co-ed housing is a relatively recent development –, co-living has often been a good solution for travelers and other people looking for both housing and work opportunities in different locations from their homes, including displaced workers during the World Wars.
Another good example of co-living throughout history has been that of boarding houses. These accommodations were used by similar populations — immigrants, travelers, and so on — but often created their own self-sufficient cultures: a blend of the cultures of each inhabitant and social norms that developed through the close interaction and quarters kept by those living in the house. Modern co-living spaces are not so different, with each reflecting a blend of the culture of the location, as well as the cultural nuances the remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads bring when they arrive.
Data & Trends: The Rise of Modern Co-Living Spaces
The rise of co-living spaces — a progeny of the co-working movement — comes from many of the same trends including the real estate industry, monumental shifts in the job market, and demographic variables for the millennial generation. The co-living model has developed and gained popularity in the space where these factors have all come together at the same time, so it helps to detail exactly how each has played a role.
Part of the reason that co-living is possible comes from the fact that — at this point — the millennial/Gen Y generation looks completely different than preceding ones.
First, millennials are consistently staying single longer than previous generations have. Data from a 2014 Gallup poll found as many as 64% of millennials reported having no major relationship in their lives at the time surveyed. Unsurprisingly, this trend is the same for marriage rates: marriage rates declined as much as 10 percentage points over the past decade (it’s worth noting that while marriage rates are declining, unmarried partnership rates have doubled from 7% to 13% among respondents). On the whole, millennials are later to the game of having a serious, long-term relationship, with a much longer window of singledom and an independent lifestyle.
That isn’t to say that millennials are all living alone. Single (unmarried) millennials saw a 39% increase in the rate of living with roommates or housemates between 2005 and 2015, from 5.7% to 7.4%. These numbers might seem small in the total population, but they represent an overall trend that among those millennials who are single, an increasing number are willing to live with others. In fact, many of these “housemates” are their parents!
Jobs & The Freelance Economy
Simultaneous with these demographic shifts, the future of work has changed. The statistics cited about how the workforce is changing are mentioned so frequently, they almost sound cliche by this point. The data doesn’t lie: there is a major shift happening in where, when, and how we work — and who we work for. This is obvious, given the fact that 90% of millennial employees want more flexibility in when and where they work.
Predictions made as early as 2010 that over 40% of the workforce would be working in a freelance, remote, or “gig”/project-based capacity by 2020 are manifesting exactly as expected. Additionally, the amount of time millennials spend at each job has consistently fallen. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates this: 2015 data showed that for jobs taken by 18- to 24-year olds (young millennials), the individual was no longer at that role 69% of the time within one year, and 93% of the time within five years. This was significantly higher turnover than for 40- to 48-year olds (Generation X) respondents.
What does this actually look like? Many of us who previously enjoyed full-time roles in offices, with full benefits and coworkers to hang out with on lunch breaks are now working for ourselves, and/or changing roles frequently. Maybe we’re managing multiple clients on various projects, running our own businesses, or have transitioned to remote roles taking advantage of constantly evolving technologies like Slack and global wifi to work from anywhere. This is part of what has contributed to the rise of digital nomadism — the concept of professionals working from foreign locations and moving frequently as costs and opportunities present themselves.
Simultaneously, location independence fueled by technology has enabled this kind of job flexibility. In many cities, the cost of living has become prohibitive for those not currently employed in a traditional full-time role, and many millennials have opened their minds to the possibility of taking advantage of geo-arbitrage opportunities and work from smaller cities or remote locations as a way to get the best of both worlds: enjoying beautiful surroundings while simultaneously achieving professional success.
Finally, both co-working and co-living would not have been possible without a receptive real estate market. With the rise of Airbnb as one disruption to accommodations, and the recovery of the global economy after the 2008 housing market crash in the U.S. (and its wider implications), real estate development and investment has picked up momentum. This is demonstrated by WeWork, which has opened 99 co-working locations in 29 cities since beginning in 2010.
