How do we solve housing for digital nomads?

#42

Hi! I am new to this forum, but I also had the vision of having a network of amazing places where one could stay some time (1-6 months) in different places in the world, sharing with creative people, not only entrepreneurs but also designers, artists, techies, etc. I have a large apartment in Barcelona (http://www.makerboat.com/myportfolio/barcelona-startup-house/) that I am sharing thru Airbnb for the lack of other alternatives, and a house in the mountains of Peru where anyone is welcome to stay for free :slight_smile: (http://www.makerboat.com/myportfolio/colca-free-camp/) and I will soon have a boat docked in the center of Barcelona for free stays too. My motivation is more about meeting interesting people and collaborating than about making money out of renting, although I understand that is a viable model for many. I would like to know what you guys have in mind and join any efforts in building this network of nomad houses.
best,
Mauricio

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#43

This is entirely my sentiment, though I’ve been doing it for a quarter of the time.

What is the housing problem you’re trying to solve? I see several different angles here in this thread:

  • Low cost housing for nomads by nomads
  • A collaborative meeting or workig place for nomads
  • Curated lists of “nomad friendly” housing at a location
#44

Housing is a non-problem for me. I’ve got Airbnb bookings for the rest of the year all over the world. The only thing I’d like to change about that is that the Airbnb fees are quite steep for long term stays, there should be some kind of membership that effectively puts an upper limit on fees for the year.

#45

“But, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. Been to over 30 countries. It has never been easier to find housing.”

I’ve been doing this for about 2 and only really started to experience the unknown roaming through SE Asia in the last 6 months. I can tell you that in my experience finding housing has been a tremendous drain of time and energy that I would rather have dedicated to building my company.

“Here in Hoch Minh City, it is quite easy to drop in, stay for a week and live like a local. I’ve seen it take an hour for some people to get set up with housing.”

Sounds simple if you know where to look. I “dropped in” to Ho Chi Minh back in late Nov and I can tell you it was no picnic. My wife and I had no idea where to go so we ended up in backpacker central in District 1 where everything was noisy and overpriced. It took us a lot of time to get our bearings (days, not an hour), know where to go and pop into various places inquiring in order to find a reasonable place. All the while we had to figure out transport, stayed in unsuitable places with unreliable internet and spent too much.

I would certainly agree that Nomad Housing support tools wouldn’t be a billion dollar idea but I would readily throw up my hand to say I sure as hell would have used and benefited from such tools over the last 6 months as well as specific listings of nomad friendly places.

What I found is that AirBNB is terribly overpriced in most of SE Asia (compared to hotels.com and bookings.com as well as hitting the ground asking) and finding a reliable place to live and work from at a reasonable price point takes far too much effort. I’d bet there is a modest niche market there dealing with the nomad community making things easier.

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#46

Man, I don’t really get it, I’m sorry.

I always find it annoying when people bitch about a city - and their frame of reference is the backpacker area.

If you don’t want hassles, avoiding the backpacker area in Saigon, let alone most cities is standard.

Noisy, overpriced (in the long run) and scammy is par for the course for any backpacker area I’ve ever been in - in Southeast Asia, over in India, etc.,

This is just simple Googling and having a realistic budget.

I also don’t think AirBnb is a total ripoff in Saigon. That’s exaggerated.

A simple search for places priced $10 - $50/ night yields “59 Results”.

The prices go down for weekly and monthly commitments.

It’s not the best value, but it’s a low friction way to drop in.

Agoda yields even more results and is a way better value.

Searching on foot can be the best value, but on foot - costs time, and if your time is worth money, spending days on foot to save $50 - $100/ month is probably not the best investment of your time.

I understand the acclimation period, getting your bearings and all that stuff, however, I don’t understand bolting to a backpacker area and expecting that to be a good place to acclimate from, a realistic portrayal of a city or a place from which to get your bearings.

The answers are up in that Google search bar for the basics.

#47

Searching on foot can be the best value, but on foot - costs time, and if your time is worth money, spending days on foot to save $50 - $100/ month is probably not the best investment of your time

This seems to be something that happens a lot – and then the same person is perfectly happy to drop $$$ on the latest Apple device or travel gear :smile:
It’s become a competition to find the lowest rent without thinking about the other costs.

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#48

Jon,

I always find it annoying when people bitch about a city - and their frame of reference is the backpacker area.

I actually really enjoyed Saigon once I got out of the backpacker area. The point is, without doing quite a bit of upfront research it can be difficult to “drop in” to a city and not end up in the backpacker area.

