Business & Real Estate

‘Shared living’: More people moving in with strangers

For Rob Buscemi, 32, the price was right for living with a total stranger.

At $1,340 a month, Buscemi, a mortgage broker, rents his own bedroom but shares the rest of his apartment in downtown Miami with an accountant, a woman who uses a shared work space in the same building for her business.

Buscemi moved two months ago to X-Miami, where each apartment unit can house two to three people, with rents starting at $1,300 a month. Residents can rent new apartments furnished or unfurnished. People who want to live alone can expect rents to start at $1,600.

"We have a full gym and a pool deck and good transportation nearby," Buscemi said. "The price and the amenities I get far outweigh living with a roommate." It also beats the commute from his former home in Boca Raton to Miami-Dade County, which he called "brutal."

But is co-living simply an extension of messy dorm or frat house living? When that sirloin in the fridge mysteriously disappears, who do you call? And if the roommate turns out to be jerk or a thug, are you stuck?

Property Markets Group, which operates X Miami and has just topped off a tower like it called X Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale, says clearly written rules of the road are designed to avoid the chaos of unruly behavior. The building environment, it says, attracts people who truly are adults.

Between upscale living and attractive pricing, the company is betting that more people like Buscemi will opt for the co-living lifestyle, which is starting to take hold nationally and overseas, developers and brokers say.

::

Besides PMG's projects in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, others are up and running or planned in New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. PMG also is starting construction on another co-living rental tower near X-Miami, a 49-story, 714-unit building at 400 Biscayne Blvd., and has a second tower on the drawing board next to the one it intends to open next year on Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront.

"The early indicators are great, but we need a larger sample size," said Ryan Shear, managing director of PMG in Miami. Asked what tenants are seeking, he replied, "I think it's price at the end of the day."

Rents in South Florida seem to prove his point.

The average rental price in May was $1,787 in Palm Beach County, $1,914 in Broward County and $1,940 in Miami-Dade County, according to Reinhold P. Wolff Economic Research in Oakland Park. The month before, Broward led the state with an average of $1,900, according to a national survey conducted by Rent Cafe.

Evan Snow, co-founder of Art Fort Lauderdale, said he is thinking about leaving a three-bedroom apartment in Flagler Village and moving into X Las Olas when it opens. The shared living space offers better prices than what he is paying now.

"I'm a big fan of co-working and have become a fan of co-living from what I've seen in New York City," he said.

Single, childless and in his early 30s, Snow said he "can get along with pretty much anybody. I'm on the go. The concept lends itself well with my situation."

::

PMG says it won't lease a bedroom to anyone unless they pass standard criminal, income and credit checks. "Everyone signs a code of conduct that outlines basic roommate etiquette," a spokeswoman said. "We facilitate an introductory drink or coffee before move-in to build familiarity before living together."

Incompatible roommates can get a divorce before their leases run out. Those who are unable to live together can move up to two times with 60 days' notice.

Residents can secure their personal belongings by simply locking their bedroom doors.

Only 20% of PMG's buildings are devoted to its so-called "rent-by-bedroom" program, where everyone has a private bathroom. Most are adjacent to their private bedrooms. Residents share the kitchen and dining space. .

The other 80% of the units are mostly studios, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Residents have access to conference rooms, lounge chairs and a fitness studio.

Those renting their own apartments outside the rent-by-bedroom programs can lease the space furnished or unfurnished. All rent-by-bedroom units come fully furnished.

::

Mitash Kripalani, director of investment services for Colliers International, a real estate service firm, said the concept is "growing significantly in popularity."

He said there is demand among people who want to live in downtown areas near their jobs, local transit and points of interest such as museums, sports arenas and local colleges and universities.

Colliers is assisting with a project across from the University of Miami in Coral Gables where students are sharing living quarters. There, a developer has renovated a 24-unit building on South Dixie Highway and converted it into co-living space where the tenants rent by the bedroom and share common areas. Prices start at $1,300 a month.

And a company called the Collective from London plans a 12-story co-living operation in Miami's Wynwood section. Company co-founder Reza Merchant told Forbes he's looking to develop 4,500 co-living apartments in the U.S., United Kingdom and Germany.

One of the pioneers in co-working spaces, WeWork, is starting a WeLive co-living concept in 60 to 70 U.S. markets. Kripalani said South Florida is on the company's expansion list.

According to its website, WeLive offers short- to longer-term living options in New York and Washington, D.C.

"Whether you're a modern-day nomad who is just stopping by or dipping your toes in the city before taking the big leap, WeLive offers flexible terms to suit your unique schedule," the company says. "Our goal is to make sure you feel right at home, no matter how short or long the stay."

"People are open to it," Kripalani said. "They're Ubering. They're co-working. This niche of co-living is here to stay."

  Comments