Real estate investors have also supported the trend toward co-working and co-living spaces too, by taking advantage of the greater yields on co-working spaces than fixed investments. This has helped co-working spaces show rapid profit trends, often becoming profitable in as little as two years.
One final pressure from the real estate sector that has contributed to the establishment and success of the co-living model is that unstable and rising property prices have often resulted in young home-buyers being unable to purchase a home as earlier as previous generations. These millennials have been forced to find creative, medium-term temporary solutions to housing, and co-living has been one of the appealing options.
Together, these three factors — changing demographics and lifestyle factors, an evolving definition of work, and a receptive real estate market backed by investors who are capitalizing on reduced risk and quick profits — have made co-working and co-living spaces possible. The confluence gave birth to physical locations where (primarily) millennial single workers could connect with others, accomplish their professional goals, and be happier too. There’s a lot of talk about “trends” when discussing co-working and co-living, but it’s obvious that these variables have created an environment where these business models have long-term viability.
In fact, there’s a great summary of the future of digital nomadism by Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomad List. In it, he lays out the case — based on these trends — for having over 1 billion digital nomads in the world by 2035. This massive market of digital nomads will need accommodation wherever they are in the world, and the models which will meet those needs are beginning to develop now. We call them co-living spaces.
Models of Co-Living
Though the co-living model is relatively young compared to similar concepts like co-working, there are some great resources and directories available to help you find the right co-living space for your work and lifestyle needs.
In general, co-living spaces can be sorted based on several different factors: location, pricing model, size, and common resident. Often times, these factors overlap. Bigger co-working spaces are typically located in cities, offer weekly and monthly pricing options, and attract cosmopolitan remote workers or long-term business travelers; smaller co-working spaces tend to be in smaller cities or rural settings, have more flexible pricing options (usually nightly, with weekly or monthly discounts), and residents are often digital nomads, freelance workers, or long-term backpack travelers.
That said: each co-living space is unique, and has its own unique appeal and community. Our directory provides a comprehensive list of properties, so you can find the perfect one(s) for you. We’ve also provided a table below that highlights some of the major players in the co-living space and compares them based on these factors.
Comparing Types of Co-Living Spaces
Short term camps such as DNX Camp offer short-term opportunities to co-live in cool destinations.In addition to those listed above, there are a variety of other co-living models that are available. These are typically one-off opportunities, though many are gaining popularity.
- Retreats such as Hackers Paradise start at one week in length but can stretch as long as you want to stay.
- Coboat takes the co-living model and ships it out to sea — literally. You’ll spend your time co-living on a catamaran sailing around the world.
- Itinerant co-living opportunities such as Remote Year offer the opportunity to co-work, co-live, and travel as a group, for up to 12 month. Read a comparison of these kinds of programs.
Directory of Locations
20Mission offers co-living for art and technology creators in both San Francisco or Medellin co-living spaces, both geared towards art and technology creators. You’re likely to rub elbows with super creatives working alongside head-down developers in their accommodations.
Cost: Inquire for pricing and availability.
Located in Melbourne, Base is the first big player for co-living in Australia. They offer both short- and long-term options for guests, who can be anyone from creative artists to entrepreneurs. Cost: Starting at $250 / week.
Bedndesk is located in sunny, beautiful Mallorca, and offer both co-living and co-working space. Fellow guests include everyone from financially savvy entrepreneurs taking advantage of Spain’s great cost of living to digital nomad backpackers working their way across Europe to freelance and contract folks catching a few rays or waves at the beach. Cost: Starting at €35 / day.
Coconat is located just outside of Berlin, in a cozy spot of German forest that will make you feel like you’re back at summer camp year-round. Fellow residents will include entrepreneurs and outdoorsy types looking to escape the big city to be productive. Cost: Starting at €180 / week.
