Co-living is a trailblazing concept that has been making the headlines in the property world in recent years. While relatively unheard of amongst Malaysians, it is a well and alive concept that is widely practiced abroad. In fact, the concept is gaining traction amongst the digital nomad/international community in Malaysia as an alternative lifestyle and it is only a matter of time before more Malaysians latch on to the trend too.
Co-working to co-living
We’re sure you’ve heard of the word co-working spaces. Much like its name suggests, aco-working space is an arrangement in which professionals of different backgrounds and fields, often unrelated, work in one common space(s). Doing so allows them to cut down on extra expenditures, like business costs, utilities and rentals to name a few. This is particularly useful for young entrepreneurs or startups who have just got their head start and prefer remaining mobile from the get-go.
Now take that concept and turn it into a living space, and you’ll have co-living in its place. Co-living is basically an evolution of co-working, wherein professionals not only come together to work in one common area, but they live, dine and unwind in the same place too. Put simply, you share your living space with a group of like-minded individuals.
Co-living spaces were born out of the need to cater to professionals who sought a living space that offers a flexible yet simplistic way of living, emphasis on flexibility. By that, we mean people who are strictly interested in renting a space to live and nothing more. It also means having the option to up-and-leave whenever and wherever you want, with no additional caveats.
More importantly, it is the answer to the prayers of young professionals who are struggling to save up and plan for their future amidst rising living costs. As living costs rise, so too have their priorities shifted. These days, many adopt a prudent mindset to mitigate their financial losses. The general idea is to hustle diligently in their early 20-30s, and attempt to minimize their expenditures in whichever way they can in order to achieve their life goals.
In the case of a co-living space, this means not having to pay buttloads of money like you typically would in a conventional rental model or any other extra shenanigans that come along with the unit.
Is it rental?
But wait a minute… A place where you share a majority of your living space with a group of strangers, isn’t that essentially the same as renting a home? Yes and no. Technically, both co-living and rental share the same concept one and the same. At least in the bigger picture.
Yet dig a little deeper and you will find that both co-living and rental living spaces fundamentally fuels a different purpose, and it is the little grace notes within these two separate establishments that provides them their unique identity. It gives a sense of community.
A place to network
Diversity, community, and centricity are perhaps the best words to sum up the ideologies of co-living spaces. At its very core, co-living spaces are designed to connect a group of individuals, both local and international for professional reasons. In other words, it is a networking place first, and a living place second.
Everything that you do here is motivated by the desire to connect with professionals of a similar or different industry. As people come together under the same roof to work, it’s only natural for a train of thoughts to fly and spark an exchange of ideas gradually.
From there, the exchanges turn into a learning experience that leads you to a plethora of opportunities and a richer list of individuals, enabling you to widen your network and hopefully launch your career to greater heights.
As all that is happening, the session is also bringing together a group of individuals of similar interest and goals to explore a potential business opportunity. This serves as an effective gateway to build a professional community that is self-sustaining, ever-evolving and ever-inclusive without having the need for a forced interaction.
In a nutshell, you could say that co-living spaces are a high-end place to network and the people behind the concept take pride in its inception. There is no shame in that, as there are individuals who would pay to socialize for the sake of their profession.
Of course, co-living spaces aren’t just about networking. After all, it is a living space, which means it needs to come with its own facilities, amenities and main attraction. Here are some of the fun things that you will get to do if you happen to be living in a co-living space.
Co-living spaces are no stranger to weekly get-togethers. Since these places often see an influx of people come and go, the management frequently holds them to welcome and introduce its newcomers to the residing community. This allows all parties to socialize and interact with one another, either for leisure or business purposes.
A myriad of leisurely activities
Apart from the weekly get-togethers, activities that cater to a wide range of crowds and interests are often held in co-living spaces, mostly by its residents. Most co-living spaces boast the same broad range of facilities that you would find in a contemporary apartment i.e. gyms, sky deck and a common area. That said, certain co-living spaces boast fancier facilities like an entertainment zone(PS4 lounge) or a kitchen/dining area for residents to host their personal events.
The idea of entertainment and fun in a co-living space simply boils down to the residents’ creativity. The adage “If you can dream it, you can do it” is an apt way to describe activities in a co-living space. Residents can come up with their own activities to unwind and destress without having to wait for the management to host events on everyone’s behalf.
In a nutshell, one can surmise that a co-living space is another word for “dormitories for grownups” minus the usual rules and curfew that come along with one.
