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How to determine if co-living is the right rental option for you

Discuss with your roommates how often you’d like to check-in about the living situation and put those meetings on your calendar. The meetings can be casual discussions to make sure chores are completed, house rules are followed and everyone is satisfied with the arrangement. (iStock)
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Living with roommates isn’t a new idea. However, a new trend in the United States’ most densely populated cities, co-living, is on the rise because of many factors, not the least of which are the increasing costs of student loan debt, high housing costs and the desire to live with other people to defray these common expenses.

Co-living has become increasingly popular because of its cost effectiveness and greater flexibility in cities where rents are high for young professionals. Unlike a traditional roommate arrangement, co-living generally has individual leases instead of one master lease that covers all residents.

Spaces designed for communal living typically include a shared kitchen, living room and community areas, but also include multiple private spaces like a bedroom and a bathroom. Rather than being overseen by traditional property management operators, typically co-living spaces are run by companies that specialize in this housing niche. The convenience, and speed, of opening an app and finding a new place to live is attractive to many.

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The millennial generation tends to focus on experiences, and co-living arrangements facilitate a lifestyle in which residents have more money to spend on the things they want to experience outside the home, rather than larger living spaces or increased privacy.

Although co-living can be a great option for many people, living with others has its challenges. But it doesn’t have to feel like living in a college dorm with a randomly assigned roommate. Follow these tips to feel at home in your new space and ensure a mutually beneficial arrangement for everyone involved while taking advantage of the benefits co-living offers.

Establish rules right off the bat

Co-living units are commonly leased per room, not by the whole apartment. This usually means you’re moving in with strangers, which makes it important to create rules that ensure your living situation is comfortable. Talk to your new roommates about noise and privacy preferences, how pets should be handled and any allergies or smoking habits.

Discuss chore assignments to make sure everyone contributes to keeping the space clean. A big area that’s often overlooked among new roommates is security — what hours of the day should the door be locked? What ground rules should be set for visits from friends and significant others? Ask these questions at the start to establish good communication and ensure you feel safe in your new home.

Have consistent check-in meetings

Discuss with your roommates how often you’d like to check-in about the living situation and put those meetings on your calendar. The meetings can be casual discussions to make sure chores are completed, house rules are followed and everyone is satisfied with the arrangement.

Consistent check-ins also provide time for roommates to voice any problems before they become larger issues that could affect the group. Be sure to establish what action you’ll take if a serious conflict does come up. Many apartment communities have trained customer success teams who can help alleviate disputes, which can be a helpful resource for you.

Share contact information

It’s surprising how often this is overlooked, but make sure you have contact information for all your roommates so you can quickly reach them if a problem arises. A group chat is especially helpful to bring up day-to-day issues or reminders. You should also share emergency contact information — a parent, relative or close friend — in the event that there’s a health or safety emergency with your roommate and you need to notify someone in their life.

Make sure you understand your lease agreement

This goes for any apartment you rent, but it’s especially important in co-living circumstances. The way the lease is drawn up can affect what happens when one of your roommates moves out. Because co-living units are usually leased per room, it’s often the property manager’s job to cover the rent of someone who moves out, but this isn’t always the case and they’ll likely be searching for another person to fill that spot.

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You’ll also want to check how utilities are specified in the lease. Sometimes property managers split utilities among co-living residents instead of charging a lump sum, which means you’ll only have to worry about your portion. Ask your property manager before you sign if this is a possibility.

Be involved in the process

Though your new roommates may be strangers, you can still have a say in your co-living arrangement. Ask your property manager if you can meet your prospective roommates before moving in. Some properties even have mixers where you can meet other potential residents to see if you get along well together. You can also talk to other people in your city, or even at your building, who have co-living experience to get advice about the arrangement. Be sure to ask questions of your property manager ahead of time, as well, so there are no surprises about your new space.

Whether you’re moving to a new city, looking to reduce your monthly rent or just want more flexibility, co-living is a growing trend that certainly merits consideration. These tips will help you have a great start in your new co-living home.

Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, headquartered in Arlington, Va.