we set up Elysian House and logistics/applications in 3 days,
interviewed people and went through applications in 14 days,
and set up the house/prepared for move-in with the house members in 14 days.
In total, it took Trustin, my co-organizer, and I one month to get the house place.
Where to Start?
Before you begin looking at houses and finding housemates, it’s important for you to know what you want out of the experience.
Where/what city do you want to host a house in?
When do you want to host the house? And for how long?
What type of people do you want to live with? And how many?
How much time & effort on the side or full-time do you have to dedicate to the house?
Do you have someone to co-host/want a co-organizer? (highly recommend you to have one, best case scenario is one guy & one girl if you want a co-ed house)
Why do you want to start a house? What benefit are you hoping for?
This is probably one of the more important questions. As an organizer, it’s important to keep your own north star and know what exactly you hope to get out of this experience. Bringing people together requires a common goal or theme for everyone to unite around.
Examples could be: “I’m moving to a new city and want to build a community of like-minded people around me so we can explore and get to know the community here better” or “I want to build a brand for web3 community that partners with various companies and serves as the IRL center of gravity for events & community”
Deciding on Timeframe
Now that you have a sense of what you want out of this house & are ready to start looking, one of the most frequent question I get asked is, which comes first, the house itself or the people? If I have some people in mind for the house, should I work around people’s schedules to book the house?
This can depend on your risk tolerance (put the money down first and then find people) or the specific requirements of the house (some houses require knowing every single person in order to sign the lease).
If you are in a situation to be able to, I would recommend booking the house and securing it for the dates that you want first and have people work around your schedule. (I personally had to pool a lot of my own savings together to the put the down payment for the rental, and then charged everyone that joined eventually back the money). Do what makes the most sense for you as the organizer, because at the end of the day you have control over how the house will be operated.
Long-term houses (a few months+) typically may take longer to find people for, as people are either locked into leases already, not ready to leave for an extended period of time, or unable to commit to a specific location for that long. Not to fret, you can still find tons of people that are looking to colive for an entire season or sign a lease with other friends and like-minded folks.
I do prefer longer term houses as the people that come are more committed, can follow their routines more, and are more conducive to deeper relationships.
I’ve also seen a lot of houses that spin out around major tech conferences or eventful weeks. These coliving houses are typically set up for a short time frame (<1 week) and for the purpose of finding temporary housing in a new city and to be with people that are also attending the conference.
Example: See Miami Hack Week and the sponsored houses that were set up
NOTE: it’s also seasonal, during the summer you’ll probably see higher demand as college students are on break & people are more likely to uproot their routine and try something new during the summer times. People tend to settle down more in the Winters and Springs.
City & Real Estate Search
Most coliving spots spin out of major cities & tech hubs like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Austin, or Bostonwhere housing costs coming in can be sky-high. These are also cities in high-demand where people want to move there or find housing because their work requires them to be there.
Once you figure out what city you want to be in, you can start looking at properties and houses to stay in. There are two ways that you can go: short-term rental (few weeks - few months) or a traditional lease (at least a 12 month commitment).
Short Term Rental
Easier to find and attract applicants
People are more willing and excited to try new cities and be more social in smaller time frames
Places typically come furnished already
Don’t have to go through longer processes of lease agreements, background check, renter’s insurance, etc.
In case the property or people turn out differently than expected, you can exit the situation much easier.
You have to move in & out or less stability
Less ownership of space or furniture
Can sometimes be hard to find a good short-term setup
Paying a premium to be able to have that flexibility
Access to a lot more properties and options
Stability in staying in one location and not moving around
Opportunity to make the space yours/designed the way you want
You might be able to have a real estate agent or broker help you with the search
More flexibility with how you use the space (less rules from Airbnb to follow, especially with parties and gatherings)
Have to go through more processes to get the place
Not everyone may want to commit for an entire year
In the case that things don’t turn out as expected, you may be stuck
. Always take caution when you’re looking to make sure it’s not a scam, but point being there are plenty of sites to find available property.
When looking at properties, some things to look out for that are optimal for coliving:
Quality Communal Areas 💯 - large & cozy for hangouts means that people are likely to chill and spend time there with others in the house, good lighting/natural light in the house also affects how much people want to stay at home
Reliable Work Space & WiFi - good table/seating, ample area for people to do their work & take calls, and make sure to confirm with the host through a speed test to guarantee that the WiFi is up to the standard of what they say it is.
Number of Bathrooms - I’ve been in houses where 10+ people share 1 bathroom and it wasn’t a terrible situation, but if possible, optimize for more bathrooms. Especially if your house is co-ed, it can be helpful to separate a girls-only bathroom and guys-only bathroom.
Quality Bedrooms and Number of Beds - Be cautious with the “# of Guests” count on Airbnb - sometimes hosts will up the number by saying more people can fit in a house than comfortably so (i.e. if there’s a couch that’s considered one guest, or a Queen bed may be counted as two guests). You want to look at the number of beds and bedrooms more so. Shared beds are okay if it’s not a super long time period, I would definitely recommend looking for private rooms for longer-term leases.