Differences of co-living space and rental
We drew a quick parallel between a co-living space and your typical rental model above. A co-living space is a platform for networking purposes. Meanwhile, a run-of-the-mill rental home is simply a residential place and nothing more.
That said, the two fundamentally share the same concept – Sharing your space with a group of strangers. So what are the subtle differences that define a co-living space then? Here are some that set the record straight.
The first thing you should know about co-living spaces is their one-bill approach towards rental. Unlike a rented home that comes with the additional costs in separate bills, co-living spaces usually bundle all miscellaneous expenses into one and include it within the rental fee.
Having a one-bill approach is advantageous for two reasons.
You don’t have to fuss nor keep track of the additional costs that you incur monthly, which means less hassle
Your rent and miscellaneous costs are standardized and will remain the same throughout your stay. This also means that your costs will not fluctuate and subjected to any unreasonable hikes
The second point is particularly important as individuals renting a home/living space under a conventional model will often face issues of random price hikes from their landlords, i.e., rental fees, utilities or maintenance.
Since co-living spaces are meant to be economical to appeal to young professionals or millennials, any form of changes in prices are subjected to strict control by the management, to ensure that the prices continue to remain favorable and feasible for everybody’s needs.
Fully furnished living spaces
A plus point to living in a co-living space is the place is entirely furnished from top to bottom, and denizens need not worry about forking out additional money for furniture. This includes your room. Generally, most rooms come equipped with Wi-fi, a wardrobe and standard utilities, which means all you have to do is bring along your essentials and settle right in nicely.
And when you’re ready to leave, you may simply bring along what is yours and leave behind that which belongs to the room. It is as simple as a plug n’ play device, only for properties.
Absence of a landlord
You could argue that the management that runs the place is the landlord, but both parties are vastly different from one another. A management is strictly tasked with upkeeping the place and ensuring everything is running in tip-top condition.
A landlord however, does more than just run the place. At times, they may live under the same roof as you, which may make things awkward for the tenant and landlord. Some would even go as far as to impose unnecessary rules that on the tenants. Other times,they may be evil people out to make your renting experiences a living hell.
Obviously, we’re only talking about worst case scenarios, and not all landlords hellish like that. Our point is, the absence of a landlord means there’s no need for tenants to pander to them, nor do they have to live in constant fear of ever wondering if their landlords are out to get them.
With a management, you can expect things to stay professional and transparent, always. Rules under a management are also more fluid and lenient. As long as you learn to maintain your co-living space in good conditions and abide by the rules set for the general public, you’re good to go.
A co-living space is almost always situated in the heart of the city. City centres and expensive cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, San Francisco are some of the major cities that witness skyrocketed housing costs. If that isn’t the case, they’re usually situated on the fringes of the city, which means the residents are a stone’s throw away from any major lifestyle hubs at worst.
This also equates to access to all forms of public transportations, local eateries, one’s workplace and major health care facilities to name a few. In summary, everything is within reach.
This isn’t the case with conventional rented homes, as individuals may have to spend a painstaking few months locating a home that is located in central areas. Then, they have to factor in the budget and get in line to rent their place of dreams. The process is extremely dragged out and an unnecessary hassle. Furthermore, not all ideal homes are necessarily located in the heart of the city, which makes renting a place in a centralized location a tricky affair.
Our final point under this section is flexibility.
Flexibility in this sense refers to the contractual obligations that come along with renting a space. Traditional rental models require tenants to sign a lease of 11-12 months and pay 2-3 months of deposit upfront to secure the place.
If tenants find themselves terminating their tenancy prematurely, they risk losing their deposit as a result of a premature termination. In some other cases, they are forced to locate a replacement before their tenancy ends.
None of that applies to co-living spaces. And, aside from having a one-bill approach and the freedom to up-and-leave, certain co-living spaces such asCo-Living @ Damai Residence allows tenants to choose their room size.
Examples of rooms offered by Co-Living @ Damai Residence. Prices listed within are as of 2020. Picture courtesy of Co-Living @ Damai Residence
Pros and cons
We’ve talked extensively about how a co-living space might differ from a traditional rented space. Let’s take a brief look at the pros and cons that come with living in a co-living space.
Constant social engagement
Extroverts will thrive in a co-living space. With people arriving in and out daily to settle down at a co-living space, extroverts may find themselves face-to-face with an endless pool of people to befriend and mingle with. The saying, the more you socialize the wider your network will be is a fitting description for them.
