People often ask me what the difference is between running an HMO and operating a co-living shared house. It’s easy for me to answer this question. A co-living space is created with building a community in mind and customer service at its heart. It’s not just a bedroom and some shared living space. It’s about much more than accommodation alone.
There’s a lot to be said for taking this approach, on both a personal and a professional level. It’s highly likely that my children will be living in shared accommodation at some point when they’re older. When I was looking into property investment, I was drawn to HMOs and accommodation for young professionals. Looking around at what was available in my neck of the woods, SW London, I was disappointed by what I saw. There were a lot of properties with tired, uninspiring décor, with little welcoming communal space. I wouldn’t want my kids to call somewhere like that home and I wanted to create something better. Having done my research, I mulled over what I had seen and what the perfect young professional home should look like. By this time, I had become aware of the term co-living and loved the concept. At that point, I created UrbanShared’s co-living manifesto – 5 goals our service must meet.
The UrbanShared Manifesto
There is a common thread to all of the aims in our manifesto. It’s about giving our customers excellent customer service and making them happy. Not only does this make me feel content, because I know that we are affecting young people in a positive way, but it makes commercial sense. In an uncertain market, it pays to stand out – as well as being ethical.
I became interested in co-living because I have children who, in the not too distant future, will most likely be living in a shared house. Looking at what was currently available in South West London (my neck of the woods) – and the high rent being charged – spurred me on to create shared houses of a high standard, with a single monthly payment that includes everything and a specific focus on community. My goal is to create friendly, shared homes that I would be delighted for my children to live in. Young people flock to London, often after graduation from university, not knowing a soul. Or knowing people, but finding that they live on the opposite side of the city and might as well be in anothercity when you take transport times into consideration! It must be a daunting prospect.
My company, UrbanShared, seeks to foster a community in our properties, making them more welcoming for young people moving to the big city, perhaps even leaving the parental home for the first time. There are a few ways in which we go about building a sense of community in our properties.
Firstly, through the UrbanShared Connected app. Among other things, this contains a messaging tool, through which housemates can communicate with each other and us. We always introduce new housemates to the existing group, just before they move in, so that the other housemates can welcome them and have a chat before they then meet in person.
Secondly, we place a great emphasis on taking on properties with welcoming and spacious communal areas. We would never cut a reception room in half so to create an extra bedroom and the expense of sensible communal space.
Thirdly, we promote UrbanShared events (we've only had a couple but planning on more). We believe this brings housemates together and making them feel part of a special club. Housemates can also move to other UrbanShared properties, quickly and easily, using the app, so it really is like being a member of a club. Lastly, housemates can order in additional services for things like a chef for the night, or afternoon tea for everyone in the house. This encourages people living in the property to spend time having fun together.
It’s all very well for me to say all this, but I know for a fact that the focus on community has a great impact on our customers, because they tell us so. Going back to thinking about my drivers for starting UrbanShared, creating community-focused shared houses that I would be happy for my own children to live in, I do feel that I am accomplishing that goal. It gives me great satisfaction to know that through UrbanShared, I am not just providing young people with a house, but with a home.