Note: When there are private rooms, people are more likely to stay in their own rooms for better working set-up or personal time. With shared rooms, people are more likely to come out and spend time in the communal area. People are more likely to gravitate towards private rooms, but some are also okay with shared rooms for the community-sense.
This will be addressed further in this page: note that when you are figuring out pricing and rent costs per person, you should be breaking it down based on per bedroom, rather than an equal split of the Airbnb payment per person.
Now that you have the property that you’d like to have for your house, let’s talk about finances and what that would look like.
For the organizer end, your payments might come in the form of:
Property Down Payment (or the cost of one month’s rent due at booking)
Consequential rent payments for the entire house (i.e. billed monthly, rent cost for all X bedrooms)
For the attendee, you can be charging:
A Security Deposit to confirm their spot (either a part of their first month’s rent, or an added expense)
Weekly/Monthly Rent (depending on how long the house goes)
How do I put money down for the house to secure it? As an organizer, I think financing is one of the areas of organizing that could use the most help. Especially as Gen Z are more likely to be coliving, we don’t have the large amount of capital to just put down for a house. Some down payments can range $5K to $20K or even higher upon booking, and even more tricky if you haven’t confirmed a majority of the people to help you put some of that money down.
I was lucky enough to be able to pool together my savings and my co-organizer also helped chip in money in the beginning so that we were able to put money down and confirm the house without taking out a loan or seeking external help. You can also try chatting with the host or property manager to see if there’s flexibility in payments and see what you two can work out.
How do I figure out rent price per person from the grand total? When breaking down the cost of the house per member, you always want to do it by bedroom (not guest count) since some bedrooms may be nicer than others (larger, private bathroom, etc.).
Example: Let’s say your total rent for one month for 6 people in a 5 bedroom is 10K. The rent would not be $1,667 per person (10K/6 people) since that’s not equal. I would break down 10K/5 bedrooms, which is $2K per room. Treat that as your average and distribute per bedroom based on the quality. I would do something like this:
Bedroom 1 - King = $2.3K
Bedroom 2 - Queen = $1.9K
Bedroom 3 - Queen = $1.9K
Bedroom 4 - Queen = $1.9K
Bedroom 5 - Two Fulls = $1K x 2
Notice that the King is $400 more than the Queens, all three Queens are the same price, and lastly, the shared room with two beds are heavily discounted. Determining price is based on your best judgement and will vary based on the qualities and differences per bedroom.
What if guests want to stay? My take on guests is that it’s alright if they are a friend of any of the house members and just need a place to crash, on the couch or in the same room as the house member. However, if it’s more than 3 days, it could become a significant use of the house’s shared amenities and spaces.
Finding People to Join Your House
When I was organizing my first house, I really didn’t think that a lot of people would be down to commit to coliving. But truth is, as long as you have a good setup & wide top of funnel, there are a ton of people that would be interested and can become great housemates to have (and for your exact time frame & location).
Once you have figured out the general sense of your house and considered the above housing/real estate options, here’s how you get people applying:
You can copy the Coda document that serves as a landing page for all key information about the house, as well as a native application form in the page to capture answers.
Why? This way you don’t have to answer every question that comes your way and that you can just send this link to anyone so they have a better idea of your house.
Application questions help with screening candidates so you know who you want to interview and move forward (some people did not move past the application since we knew from their answers they were not a good fit, saves you time).
You want to go for a large top of funnel. After identifying who you want living in your house, think about where you can reach a large majority of them and where they intake information online (or in person).
Especially if you’re interested in having a co-ed house, girls may be more difficult to get to apply and join the house (just from my experiences and what I’ve seen with co-ed tech living) so in my experience it’s always been helpful to get as many applications as possible. Elysian House ended up getting around 100 applications in 2 weeks for 6 open spots.
Key Components of Reaching a Large Top of Funnel:
Have a “hit” list of relevant communities to post in and share the word with (i.e. Slack communities relevant to the type of people you want, Telegram groups, Facebook Groups, Newsletters, etc.) - have a quick 1-2 sentence blurb ready to share as well as the landing page link.
Have friends or people in your network & industry forward to the blurb and link to people they know that may be interested, utilize other’s networks to reach the people that would be interested in your house.
Lastly, this is the method I swear by as tech folks are largely on Twitter, but tweet about it! This platform is best engineered for growth and reaching people that you never would have met IRL.
This link can't be embedded.
How to get your tweet popping:
Tweet in the AM and on a weekday (I find that M-T around 10/11 am works best)
Have a group of 5-6 friends on hand to engage with the tweet right when you tweet it
Optimize by asking for comments and retweets. Twitter favors that the most and will share that with more and more people.
