Adventures in co-living part 1: Finding a home

The back story

Our initial crew + Q

Forming, storming and norming

  • Peace / Non-violence
  • Environmental consciousness / Sustainability / Regenerative solutions
  • Social justice / Equality
  • Diversity
  • Respectfulness
  • Individual empowerment
  • Authentic self-expression
  • Self-inquiry / Personal growth / Consciousness expansion
  • Creativity
  • Respect
  • Non-violent communication.
  • Stewardship: take responsible care of our space.
  • Interest in and care for each others well being: Be conscientious of how we take and give space. Create an introvert and extrovert friendly space and energy.
  • Commitment to relationship with each other: Make time, put in the effort to connect and get to know each other deeper, as well as work through the hard stuff when it come up.
  • Growth orientation: Ask questions of ourselves and each other. Push our edges, within a safe container.
  • Mutual support: In self-realization and meeting goals, as well as in working through challenges.
  • Openness / Vulnerability
  • Cultivate a family like energy, while ensuring freedom and autonomy within the family.
  • Be loving
  • Play
  • Power awareness — notice where power is collecting and knead it out
  • Which neighborhoods were we all on board to look in?
  • What house features were requirements and which were nice-to-haves?
  • How would we weight various amenities against each other, like a big kitchen vs. a garden vs. closeness to public transportation…? For this I came up with a spreadsheet of features and we each rated them from 1–5, to give us a ranking of the importance of each one to the group, though we didn’t end up using this much, and mostly just learned our preferences over time as we had to make hard decisions.

The search

  • A pet friendly home, since our family includes the sweetest dog ever, Luna.
  • Proximity to public transportation, and in particular near BART if we were in the East Bay, since one of us had to commute to downtown San Francisco.
  • A neighborhood not in the major fog zones of SF because a few folks had a very real need for sun.
  • A spacious kitchen
  • A big enough common space to host significant community gatherings
  • Reasonable rent (for the Bay Area) since most of us were starting a company, freelancers, or between jobs
  • A commitment to not participating in direct economic displacement. We wouldn’t take an apartment where someone had been driven out to make way for people that could pay more.

The payoff

  1. Build trust and alignment first: It is so important to have a shared understanding of the group’s goals and intentions both for the home you want to find, and for the parameters of the search, so you can return to that when times become challenging. In general the more group cohesion/alignment you can build before the search the better. I believe trust is the most important community ingredient of all, and I guarantee a community will not survive without it.
  2. Clearly define roles: Make sure work is divided up fairly, and rotate stressful roles to prevent burnout. Roles we found useful:
  3. House catcher: the person(s) paying attention to craigslist alerts and immediately contacting the landlord/broker to schedule a visit. This was the most stressful role because it required constant vigilance. We usually had a couple people doing this, but we should have rotated more, especially since it made sense for the first point of contact with the landlord to continue being the point person with them throughout the process.
  4. House viewers: We tried to send at least 3 people to each house, and of course the more the merrier. For those that couldn’t go someone would always live stream the viewing.
  5. Process reviewer: This was definitely a collaborative process but some group members were more focused on reviewing how things were going and addressing issues as we went along.
  6. Know what you’re looking for: Multiple times some of us went to look at a place, got really excited about it, only to have it vetoed by someone else for a reason that hadn’t been clearly stated before. This caused some unnecessary frustration and stress which could have been prevented by people being more concrete about their requirements at the beginning. On the other hand you can’t always prevent this because sometimes a need doesn’t become totally clear until you are face to face with it.
  7. Move fast: Right at the start we found a place we were really excited about, but someone got there just before us and put down a deposit. After that we always tried to get the very first viewing. This also meant that we had to try and ensure that everyone was available during viewings for a quick decision. If necessary we would do a group video chat to discuss on the spot.
  8. Know how to decide: We used a simple rating system to get a sense of how much people liked a place: each person would rank a house 1 (not a fan), 3 (it’s ok), 9 (absolutely love it), or 0 (outright block). The rule of thumb was that we would probably not go with a place that anyone rated 1, and also would pass on a place with a bunch of 3s. This system forced you to really think through what you felt about each place and make a hard call. Though more often than not though it was straight up blocks that ended up ruling houses out.
  9. Be prepared:
  10. The packet of information about us that we sent to the landlord was the key thing that got us in the door.
  11. When you go to a viewing make sure to come with all the questions you need to ask to know if you want to live there, along with a deposit check in hand to hold a place you really like.
  12. It’s also a good idea to collect everyone’s application data ahead of time, though this didn’t end up being too important because most applications were online.
  13. Finally, once you lock up a place you will very quickly have to put down a sizable full deposit, so make sure you have this collected from everyone and ready to go.
  14. Stay organized: We tried to maintain a spreadsheet of places we were looking at, so no one was duplicating work and everyone knew where we stood on each one, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping this up. It would have definitely helped stress levels to do this better, and would have made it easier to pass off point person on a house from one person to another.
  15. Check-in: Make sure to keep having regular group gatherings, and check-ins with each other to surface implicit or hidden assumptions, expectations, experiences and emotions. Without this tensions can easily build and cause fractures in the group.

Moving in

Our new living room, working fireplace included!

Settling down

A backyard with so much potential
Come join us for dinner!

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Entrepreneur & technologist, passionate about creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. http://tibetsprague.com

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Tibet Sprague

Tibet Sprague

Entrepreneur & technologist, passionate about creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. http://tibetsprague.com

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