Coliving Club has two locations in San Francisco, and helps reduce the pain of trying to afford accommodation in the area. They proudly boast a “Silicon Valley” show feel, so expect to work alongside devoted startup founders and developers. Cost: Starting at $998/month.
Common’s members can live in any of their three NYC co-living locations, creating instant community at a reasonable rent. Less focused on the tech/startup scene, residents are often creative young professionals from a variety of industries. Cost: Starting at $1,500 / month.
Commonspace is located in Syracuse, New York, an unlikely setting for an innovative co-living community. Their 21-unit property provides a variety of different private rooms, shared common space, and is filled with residents from every industry from tech to art. Cost: Starting at $800 / month for a year lease.
Tenerife, Spain draws visitors from around the world, and Coworking in the Sun helps make the blissful life an everyday reality through their co-living accommodation. Everyone from entrepreneurs to contract or remote employees can be found enjoying their prime destination and amenities. Cost: €122 / week.
Hub Fuerteventura is located on the beautiful Canary Islands location, a perfect sea and sun getaway spot. In addition to loving surfing, residents come from a variety of industries and roles, and the cost is reasonable enough to draw a steady stream of free spirits. Cost: Starting at €28 / night.
Hus 24 is Stockholm’s first co-living option, target at entrepreneurs, designers, and developers. You’ll be right in the heart of one of the great European capitals, but have an oasis of productivity for work and living. Cost: Inquire for pricing and availability.
Nomad Pad focuses on medium-term accommodation, primarily for a month or longer. This draws a steady stream of location-independent entrepreneurs and remote workers to come enjoy Austin’s funky scene with like-minded folks. Cost: Inquire for pricing and availability.
Outsite’s blends the best of both city and destination co-living with locations in Santa Cruz and San Diego. In between surf sessions, you’ll co-work with remote employees from tech companies, creative types, and the Outsite team themselves. Cost: Starting at $60 / day.
Most people can’t find Montenegro on a map, but for those in the know, co-living spot Playworking is a great hidden gem. Residents mix work with play in the stunning natural surroundings. Cost: Starting at €300 / week.
Roam has been making a lot of news due to a recent successful funding round, and their current three locations in Miami, Madrid, and Bali find that nice blend between city and destination co-living, similar to Outsite. One notable factor is that residents pay a subscription cost and can move freely between locations, based on availability. Cost: $500 / week plus tax.
Located in the northern part of Spain near Sende, the co-living space of the same name not only focuses on getting personal work done, but in giving back through philanthropic events. Socially minded entrepreneurs have flocked to the remote spot to focus, create, and innovate. Cost: Inquire for pricing and availability.
Startup Basecamp has locations in a variety of cities around the world: San Francisco, Montreal, and Brussels are currently open, with several other locations in the pipeline. As the name suggests, they attract startup folks from every department: developers, founders, marketers, and creatives. Cost: Starting from $64 / night.
In the heart of Phuket, Stash is a haven for digital nomads looking to get work done while still enjoying the community and location. You’ll find everyone from backpackers to full-on remote/contract nomads. Cost: starting at 249฿ per day.
Jávea isn’t a typical tourist spot, which is part of the draw for co-living at Sun and Co. As implied, you’ll enjoy great weather, a quiet life, and have plenty of time for productivity and creativity in a community of like-minded residents. Cost: Starting at €22 / night.
Surf Office also blurs the lines between city and destination co-living with location in Lisbon. As such, there’s a nice blend of residents you’ll share space with, all focused on enjoying location independence in the beautiful locales. Cost: Inquire for pricing and availability.
Unsurprisingly, London’s biggest co-living option, The Collective, is also the world’s largest. Helping bring down the outrageous cost of living in the city, the mix of residents you’ll find in this massive accommodation is a cross-section of all Londoners themselves. Cost: £250 / week.
With locations across the Netherlands, Paris, and Barcelona, The Student Hotel has a unique blend of many different types of guests. As the name suggests, students often stay, as do regular hotel guests; you’ll also find longer-term guests and companies set up for retreats. Cost: Starting at €70 / night.