Reply to every comment and keep the interactions in the comments on the tweet going throughout the day
Don’t include links in your tweet (you can put any links in the second following tweet if needed)
Answering Questions & FAQ
Once your house is out in the world and seen, people will likely come to you with clarification questions. Before interviewing people, there may be a good amount of back and forth. Be sure to know and align with your co-organizer on specific details. Here are some frequently asked questions that I’ve gotten:
What’s the gender breakdown of the house?
Can I only join the house for a part of the timeframe if I can’t make the whole thing?
Can I bring my car to the house/will there be parking?
Are pets allowed in the house?
If I have a significant other, can they also join me and share a room?
What’s the process to join the house?
Again, all houses are unique and can vary, it all comes down to what your ideal case scenario & any limitations from the property may be.
How to Interview Candidates & Find Who’s Right
There’s no cookie-cutter mold for who the right housemate/member for a coliving house. Going back to the previous question of what type of people do you want to live with, it comes down to who you think you would get along the best with. You obviously can’t get the full picture of someone in a 15-30 minute interview, but you can get a pretty decent vibe check.
I like to structure my interviews with two rounds - one call with me and another call with my co-organizer. Bonus points if they can be calls with two genders if it’s a co-ed house. I find that it helps to get two 1:1 interactions to get a better perspective on a candidate. It’s harder for someone to be their truer self on a group call that’s 2:1 and people vibe differently with different people.
Delegate and assign each person that’s organizing one intro call. Then, if they think that person is decent to be interviewed by the next person, then they’ll pass it on. I also find that not talking in between rounds of interviews is best to keep everything unbiased. Then I like to huddle and sync with my co-organizer to discuss the candidate.
The actual interview can be generally conversational. Again, it’s a vibe check if you like the person and if you would enjoy living with them. Once you start to sign on more members to the house and have them confirmed, you can also start to think about how this applicant would mesh with the larger group.
A few questions to guide the conversation:
What do you currently do/what keeps you busy?
What got you interested in coliving?
Have you lived in a coliving house before?
What do you hope to get out of coliving?
Any questions for me?
Some things that I like to look for in people are:
Do they feel like they’re community-first?
How go-with-the-flow are they? Open-ness to new experiences?
How busy are they going to be? (nothing wrong with being extremely busy or out to the office frequently, but it can affect the group if one or more people are consistently not showing up for the community as it sets the standard for being absent from the group.
Again this can be unique and case-by-case, just some general things I like to keep in mind while conducting interviews! At the end of the day, you want to take in people that you are genuinely excited about (if it’s not a hell yes then it’s a no). Also be sure to take notes with every call, especially if you’re taking a lot of them — they can start to blend together really quickly!
Accepting People to the House
I briefly wanted to cover this section of how to accept people to your house simply because this step can benefit with a lot of clarity with expectations and setup. Sometimes, people can interview and end up not being able to make it or you just want to have certain items in place to ensure you’re not screwed over as an organizer!
To accept this offer, please Venmo @handle $500 as a security deposit. This is to formally commit to your spot (non-refundable if you need to pull out) and will go towards your first month of rent, so it’s not an additional expense.
We give people 48 hours to confirm their spot by sending in this deposit. We frame it as part of the rent, although you can also do a deposit that gets returned in the full amount after the house under the condition that all goes well (i.e. you clean up after yourself, no damage or disruption, etc.). This is to ensure that no one pulls out last-minute and leaves you with an open spot, or that you have some financial backing in this situation.
Coliving Expectation Document
This is a nitty-gritty document that we wrote out covering most FAQ for the how the actual house would operate and what members could expect from the day-to-day. It covers anything from how grocery and food would work to how expenses were handled. The more clear and detailed you can be, the better assurance you can provide to your members.]
I like to send this before they join the house when they get accepted so they have ample time to read through and understand what to expect, rather than coming in blind and having expectations misaligned.
Note: We have a line in our expectations document stating that the organizers are not liable for anything that happens in the house, as well as reserves the sole right to terminate anyone’s lease or stay at the house. I would recommend having this line to ensure that (if the situation arises, hopefully not) any participating members understands who the final decision makers are.
Have all room assignments done before people arrive and the house kicks off. It’s better to do that than to leave it up to whoever shows up first to the house on the day of to claim whichever bed/room.
In the acceptance email, I send out a Google Form to let people rank their preferences as well as a Google Drive folder with all photos, videos, and files of the house to give them plenty of information to go off of.
Once you have everyone’s choices down, try to sort them in the way where everyone gets at least their top 1-3 choices. Keep in mind also grouping of genders on a certain floor/area of the house and how the bathrooms will be split. While we can try to make everyone happy with their first choice, compromises may have to be made.
Just helpful to be aware of when people are flying in/coming into the house and their travel arrangements.
(optional) Twitter & Social Media
People are the most excited when they get accepted and commit to the house, so have them share that online with social media to get the word out there. Not required but a great touch to get the momentum on the house on all ends moving forward!
Setting Up the House
In the time leading up to the house after accepting your members, a few things to do in advance that can ensure your house is off to a great start!