• Andrés

To CoLive or to Flat-share? Understanding the Differences and Why You Should Choose Coliving

...when searching for your next flat-share

The differences between living in a shared flat and a coliving space may not seem that obvious at first thought, which is why we get the question all the time. But the differences lie in the details, and these details have a significant impact on one’s day to day and one’s overall quality of life.

Flat-sharing can be defined as “two or more people living in accommodation together, where each person will have their own bedroom and typically share certain communal areas such as kitchens, bathrooms or living rooms.” On the other hand, coliving is defined by Co-Liv, the global association of coliving professionals, as “more than two unrelated people living together voluntarily in a home-as-a-service residence that has a communal focus and is life-enhancing”.

Comparing them from a technical perspective helps shed some light on these differences: minimum number of people living together, the relationship between those living together, how the space is managed, and what the expected impact on the residents’ lives should be. However, these definitions only scratch the surface. Moreover, these differences become further magnified in a post-covid world that has unleashed new remote work and home office possibilities.

We must hence dive deeper to fully grasp the implications of these differences and details.

Coliving: Setting A New Definition to the Sharing Economy

Ever since I moved out of my parent’s place, I made the conscious choice to flat-share over living on my own, before I ever heard the word coliving. During this time I have lived in ten different flat-shares distributed across four different cities and three different continents. Each flat-share included between one and three other people and brought together different nationalities (10+ in total), thus generating diverse interactions.

Part of my decision to flat-share was and is usually the primary reason why most people choose to flat-share: a financial motivation. However, when it comes to saving on costs by flat-sharing, how much you spend on rent and utilities is not the only thing that counts.

The savings from sharing the costs of furnishing, cleaning supplies, cooking, ride-sharing after going out on a Friday night, etc. can also add up. Moreover, if you look at it from a different angle, normally you get more bang for your buck by having larger common areas and amenities to share, which allows you to have more guests over for dinners and celebrations or simply more space to remain mentally sane during a Covid lockdown.

A coliving space offers all of these same advantages, except that the spaces are specifically designed to be shared and to promote interaction with others around common hobbies and professional activities. It is also usually designed to offer a comfortable co-working environment, a luxury that most flat-shares cannot offer. Lastly, it lays out a set of house rules and avoids internal conflicts by regularly bringing in a professional to clean the shared areas.

"The desired outcome in coliving is a lifestyle that prioritizes sharing space and resources, but most importantly, where moments, experiences, and knowledge are cultivated."

Connection, Community Building, and Community Facilitation

There is a difference between being lonely and choosing to live alone. While some people choose to live in a flat-share to avoid being lonely, in my case I specifically wanted to live with other people for the purpose of having enriching experiences and interactions at home.

It is often said that it is the quality and quantity of our relationships that have the largest impact on our happiness. And it is the social connections – including contact with friends and family – that are most important for our health and emotional well-being.

Of course, when sharing the same space with others, often no interaction is better than bad interactions. But ending up with exceptional interactions requires much luck and perfect timing especially when moving in with complete strangers.

What is most radically different in coliving compared to flat-sharing is that there is usually someone from the coliving space that takes an active leadership role in building the community. Building the right community starts with the screening of applicants, ensuring that those who are accepted into the community share similar values, regardless of any cultural, professional, or lifestyle differences.

As a newcomer into a flat-share, I have had several very disturbing experiences, which would have been avoided in a true coliving space. These did not necessarily take place as a direct result of not knowing who I was moving in with or who was moving in to replace a former flatmate, but rather because my flatmates did not share the same values in any way. Fortunately, Sublime Coliving even enables newcomers and existing colivers to meet beforehand to make sure there is a good match.

To develop the community, the coliving space also actively facilitates activities that promote interaction and connection, where people can share and learn from one another. At Sublime Coliving we organize weekly events around wellness, growth, and conscious entrepreneurship, whether this takes the form of a networking or social event, a meditation circle or yoga class, or a business or sustainability workshop.

In my experiences as an entrepreneur, freelancer, and tech startup employee with flexible work from home schedules I’ve realized that we often miss out on those office interactions with our colleagues across the desk, over a coffee break, a team lunch, and evne after-work. Coliving made it easy for me to replace all of these office interactions or the lack of interaction by being around other colivers with whom I could also share experiences such as cooking lunch together or even taking a yoga break.

Getting the Customer Journey Right

Moving in and out of any flat or home is already one of the most distressing experiences, which can be further exacerbated by moving into a new city or country altogether. If we only take the customer experience of moving into and out of shared flats the inconveniences are usually even worse.

First of all, most flat share contracts require a long term commitment (minimum one year) with penalty fees for moving out earlier. As millennials who tend to change jobs and locations more frequently than our parents did, it is clear that these contracts are unideal for our generation. This often forces us to time our job and location changes based on the durations of our rent contracts. If we take location independent workers who enjoy exploring new cities every few months, these contracts are even less suitable.

Secondly, while in some cases these rent contracts must only be under one person’s name, in other cases, there must be one single contract that includes every flatmate’s name on it. Any of these scenarios may also result in the landlord demanding for administrative reasons that one single bank transfer be made to submit every flatmates’ rent.

Because of these policies, as the person who was responsible for reminding and collecting the rent from each flatmate, at times I ended up receiving the rent over a month after it had been due. Furthermore, these scenarios make it very complicated to make any future flatmate substitutions and may even result in not getting one’s safety deposit returned in a timely fashion; in one case, it took six months after I had moved out to get back my three-month safety deposit, while a former flatmate received it a year later! Coliving spaces tend to get this right by offering more flexible and shorter-term individual options, while not making it the responsibility of the coliver to find a replacement.

Another major inconvenience of moving in and moving out of a flat includes furnishing it and emptying it out. Purchasing, reselling or transporting any furniture and equipment consumes lots of time, effort, and money. It also requires coordinating budgets with other flatmates. Above all, it takes weeks, or even months of planning and execution to fully get settled in or to move out altogether including the installation or cancellation of utility and Wi-Fi services, etc. When it comes to coliving, the space is typically completely furnished allowing one to start living worry-free from the moment of arrival.

Coliving > Flat-sharing > Individualistic Living

By now the differences and details between coliving and flat-sharing are much clearer. And perhaps you may also be considering replacing your individualistic living lifestyle in a small studio or extremely expensive one bedroom apartment, if this is your case over a coliving space.

A coliving space goes beyond merely sharing costs with others by being more than just a place to live. It is a place to live in with a uniquely crafted customer and community centric experience, which should improve our daily interactions at ‘home’, bringing those interactions into a space where one actually feels as cozy as in one’s true ‘home’. But not all coliving experiences are created equal, thus it is important to identify those that actually embrace your values and sense of community.