Discover more from Supernuclear
How to find your first coliving experience
So you’re intrigued by the idea of coliving and think it might be for you. How do you find a good house to stay in?
You could stay at a commercially-run coliving house, which are easy to find. Major ‘providers’ in this space are Selina and Outsite, and a quick google for ‘coliving in X location’ will give you lots of options.
These houses can be a great way of establishing yourself in a new city and will probably have reliable wifi and nice amenities. At the same time, they might be expensive and your fellow residents may not be looking for the same kind of community you are. It’s a bit like finding roommates on Craigslist: you can get lucky, but a lot of times you end up living with people you’re not wild about.
We write about a different flavor of coliving here at Supernuclear: independent, community-organized (rather than organized by a company), and generally a bit more ‘intentional’. The process to join a house might involve more vetting. The people are generally long term residents with a commitment to building a house culture over a long period of time. The community might have a bit more tie to the place it’s located, and a purpose to improve that community.
If this type of house appeals to you, how do you find one?
Start with Google. Many coliving spaces will have a basic web presence and/or an Instagram page. You can usually tell from looking at a house’s website whether they are a commercial property or community-run. Sign up for their mailing list, follow them on social media, and see if you can start to engage with whatever public-facing activity they do.
Check out the various directories of spaces. These are not comprehensive but are a good place to start.
Haight St Commons is a great place to look for communities if you’re in the Bay Area.
Search out values-aligned events. In our experience, community-run coliving spaces tend to be filled with people who care about social justice, building a better world, and living one’s best life. My personal experience with coliving started when I attended an event about the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco, where I met the core people through whom I found the places I’ve lived ever since. If you don’t know of any coliving spaces in your city, try going to events that gather people united by these themes and you might find like-minded people who live in community.
If you can’t find a community-run coliving space where you want to live, consider starting your own! Starting a coliving house doesn’t have to be a multi-year, expensive commitment: you can find a place for a month, or a season. We’ve touched on this subject before in the case studies for Whale House, Ski Cult, and my previous piece on traveling quaranteams. Ephemeral communities are a great way to try out coliving and understand whether this is a way of life you want to invest in further. Gui Perdrix, who wrote The Art of Coliving, also has an excellent post on How we built a coliving space in 14 days and what you can learn from it.
If you do find a house you think might work for you, how do you move in?
Understand it’s going to take time (3+ months). Commercial coliving places will often approve anyone who can afford the rent. Community-led coliving houses care much more about culture fit and, if they’re well established, probably have a lot more people who want to live there than they have capacity. You may need to invest months getting to know a community and waiting for the right room to open up. Most people are part of the wider circle of a community for a while before moving in permanently.
Don’t ask to visit / be shown around. Those of us who live in community are generally hospitable people who enjoy getting to know new folks - but that doesn’t mean we have unlimited time to meet strangers for coffee and a tour of our home life. Instead of asking for a private tour, try to:
Attend events at the house. Many houses will host parties, talks, dinners, or other types of events that they’ll advertise on social media, a mailing list, or through word of mouth. These are a great way to see the house and get to know members of the community in a situation where they’re already committed to hosting.
House dinners as the gateway drug to coliving.
Don’t rely too much on one person. Many houses have a person or small group of people who seem like the main organizer, perhaps the core team that set up the house in the first place. Most people trying to get to know a house zero in on the perceived ‘leader’ - who consequently gets totally overwhelmed. If you’re not having success making a personal connection with the most well known person at the house, try getting to know other long term members of the community.
Consider a short term sublet rather than trying to join full time immediately. The first night I walked onto the Icebreaker, a community I lived in for 2.5 years, I asked how I could move in. One of the members said “try and date us for a bit before you ask to marry us.” (No, this wasn’t an invitation to some kind of polyamorous situation). It’s good for you AND the community to have a bit of a trial period before making a long term commitment to make sure that everyone is going to get along. Many houses will have temporary openings when roommates are traveling. The application/admission process is typically a lot shorter than the vetting you’d go through to be a long term roommate, since the commitment (on both sides) is lower. If you can tolerate the uncertainty that you only have a few months at a house, this can be a great first step in a longer term coliving journey.
If you’re subletting, be as self-sufficient as possible. Long term community members can get tired of onboarding new people and answering the same questions over and over. If there are documents like a house manual or orientation doc, read it first before asking questions.
Contribute! If you’re visiting for an event, help clean up. If you’re subletting, volunteer to organize a closet (closets never stay organized, especially in a group house). Contribution is the currency at any of these places and will immediately ingratiate you with the group.
Build relationships with multiple members of the house. If you’re hoping to join a community, the existing members will probably vote to decide on new members of the house. Oftentimes you’ll end up in a community because you’ve gotten to know one person who ‘opened the door’ for you. Make sure you make other friends so you’ll have more votes when it comes time to decide on whether there’s space for you long term.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a long-term fit the first time. Like any relationship, finding a coliving community that’s right for you may take some trial and error. Communities are complex and finding the right situation for everyone sometimes means there isn’t space for a particular individual - but this doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for coliving, only that you haven’t found the right fit yet.
The coliving communities we want to live in feel like chosen families: we take care of each other through thick and thin, and do our best to help each other live our best lives. We write Supernuclear in hopes that more of you can find the joy we’ve found in living with our friends.
Casa Chironja’s holiday card: from our bizarre family to yours.
Have any tips we missed for getting into coliving? Drop them in the comments below.
Curious about coliving? Find more case studies, how tos, and reflections at Supernuclear: a guide to coliving. Sign up to be notified as future articles are published here:
You can find the directory of the articles we’ve written and plan to write here.