Company to Watch: Common's Housing “Memberships” Bring the Idea of Shared Living to the 21st Century
This isn’t your uncle’s commune of the 1960’s and 70’s, or even your grandparents’ residential hotel of the early 1900's. Co-living provider Common puts a fresh face on communal living that’s fit for today’s sharing economy – offering a combination of beautifully-furnished public and private spaces their members can call home in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.
This is the closest thing to Airbnb to satisfy a person’s day-to-day housing needs and may compete with your multifamily offerings. You may want to think of their business model when planning your next development. Alternatively, you could become Common’s newest building partner.
Here’s a more detailed snapshot of who they are and what they do, with some best practices you may want to steal for your business.
WHO (or what) IS COMMON?
Common is a membership-based housing service with properties in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, DC.
WHAT'S THEIR MISSION / VALUE PROPOSITION?
To provide the best aspects of co-living (i.e. companionship and lower individual “rent”), without the pitfalls people typically encounter with roommates (i.e. messy kitchens and bathrooms, late rent payments, or a sudden move that leaves you without a couch and $500 more in rent to cover next month).
HOW DO THEY IDENTIFY MARKETS AND SITES?
The folks behind Common identify a city with great universities, job opportunities, transit and other key amenities. They find the right location – an existing building or a spot for new construction – and identify the right developer or builder partner to bring the project to fruition. They also partner with an architect and a home furnishings company to deliver a fully finished, livable space. Then, they provide housing on an ongoing basis as a service – collecting membership fees.
WHAT DO THEY PROVIDE SPECIFICALLY? HOW'S IT UNIQUE?
A fully-outfitted, well-designed, well-maintained, move-in ready home.
Common offers Millennials (and others) a home that’s outfitted just as well, if not better than what their upper middle-class parents provided. More specifically, Common provides:
High-end, fully furnished common areas – brand names including Restoration Hardware and West Elm
High-end kitchens, completely stocked with dishes, pots and pans, and the like, as well as essentials like basic cleaning supplies and kitchen pantry items
Private bedrooms outfitted with beds, pillows and nightstands
Free high-speed WiFi, cable and onsite laundry
Weekly cleaning service for shared spaces, including bathrooms
Maintenance services within 24 hours
Monthly living expenses are $500 less than a comparable studio apartment, and there are no broker fees. Residents also save thousands of dollars in upfront costs on furnishings and supplies for the kitchen and living room and any further costs they’d incur to move those items to their next home.
Co-living can take ease some of the loneliness and fear some people experience when moving somewhere new -- particularly a big city. Common also connects its members within each city and across the country through an app called Slack, creating a bigger, built-in network of friends.
A Common resident has the flexibility to move from one Common property to an open spot in another Common location with as little as two weeks’ notice. That makes moving from NYC to Chicago for school or work even easier – no house hunting, double rent to pay, apartment to sublet, or furniture to move.
Common is just one example of how housing models are changing and adapting to meet the needs of evolving households and consumer preferences. Is membership a new business model for you? Maybe, maybe not. At the very least, you need to be aware of who they are, and you may want to think about Common and how you could apply some of their best practices when planning your next community.
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