Until recently, housing choices for middle-income workers in major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles were pretty limited, and none of them were would be what you’d call great. For most, the options looked like this:
- Live outside of the city, which saves you money but costs you in commute time.
- Split an apartment in the city, which is easier on your wallet but takes away some of your privacy (hope you like the randos you live with from Craigslist).
- Throw practically all of your income toward a private place in the city.
And then there’s the new trend of coliving. Some think it’s a magical way that everyone can afford to live in the city, while others call it an overpriced dorm for adults with no privacy.
In reality, like every other choice you make in life, coliving comes with its pros and cons, and we’re here to help you sort through it all. Here’s what you need to know:
What is coliving?
Coliving is a way of living that allows renters to dwell in big cities by sharing living space with other people. Starcity, for example, turns underutilized buildings in San Francisco into well-designed community homes that typically house 10 to 20 people.
You may have read that coliving is like living in a dorm, and in a way that’s true — you live with other people and share common areas. But, unlike a dorm, you get a private, fully-furnished room (goodbye bunk beds and Ikea lamps), you have the freedom, time, and resources to explore your dream city, and, well, you probably don’t have homework.
Do I need to Stay for a Certain Amount of Time?
One of the nice things about coliving is it’s less of a commitment than taking out a 30-year mortgage. Even with apartments, you generally have to stay at least a year.
While terms will vary depending on where you stay, many communities offer a few terms you can choose from. For example, Starcity will usually offer three, six, or 12-month memberships, with the option to renew again, of course.
This makes coliving a great option if you want to try living in a city without the commitment of having to find a place and furnish it yourself.
Price-wise, how does it compare to my other options?
This’ll depend on a lot of things — the city, what part of the city you want to live in, the room you choose, what you’re comparing it against, how long you’re planning on staying, etc. — but in general, coliving is almost always cheaper than living alone in the city, and usually comparable to getting an unfurnished shared room.
In San Francisco, for example, a private suite inside of a Starcity community is about 20-30% cheaper than a comparable studio, includes all utilities, and is fully-furnished.
Will I lose all sense of privacy? Do I have to interact with others living there?
Shuddering at the thought of interacting with 20 people every day? Don’t worry — coliving spaces pretty much always offer a private room you can retire to, and many have quiet hours so everyone can get some rest. At Starcity, the default quiet hours are 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays and 12 am to 9 am on weekends.
That said, you probably won’t be able to avoid interacting with the rest of your house completely. Many people choose coliving specifically for the community, so don’t be surprised if someone strikes up a conversation with you in the kitchen or you’re invited to go on a day outing. If you’re really not a people person, coliving might not be for you, and that’s totally fine too.
Coliving isn’t always the single cheapest option available to you — you are living in a major city, after all — but unlike renting an apartment, you can get more bang for your buck. While benefits will vary from community to community, many offer:
- Utilities. No need to worry about paying a bunch of different bills each month. You just pay your membership fee, and that covers everything — water, electricity, trash, internet … you name it.
- Cleaning services. Spend less time doing chores and more time exploring the city, hanging out with friends, and making new memories.
- Community spaces and events. It can be awkward living with strangers, so many communities offer comfortable common areas and community events, such as yoga or cooking classes, so you can get to know the rest of the house.
- Entertainment. Sometimes you just want to hole up in your room, and that’s ok. Most coliving spaces offer entertainment options to make you feel at home. With Starcity, for example, you get Netflix, HBO, and Spotify.
- Basic supplies. Most spaces come with kitchenware, paper towels, soap, and other household staples, saving you even more time and money.
What's the catch?
Most of the issues are baked into the core concept — you’re giving up some privacy to live with other people in the city more cheaply than on your own. If that’s a good tradeoff for you, coliving could be a great alternative to your standard options for city living.
Many of the challenges that come with coliving are typical of most city apartments — you may not be able to bring your pets (right now Starcity allows some dogs, but not cats), you may not get a parking space, and the small private living space can be tricky if you’re used to spreading out.
Your decision will probably come down to the co part of coliving. If living with and meeting new people feels like a plus, it’ll probably make sense a good deal. But if the idea of sharing a home with others on a daily basis stresses you out (even if you like them), you’ll probably want to go a different route.
If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced, convenient living space in the city and love meeting new people, coliving could be a perfect solution to your housing needs. Schedule a tour today, and see if it’s right for you.