How is coliving faring during the COVID19 crisis? It depends on where you are.
- Forbes Brazil hosted an opinion piece questioning whether coliving companies could survive COVID19 (Can Co-Living Survive the Pandemic).
- In Europe, Sifted also questioned the resilience of the coliving business model and the long term attractiveness of city living (Has coronavirus doomed coliving?)
- In Singapore, The Business Times had a much more optimistic article Co-living operators upbeat as they look to demand from new segments.
To complement the anecdotal evidence from articles, we looked at some quantitative indicators of occupancy with operators in major coliving markets (in Singapore, India, Europe, Brazil, United States).
In The Business Times article, a few operators were talking about how well things were going through COVID19. Out of the four operators mentioned in the article, only Cove Coliving shows clearly the total inventory on their website. There are 40 rooms available immediately (on July 20th, plus 15 available within a month and 191 booked), so the vacancy rate is 16%. Not horrible, but considering the thin margins of coliving, probably not a sustainable rate (especially considering that Singapore it’s still mostly on a master lease model, where the coliving operator is on the hook for the rent regardless of occupancy).
Another company mentioned in the article, Hmlet, besides having ample availability on its website, shows signs of price pressure. It has a new feature called “Make us an offer” where anyone interested in a room with them can ask for a lower price than the listed one.
The fact that in Singapore there are currently 32 active coliving operators, and that the majority of them serves the same young professional expat market, probably has something to do with the price pressure.
COVID19 has hit India coliving operators particularly badly due to the fact that a large share of the coliving users are from rural areas and have now returned to their homes out of the cities. They are doing this to work from home or to continue their studies online. This has accelerated the move away from master lease agreements, towards property management type of deals, where the landlords receive a part of the revenue generated by the coliving operators on their properties.
Compared to other places, India has shown some of the most attractive rental yields for coliving properties, which will likely result in coliving operators and landlords finding a solution to the current operational challenges brought by COVID19.
A quick look across a few countries in Europe paint a bleak picture of how much coliving operators are suffering:
- In Germany, Homefully shows a bit of decline, but not too bad. As of July 27, their vacancy stood at 10% for Berlin, 15% for Frankfurt and 15% for Munich.
- In France, Chez Nestor has 152 rooms in Paris, of which 41 available; and 418 rooms in Lyon, of which 39 available (on July 29th), for a respective vacancy rate of 27% and 9%.
- In Spain, inedit shows 82 rooms in Barcelona, of which 31 available (on July 29th), for a vacancy rate of 38%.
- In the UK, the bulk of coliving happens in buildings–where it’s hard to judge vacancy with an outside-in look. Urbanshared, one of the few operators displaying availability on their website, shows 6 homes with rooms available (on July 29) out of 26 homes managed; the houses look fairly big, 4-5 bedrooms or even more, so the current vacancy rate looks very healthy.
Maybe not a “major” coliving market, however, since Forbes Brazil published one of the articles that gave us the inspiration for this, we decided to look for the coliving operator managed by the author of that article, Yuka, showed only 5 rooms with immediate availability, out of 22 apartments (and probably 80 rooms or so), for a quasi-healthy vacancy rate of 5-6% (on July 27).
More realistic and somber the situation in North America, with Ollie talking about payment plans for their members and Bungalow listing 103 homes in the Bay Area with an approx 36% vacancy rate, 80 homes in the NYC area with an approx 50% vacancy, on June 26. Bungalow used to boast of a 98% occupancy rate in their last funding round at the end 2019. Both cities are very very far from 98% occupancy.
The NYC area, not only was an early epicenter for COVID19 in the U.S., but it has also seen the entrance of a few global coliving operators, including The Collective, Node Living, Quarters, and Venn, and it’s also the theatre for an ongoing dispute between a local developer and Quarters, over a building which Quarters was supposed to take over last November.
On the other coast, things are not much better. The RollingStone reported of Haven, a Los Angeles-based coliving space, having 40 residents left in its home for 80.
- If you have any stories related to how COVID19 impacts coliving that you would like to share, you can contact us at email@example.com.
- This blog post was written in July 2020 and we looked at coliving operators on different dates.