When I ask others if they’ve heard of the term “co-living” before, I often get these two answers:
“No — what is it?”
“It sounds familiar. Refresh my memory?” (Probably also code for “no,” but brownie points for the effort.)
To be fair, I was quite new to the concept, too, until I tried it for the first time when I moved to New York City.
For those who are less familiar, I like to describe co-living as a hybrid between WeWork and Airbnb.
You can think of co-living as a modern housing option, where residents share a common living space, with the intention of building a sense of community based on similar interests.
It’s become a rising trend among millennials — especially those looking for affordable, flexible living situations, and places with a greater emphasis on interconnectivity.
While I can’t speak to every experience, I can give some insights into my personal experience with co-living (both the pros and cons) from the year that I spent testing this living style.
For those graduating from college, or for young professionals settling into a new city, co-living may be something you want to consider as you start your apartment search.
Hopefully, this will help you assess if it’s the right fit for you.
The Pros of Co-Living
1. The spaces come pre-furnished
When I first moved into my apartment, I was quickly impressed by the design of the space. The rooms looked like they could have appeared straight out of a West Elm catalog — fully-furnished and stocked with everyday amenities.
Residents get basic furniture in their bedrooms — including a bed, nightstand, and a lamp. Also, kitchen supplies are provided, and utilities are already factored into the total rent cost. With the bonus of weekly cleanings, and a dynamic property services team, one can understand the unique appeal of this living model.
The pre-furnished aspect creates an easy solution — taking the hassle out of buying and transporting your own furniture. This way, you can spend less time hauling a couch up multiple flights of stairs (like Ross in the “Pivot” scene from Friends), and instead, get situated in your new place.
2. Lease terms are short, and move-ins are flexible
Another benefit of co-living is the flexibility of the lease terms — with the option of three, six, and twelve-month leases. Rather than commit to a full year right away, you can choose a shorter stay, and then assess down the line if you’d still like to renew.
In addition to short lease terms, the convenience of moving in is another perk. When I was looking at apartments, I was surprised by how straightforward and seamless the co-living process was. All I needed to do was provide my move-in date, my budget, and the location I wanted to live in.
Within a couple of days, I was able to tour my desired apartment and move in by the following week. Though I could have chosen a shorter lease, I ended up having a positive experience with the company, so I decided to stay for the full year.
3. The costs are already split
With traditional living arrangements, you may stress over the cost of splitting bills among your suitemates. This can be time-consuming and cumbersome to divvy up who pays for what, and how amenities will be shared.
With co-living, though, there are fewer politics involved. Instead, your rent is determined in advance, and you can pay directly through a secure payment platform on the website.
Since apartments come pre-stocked, and costs are fixed, co-living eliminates the issue of clashing with your suitemates over bills. This way, it’s easier for everyone to live amicably under one roof and enjoy the experience.
4. You get to attend social events and meet new people
One of the greatest appeals of co-living is the social nature of it. This model focuses on building a sense of community, which is especially helpful for those new to a city, or those looking to connect with other like-minded individuals.
Whether a coordinated potluck, movie night, or sports outing, several scheduled events make it easy to get to know your fellow neighbors. With this in mind, co-living is an excellent way to explore your city and meet other locals.
Plus, since co-living appeals to millennials, you’ll most likely meet other people around the same age as you — from students to recent grads, to young professionals. Whether building networking contacts or personal relationships, the social aspect allows you to connect with your community.
1. You don’t get to choose your suitemates
Though there are many advantages, one of the drawbacks of co-living is that you don’t necessarily get to choose who you co-habit with. While I was fortunate to be placed with two respectful roommates, I know this aspect can be a gamble. You run the risk of living with people with entirely different personalities and lifestyles than you do.
Thankfully, there are background checks and identity verifications to ensure that you feel safe in your living environment. Still, the thought may be daunting to move in with someone you’ve possibly never met before. If your goal is to live with friends or mutual connections, you might want to keep this in mind before you agree to co-living.
In addition, think about the type of person you are. Are you open to sharing a space with other residents? Do you enjoy being around new people? Can you still get work done and enjoy leisure time in a more communal setting? If you’re someone who prefers recharging in solitude, evaluate it before looking into co-living.
2. The prices can be expensive
Though co-living companies will promote that their models are “more affordable” than traditional living, I’d say this is debatable. When I later compared the pricing of my apartment to non-co-living friends’ apartments, we found that the lease was equivalent to, if not more than, what they were paying.
Because of this, it’s essential to do your research in advance, and consider if the ease and convenience are worth the added cost. Be sure to factor in all variables — like groceries, transportation, entertainment, and any other expenses you’d be paying for.
Co-living prices do fluctuate depending on location and size, so it’s possible to find reasonable pricing if you look carefully. For a temporary living situation, the added benefits may make sense, but circumstances often depend on the person.
3. The location may be less convenient
Co-living apartments are shiny on the inside, but they’re not always the most centrally-located. To counterbalance high real estate costs, companies will choose building sites farther from a city’s center to make living affordable for residents.
When I was co-living, my commute time was about an hour to get into Manhattan each day. This meant waking up earlier to get to work, and being willing to return home later at night. With the long trek, it also required more planning to meet up with friends or schedule get-togethers over the weekends.
Commuting is still doable, but you’ll want to consider the distance from your work location and the proximity to the people in your life. This way, you can determine if the journey is worth it and if co-living is compatible with your lifestyle.
Overall, co-living is a unique living model with many benefits. While the concept is still relatively new, it’s one that I predict will continue to evolve over the coming years. For a young person looking for flexible, reasonably-priced housing, I encourage you to keep this option in mind as you go about your apartment search.