The Ultimate Guide to Running and Scaling Thriving Residential Communities — Laying strong foundations for a vibrant residential community (Part 2)
When it comes to coliving, building a thriving community does not depend on having your residences up and running already. In fact, some of the most successful coliving operators started by shaping their community before their even broke grounds. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what you can do as a residential operator to create strong foundations for your community even before you have opened your doors.
(If you missed Part 1 of this chapter, please have a look here.)
This article is part of our ultimate guide to running and scaling residential communities, which we will complete in the following weeks and months.
Our guide is structured into five main parts:
- Chapter 1 — How to lay the right foundations for a vibrant community (part 1 here)
- Chapter 2 — How to build a strong residential community
- Chapter 3 — How to unlock the business value of community
- Chapter 4 — How to measure your Community’s Success
- Chapter 5 — How to secure your competitive advantage with a residential community
This guide is the result of conversations with dozens of operators answering the 50 most burning questions that we sourced from the field. We hope that by making the guide and therewith the learnings, insights, and good practices from the early adopters widely available within the broader residential living market we will be able to help you understand yet another piece of the puzzle on how to densify your buildings, while at the same time also provide a living experience your tenants crave.
Special thanks to everyone that has helped to set us on the right path, in particular to Bass Akkermann (Hive Coliv), Brian Welsh (Nido Student), Marta Wheeldon (UKO), Javier Caro (CBRE), Williams Johnson Mota (B-Hive Living), Eddie Sit (Dash Living), Florian Färber (The Base), Matthew Lesniak (Conscious Coliving), Connor Moore (, Aitana (Spatial Experience), Jan Keck (Ask Deep Questions), Gaetan de Dietrich (Independent Advisor), and Cate Maiolini (Salto KS), Christian Schmidt (Coliv) and Salto KS), Tim Buffing (Habyt), Robert Birch (Gravity Coliving), and Andres Nieto (WeVLC).
So let’s dive into our further findings right away:
# 1 — Decide on your level of community curation
Community curation is a critical factor that will make your life easier afterward.
This is how Brian from Nido Living puts it:
Rotten apples spoil a lot of the harvest. It might feel counterintuitive not to accept someone into your community if you otherwise will have a vacancy — even more so if you paid good money to get them through the door — but eventually it will harm your community which will be way more expensive than having a room empty.
So decide on what level of curation works for you. Keep local regulations in mind — but remember if people don’t know about you, they can’t apply. So how can you tap into the networks of your ideal resident, where do they hang out, and what is the messaging and language that they are responding well to? If your applicants are biased towards your ideal resident, so will your eventual residents. Keep in mind however that diversity is key to creating a strong community. That is why many operators are actually not optimizing in their curation process to ensure the optimal fit between two people but are more working on a red flag principle to be conscious about the biggest risks.
# 2 — Decide on your onboarding process
Onboarding is the queen of community building and possibly the most underrated phase in the coliving journey for many operators. This is because it is essential in setting the tone of the further experience and also builds a solid basis on which future engagement is being built. Finally, a strong integration from day one or even prior ensures that your residents interact with each other during their first days, which helps them form new relationships and a sense of belonging; this will increase the stickiness of your product. The key question here is: How can you go beyond operational onboarding (i.e. here are your keys, this is where the trash goes, etc.) and move into an onboarding process in the community (e.g. by introducing new arrivals to relevant neighbors)? This is where technology can help you keep things scalable and avoid much manual work.
# 3 — Get the right people into your team
Building community is a people business. In fact, as a coliving operator, the business you are in is not real estate, hospitality, or event planning — it is relational and all about transforming people’s lives. Since it's such a people-centric responsibility, getting your community-facing roles filled with the right people can be challenging. It's never too early enough to search for the right one to join you on your mission. But remember, while the role of the community facilitator is key to building a thriving community, it is at the same time a role that comes with significant challenges — as more often than not, lots of different requirements need to be handled — the community manager has to deal with a lot of operational fires, and is sometimes heavily involved in sales activities including onsite viewings or even signing contracts — all next to intensive support for all residents that often keep pushing the boundaries (contact hours, service expectations, etc). So getting the right people in and educating and supporting them in the right way to keep them with you will be critical to your journey.
# 4 — What Tech do you need, and where to get it
Having the right tech set-up is critical for the success of your operations and also to building a thriving residential community at scale. But while in the past many of the tech providers were focused primarily on supporting the smooth operations of your real estate business, tech also plays a critical role to create thriving residential communities at scale. Not to replace the human-to-human interaction, but to facilitate it! By now the market has been matured considerably, so remember that you do not need to develop in-house any longer but look around what might work for you.
- Check out this eye-opening Tech&Apps Guide from Conscious Coliving. This is probably the most comprehensive resource on the topic. So a very good place to start.
- Also a small plug for ourselves here, too: With Obeyo we are creating the next generation of coliving tech — focused on creating self-sustaining communities. Check us out at Obeyo.com.
# 5 — Map out your customer journey
When building a thriving residential community, you want to put your residents at the center of everything you do. So when working on how to create that thriving community, start with mapping out your customer journey and the touchpoints that your residents will have with you/your brand but also think about how you can facilitate and/or create those touchpoints between your residents so that they can start to build stronger relationships with each other. The more you think about everything from your residents' point of view, the better the experience you will create — and like that ensure a high-quality product.
# 6 — Keep educating yourself
Next to all this, probably one of the most important things you can do to make sure you are laying strong foundations for your residential communities is to educate yourself on the topic of building strong residential community — by reading up on content like this, and connect within the ecosystem. Reach out to other operators, join the relevant industry associations and/or events, as well as spend some time at some coliving locations yourself, if you can and have not yet.
- To dive deeper into the coliving topics, these are good places for you to start or further your journey: Rooftalks, Coliving Hub, Conscious coliving, and Co-Liv.
- Listen to Cate speak about the importance of education and how to get there on Rooftalks Live.
To be continued….
This concludes the final part of the first chapter of our ultimate guide to running and scaling thriving residential communities: Laying strong foundations for a vibrant community.
I hope you got a lot of value out of this and if you did, please feel free to share the content with anyone within your network that you feel could benefit from this. Of course, if there are any other burning questions on your mind, or you would like to contribute by sharing your experience, feel free to get in touch.
The journey continues: Stay tuned for our upcoming Chapter 2 — How to build a strong residential community. Or sign up here to receive any new chapter of this guide right into your inbox.
- About the Ultimate Guide to Running and Scaling thriving residential communities: To help uncover good practices and learnings on this topic from within the field, we have identified the 50 most burning questions on community building — and reached out to dozens operators and thought leaders to help us answer these questions by sharing their insights, experiences, and learnings with us. Sign-up at obeyo.com and receive our monthly newsletter about all things residential communities, and be notified whenever we release the next parts of the ultimate guide.
- About Michael: Michael is co-founder and CEO at Obeyo. Passionate about connecting people, he loves to explore ideas at the intersection between community, shared living, and technology. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.
- About Obeyo: Obeyo is a residential living platform that helps operators deliver the living experience tenants crave by unlocking the social value of their buildings.