This isn’t to say that introverts will have a hard time fitting in, but extroverts will undoubtedly feel right at home here, as they are constantly stimulated on a social level. Either way, people who find themselves eager to socialize and befriend others will fit in just fine.
A highly international and diverse community
Co-living spaces see many international talents and individuals flocking over to the place to stay, so it comes as no surprise that local professionals looking to expose themselves to the international scene would find co-living spaces an attractive spot to be at too.
In fact, the benefit also extends to the elderly living in a co-living space. Astudy in India found that elderlies who live in co-living spaces have an easier time coping with loneliness, anxiety attacks and elevated health risks, owing to their ability to seek help from the community immediately should any urgent matters arise.
Lack of privacy
A shared living space naturally means you’ll be forced to share your favorite hangout spots with everyone else, from the communal area to the entertainment zone and even the study area.
This might be a dealbreaker for individuals who seek more a traditional living space and desire their own privacy. With a good old fashioned rented home, you could still feel a sense of “ownership” to your space, as there are lesser people under the same roof to “compete” for a spot. Plus, some housemates prefer keeping to their own and rarely socialize with one another unless necessary, making things all the more bearable.
A co-living space is the complete opposite of that. You will find yourself constantly socializing with people one way or the other, and there may be times where you might even feel as if your personal spot is “threatened” by the presence of a stranger.
What more, residents in a co-living space have to put up with sharing certain common amenities with the rest, take a bathroom for example, which may further put some people off.
Alas, the only privacy that you’ll have when it comes to sharing a co-living space is in your room, and sometimes it takes a modicum of skill to be able to live with a bunch of complete strangers, however familial they may be.
There are certainly people who live in co-living spaces long-term, though they are mostly singles. For most parts, however, most who live in them tend to move on from the place after a period of time, either to relocate elsewhere or for personal reasons such as starting a family or getting their own place.
The purpose of a co-living space is to cater to professionals who prefer remaining on the go, this includes remote workers or digital nomads and by extension of that, the international/expat community.
Put simply, there will come a time where the people you know within your immediate social circle will leave the nest, and you’ll be forced to befriend new individuals and foster new connections. Plus, a co-living space is not an ideal place to start a family, given the lack of privacy.
That said, if you can look past the drag of having to watch people come and go and fostering new connections all over again, and you are extremely certain about committing yourself to a co-living space for life, this would hardly be an obstacle.
Yes, we did mention that co-living spaces generally have more fluid and lenient rules. That still holds true, though there are some other extra rules that you will have to abide by throughout your stay.
For starters, your shared facilities may be subjected to a by-booking basis only. Meaning if you’re looking to access a certain facility, say the entertainment zone or the meeting room, you may have to book these facilities in advance to ensure you get them. This is done with the intention to maintain fairness among its residents.
Furthermore, those living at a co-living space are expected to be considerate towards the other members living under the same roof. Simple things like keeping your noise down after 11PM to ensuring the common refrigerator or kitchenware remains halal in respect to your Muslim brethren might feel restrictive for some of us.
Some of these rules may be common yet unspoken knowledge, some may be specified and stated within the rules. The lines are further blurred when you are living with an international community, which can create a conflict of culture at times.
The key thing to note about the pros and cons of living in a co-living space is to realize that they are not hard-and-fast rules. And their benefits are more psychological than objective.
At the end of the day, it’s important for us to remember that it takes a modicum of skill to live under the same roof with strangers, even more so for co-living spaces.
Co-living spaces are all about the human experiences and less so about the amenities or facilities. If your interest lies in forming meaningful connections and finding a sense of belongingness in a group of strangers, a co-living space can easily be an attractive accommodation, and perhaps one whose cons are worth compromising on.
Co-living spaces in Malaysia
Co-living spaces is still a relatively green and infant concept in Malaysia that only appeals to younger professionals and millennials currently. However, a number of businesses have already caught wind of the rising trend and are capitalizing on its business model to market it on a level that would appeal to a bigger crowd.
The most well-known co-living space in Malaysia is the aforementioned Damai Residence, though there are a few other names out there that you can consider looking into.
Co-living spaces are a boon for people looking to network and seek an alternative lifestyle compared to your traditional renting model. Given enough time and patience to let the concept grow, perhaps it will find its own niche within the Malaysian property market.
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