Cohabitas Quarterly Business Update

New site overview

Dear friends, partners and experts,

Welcome to our first quarterly business update – what we hope is an informative and useful update on the mid-life / over 40s house sharing market.

Clearly the last few months has been like nothing any of us has ever known, but it makes for a really interesting business update!

Includes

  • Market dynamics and trends
  • What we’ve learned
  • We launched a new site
  • New housemate preferences report
  • Co-living and shared housing developments
  • New advertising opportunities

Market dynamics and trends

The health crisis has already led to a jobs and cash-flow crisis for tenants and landlords and there is surely worse to come.

From March when the lock-down began and through the last quarter June-August we have seen an overall drop in demand for rooms to rent and new housemates, but our analysis suggests different phases.

April-June during lock-down it was practically impossible for landlords to do viewings or housemates to meet due to restricted movement, although we did see a lot of innovation and zoom/video viewings became more of a norm.

However, despite these physical restrictions, we saw some parts of our house sharing community become more active as they had more time at home and were thinking about their future. Some people also felt compelled to move after sharing the same space with the same people.

Many of our existing registered users showed higher than average levels of activity as they investigated alternative housemates and new homes. We saw this as an ‘idealistic’ phase.

From July-September the mood changed as the reality of getting back to work and, in some cases, living through lock-down in unsatisfactory circumstances required practical action.

House share search trends Jan-Aug 2020 UK

Searches for ‘house shares’, ‘rent a room’ and ‘spare room’ started to grow again from May as people came out of hibernation, reaching the same level as February by July. However, in August they started to falter a little as uncertainty took hold again and, for some, holidays intervened.

Furthermore we saw relatively less response to our own advertising than pre-Covid, probably due to a proportion of the market preferring to put off plans until things settle. We saw this as a ‘realistic’ phase as people started to grapple with the circumstances.

What we learned

Despite having more time, people still want to do things quickly, so grabbing people’s attention from initial visit to the home page, through to housemate and room to rent summaries remain a focus.

Having detailed and up-to-date listings is also important to people. Balancing the detail between speedy registration and requesting as much information as possible is an ongoing question.

The Cohabitas Housemate preferences part of our registration form, which now includes a EFH, a COVBID-safe and a dietary preference question.

Cohabitas housemate registration form

One group, the longer-term sharers, are interested in the people they’ll share with primarily and want the detail to assess other profiles before making contact. The other group, shorter-term room rentals, just want a good room, with a small percentage working away from home and the majority dealing with change in their lives – voluntarily or otherwise.

What we did see was a drop in the number of new visitors to London who are looking for a room because their work or study brings them here. Housemate registrations, especially those interested in buddy-ups seems to be lower.

Conversely, we have seen a great increase in the number of landlords offering rooms. This includes more home owners who want to have company at home or who need some extra income, as well as short-term rental landlords now pivoting into longer-term rentals (often leaving AirBnB or Booking.com).

We launched a new site

Launching a new site during the Covid lock-down was perfect timing in many ways. It was already underway in February but accelerated in April and May; we launched at the end of June.

It not only gave us the opportunity to build our own tech platform, so reducing operating costs and improving control, but it also allowed us to add in Covid relevant housemate preferences relating to WFH and Covid-safe preferences in the shared home.

Most importantly it allowed us to improve the quality of the registered user profiles and to scale the site for multi-country and multi-lingual operation; the site uses Google mapping and Geo-location database for effective listings management.

Besides the benefit of controlling our own technology, the main innovation planned for the site was to include ‘market research’ questions that would allow us to better understand our market and to help developers and planners meet the need of the over 40’s private rental group.

We have already seen good results with a much better conversion rate and good feedback from more contented users. We continue to improve the user experience, but testimonials like these examples below are happening daily, whereas a year ago infrequently.

Housemate – “I signed up with Cohabitas in January and found it very straightforward to use. It was recommended to me, and I would definitely recommend it to others in similar circumstances to mine.

I particularly appreciated the inclusive aspect, as the mention of maximum age on other sites can be very discouraging.”

Landlords – “I was delighted to find the Cohabitas website… it met my needs perfectly and I found a suitable housemate very quickly. I will definitely come back to Cohabitas when I have a vacant room in the future.”

Housemate preferences report – the COVID Issue

Have a look at our new Housemates preferences report

  • WFH preferences for housemates and live-in landlords
  • Covid-safe preferences for shared living
  • Top amenities respondents look for in shared flats and houses
  • Interest in buddy-ups (people first) as an alternative to room rental

You can see a PDF of the Cohabitas Quarterly Housemate Preferences Report – June – August 2020

Co-living and shared housing developments

From our perspective we have always expected and done everything we could to encourage development of homes for sharing by the over 40s /mid-life group.

There are plenty of millennial-focused co-living providers emerging, operating on a service model rather than as property rental model, but very few, if any, focused mainly on this age and situation group.

So we have been delighted to hear about new developments, not least Firstrung Enterprises who have launched PeachLiving offering “creative, luxury co-living for independent, single fifty-pluses in the heart of the UK.”

This new development ticks so many boxes for us in terms of how we see later-living becoming the preferred life-style for many people in the pre and early retirement phase.

PeachLiving offers an aspirational and positive way of life, in an affordable and accessible way due to sharing the cost of living and sharing a home. Something I have previously called the sharing dividend.

We wish Rob Fenton and his team great success and look forward to seeing them and others grow in this space.

New advertising opportunities

The site remains focused on Landlords with rooms to rent to housemates, and housemates to each other, however we’ve introduced some new sections with advertising opportunities.

Co-living Places – profiles new developments and offers a brochure download service as part of a Premium listing

Services – offers Cohabitas and 3rd-party services to housemates and private landlords either on a Premium listing or affiliate basis. Only for over 40’s suitable services

Market-research – opportunity to add a question to our research stream

Email newsletters – we do not sell our data but can include insertion of advertiser messages in our newsletters

Please feel free to contact us to discuss advertising opportunities.

Thank you for all of your interest and support. We hope you find these updates interesting and useful and welcome any feedback.

Nick & Eva (Co-Founders)

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