WeLive is WeWork’s venture into the co-living space. Starting with locations in NYC and Washington, DC, expect WeLive to mirror WeWork’s popularity and diverse appeal. Cost: Starting at $875 for DC and $1,375 for NYC.
A Day in the Life of a Co-Living Resident
The appeal of co-living comes from the fact that it fits so well with many different lifestyles. For example, some of our past guests have included Leo Widrich, co-founder at Buffer; Conni Biesalski, digital nomad and blogger at PlanetBackpack.de; Paul Ryan, digital marketer at MarketSlide; and Chelsea Rustrum, author, speaker and consultant. Their varied backgrounds and professional endeavors give a peek into the widespread appeal of co-living.
Typically, a day at a co-living space involves morning work sessions, meetings, lunch on your own, afternoon work sessions, breaks, and dinner or evening activities as a group. Here’s an example of a typical day we’ve seen residents at Outsite enjoy:
8:00 am — Wake up, head to the kitchen for coffee (or make coffee for the house) and breakfast
9:00 am — Start work, spend a few hours on important tasks, calls, and discussing ideas with teammates online or fellow co-living residents.
12:00 pm — Break for lunch. Enjoy a homemade meal, made by one of your fellow residents.
3:00 pm — Take a surf break. Head to the beach for a few hours of surfing with a fellow house resident.
5:00 pm — Work for a few more hours, finalize any tasks that have come in over the course of the day.
7:30 pm — Head to dinner at a local restaurant with a couple fellow residents, or enjoy trivia night at the local bar.
10:30pm — Time for bed. Wake up the next day rested and ready to do it all again!
Tips, Tricks, & Etiquette
If you’re still on board with the co-living idea (we are too!), there’s one last thing to consider before taking the leap: how to make a successful transition from your current life/work model to co-living. Here are some tips, tricks, and etiquette to help you understand what you need to do — and avoid — as part of a co-living community.
- Be an active member of the community. Join events, meet your roommates (if sharing accommodation) and fellow residents, and take an active role in connecting with those you’re living with.
- Be considerate of your fellow residents. If keeping your space tidy is tough, opt for a single room and confine your mess to your personal surroundings.
- Respect house rules about guests, noise, and privacy.
- Help yourself. Even more than co-working, you need to be a self-sufficient, productive member of the space.
- Respect the kitchen and dining spaces as sacred. Everyone has to use them, so tidying up after yourself will keep you in everyone’s good books.
- Be a wallflower. You don’t have to be social all the time, but it’s impossible to avoid everyone if you’re living in a co-living space.
- Be the resident everyone has a bone to pick with — do your part, and carry your weight in keeping the co-living space neat, tidy, and nice to live in.
- Annoy anyone with headphones on. Headphones mean someone is working or on a call, or they just don’t want to talk.
- Break the rules you agree to upon move-in. This isn’t your home — it’s everyone’s, and you have to respect that.
- Disrespect others space, time, or privacy. Enough said.
These are just a few of the basic rules, but you get the gist: co-living takes your college roommate experience and amplifies it. Conflicts may still happen, but as long as you can find ways to communicate and respectfully work through whatever problems arise, it will likely work itself out. The great part about co-living is that because it involves like-minded individuals coming together, you’ll often find people with the same values and priorities — and not so many bad roommates in the bunch.
As a resident in a co-living space, respect is crucial to keeping harmony. If you can do that, and take an active part in your community, you’ll have a successful experience that others enjoy too.
The Future of Co-Living
The foundation is laid for co-living: this type of accommodation is not a trend or fad that is going to disappear in a few years. Between the plethora of providers currently offering co-living spaces in every corner of the globe, and the massive interest that residents from all professional backgrounds and lifestyles show, co-living has appeal and support that will help establish it as a unique but valuable form of accommodation. Residents may stay anywhere from a few days to a few months, but the concept of co-living has a permanence that will last for years to come.