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RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY | Luz Wendy Noble, Singapore
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Joining the expat's nook: Takeup rate of locals rise in co-living spaces

Ascott is set to lure such tenants with their co-living projects set for opening by 2020 and 2021.

Expats who have found career opportunities in the Lion City drive the demand for co-living spaces where foreigners could find a home with people from all over the world whom they could be comfortable with through shared interests and hobbies.

“These spaces are optimised to make it easy for tenants to mingle and interact with on another – similar to a hostel,” Huttons Asia head of marketing and communication Hector Tan told Singapore Business Review. “This “communal” aspect of co-living spaces can be an attractive factor.”

Co-living spaces allow tenants to share rooms and apartments with the aim to build relationships and interactions amongst its tenants as they are made to live with people with the same hobbies and interests.

"On the off set, co-living spaces seems like a “privatised” version of communal hostels, and hover somewhere slightly below the traditional full package offered by private home rentals and service apartments," Tan explained. "Some people may still prefer having the full privacy of common living areas that private apartments offer. There is that level of assuredness and freedom. Whereas in co-living spaces, one may have to share common living areas with other tenants."

With this, Ong Choon Fah,  CEO of Edmund Tie & Company (ET&Co) believes that the co-living market should seal to differentiate through quality services and community offerings.

"Otherwise, the shared cost of renting a conventional unit with friends may be more attractive than a co-living apartment," the CEO said. "Nonetheless, as the co-living concept and lifestyle offers an appealing alternative to millennials and professionals, the outlook for co-living concept appears positive."

With monthly rents starting from $1,500, Ong believes that co-living spaces will continue to lure mostly foreigners, expats and singles with higher income and those who have the ability to afford them.

This was also echoed by Rohit Hemnani, COO & head of alternatives, capital markets at JLL Asia Pacific. “In the near term, millennial expats are likely to be the main occupiers although the list of users could be expanded to include other groups such as foreign students, or even seniors as the concept could appeal to a broader age spectrum beyond expat or local millennials,” Hemnani said.

Also read: Singaporean millennials are hopping in on the co-living trend

But recently, co-living has also seen the rise in the take-up from the locals as well, Hemnani added.

“Some local millennials with the financial means and seeking more independence could be open to co-living,” Ong Teck Hui, Senior Director, Research & Consultancy, JLL Singapore said.

Also read: Ascott Reit forays into development with $62.4m co-living project

Like Hemnani, Ong Teck Hui thinks that the co-living momentum is picking up as the supply side is beaming with projects in the pipeline including Ascott’s lyf Funan which will launch 279 units in 2019 whilst lyf Farrer Park and lyf One with 240 units and 324 units, respectively, set to open by 2021.

Players gear up for more tenants
With more than 500 rooms in Singapore, Hmlet has become Singapore's largest co-living operator in a few years after its launch in 2016. At present, they have grown to over 10 locations in Singapore and 6 locations in Hong Kong, sprawling over 200,000 sqft of co-living spaces and being a home to over 600 members.

Hmlet has so far launched Singapore’s first co-living building, Hmlet@JooChiat as well as Hmlet @Portofino which they regard to be the largest co-living building in the city-state.

Also read: Hmlet redefines cohabitation with flexible rental leases and flatmate matchmaking

“As we expand our portfolio across Singapore and Hong Kong, we’re now found in highly desired locations like Tanjong Pagar, One North/Buona Vista, Holland Village, and Queenstown in Singapore and also Mid-Levels in Hong Kong,” Yoan Kamalski, CEO & Co-Founder of Hmlet commented. 

For Hermani, Hmlet’s biggest hurdle comes in the form of real estate hunt as they are fielding close to 300 enquiries a week from new potential tenants.

“They’re operating at an extremely high occupancy rate and they cannot find real estate fast enough to fill the appetite from those wishing to live in their co-living community,” he noted.

Also read: Co-living startup Hmlet to launch second building in Newton

The co-living operator takes pride in having entire buildings for leasing to tenants. “With an entire building, everything feels more organic,” Kamalski noted. “From bumping into each other at the lift lobby to spontaneous conversations in common spaces, the opportunity for interaction becomes effortless because you know you’re talking to someone who on a basic level, shares the same interests as you do.”

Kamalski hinted that they are currently on the works to further enhance their members’ experience.

“Without going into too much detail, we’re creating something for our members who will have access to lifestyle needs at the tip of their fingers quite literally,” he said.

Also playing in the field is City Developments-backed Login which started operations back in Q1 2018 under the brand name Mamahome. According to Kemmy Sim, Head of Marketing at Login, the operator now has about 50 bedrooms in different locations such as Novena, Queenstown and the East with occupancy above 80%.

“Rates range from S$1,500-S$2,200 for one bedroom per month, depending on size and location,” Sim told Singapore Business Review. “We are aiming to grow to 300 units or 900 rooms in 2-3 years, with more locations added to our portfolio.”

ETCo's Ong thinks that partnerships such as those between CDL and Login allows the developer to leverage on digital platforms to enhance returns on their real estate portfolio as well as boost the attractiveness of their rental units.

“The collaboration between asset-light technology companies and developers provides instant entry into the fast-growing shared economy sector,” Ong explained. “We expect to see more of such collaborations in the near future.”

Sim revealed that LOGIN is set to roll out their app by 2020 which will include end to end rental processing which include our room listing, Community Manager in-app chat, to payment processing and rewards program, and introduce payment tokenisation in our app. She added that they are eyeing to  enter regional markets such as Vietnam, Thailand, as well as, Australia, by the beginning of 2020.

Photo from Login Apartment's Facebook page.

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