Man, I don’t really get it, I’m sorry.

I think that’s because you’re arguing for how easy housing is now vs. how hard it is when you started out. That’s understandable, you figured out a system that works and eschew the value of any further efficencies to be gained because you’ve invested in figuring things out already.

Also, like I said, there is a pricing tension in this market and having the inventory offline - actually works to our advantage.

I think you mean it works to your advantage because you have a system figured out. It is a disadvantage to any who have yet to figure it out.

Despite your insistence to the contrary, there are people who believe they would benefit from Nomad Housing support tools. That’s the whole point of this thread “How do we solve the housing problem for nomads?”.

You have to simply get here, get on the ground and work the streets.

This is just simple Googling and having a realistic budget.

Jon, I think ultimately you’re missing the point. There are young bucks like me out there who are hungry for the knowledge and experience people like you have to bring to the table. We haven’t figured out a system that works and are hungry for tools and resources we can leverage to make following in your footsteps easier.

I think the community as a whole would gain a great deal if you were able to share some of your insights into how you’d get started in a new unknown city, with a tight/realistic budget.

How would you do it?
What steps would you take?
What would you search for?
What signs do you look for?
What do you avoid?
How do you know a good spot from a bad one?
etc

#50

Great point. It’s exactly what I tell people to do when they get in to Salvador (Brazil):

  • Book a hostel or hotel for a week or two.
  • Walk around some neighborhoods that seem nice and you’ll see signs advertising rooms for rent.
  • And/or go to a meetup (expats, entrepreneurs, church, people involved in some sport or activity you enjoy) to meet locals and other folks who have lived there for a while. Ask them about neighborhoods and heck, sometimes people there have a spare room / apartment available or know someone who does.

Many of the inexpensive rentals have no web presence, perhaps because the owner is not computer-savvy, or perhaps because they don’t need one; they manage to get tenants offline.

Other possibilities:

  • Areas around universities may have inexpensive apartments due to the student population
  • Have a local friend who speaks the language check the newspaper classifieds and get in touch with the landlord/owner on your behalf
#51

The outline of this thread was to discuss problems/services geared towards addressing problems that nomads face when acquiring housing. There are a wide spectrum of nomads, from ones working on a shoestring through to those who have lots of disposable income. Each has their own unique set of circumstances. Trying to suggest that there are no housing problems is disingenuous.

Some nomads are in a position of living on a shoestring budget. Their problems are a “money problem” as Peter suggests. Others have the flexibility of a better budget and it becomes more than a money problem. It becomes a time problem. How does one quickly find a reliable place to stay at a reasonable price that offers amenities that cater to nomad needs? If you’ve got more money than time how do you find housing that satisfies your needs (quiet, a desk, accessible, reliable + fast internet) etc.

I would have loved a NomadList.io kind of site for each destination outlining a list of reasonable places and amenities. Something allowing me to quickly narrow down places that met my needs and matches my budget that are recommended by other nomads.

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#52

I don’t really consider myself part of the digital nomad community, but I travel around and work on personal projects so I fall into many of the same slots as you guys.

Here’s a comment I posted about my ideal housing situation on HN a little while back:

I’ve been thinking lately of where I would like to live for most of my late twenties and early thirties. I’m definitely a bit of a loner, but at the same time, I like living as part of a close-knit community. I wish I could find a little ‘tribe’ of self-directed folks roughly my age in an old, creaky house somewhere in the mountains… or on a remote island… or in a forest, or something. Just people working on their projects, tending to their garden, raising some chickens (or maybe some kids), enjoying the fresh air, and mostly living away from the rest of society. An art commune for the 21st century, I guess.

(snip)

In terms of the politics, I lived in a student cooperative in college, which I think was a pretty good model. Money went into a central pool to pay for various things, and all decisions (including membership) were made democratically, in house meetings. Everybody was responsible for part of the chores (determined at the beginning of the year) and people could also run to be elected for managerial positions (workshift, social, kitchen, etc.) Of course, as with any organization, there were occasional conflicts, poor meeting attendance, etc. But our house didn’t fall apart and it was a life-changing experience for many of us.

In addition to the above, one other critical aspect would be for the house to have some degree of diversity. For me, this would mean a 50-50 gender split (I’ve found the social atmosphere in such communities, both online and offline, to be much more pleasant and interesting; the cooperative house mentioned earlier had a somewhat rigidly enforced gender balance and it worked out well) and a population comprised of more than just programmers, web designers, and bloggers. (How about some painters and writers? Academic researchers? Self-driven people of all kinds would be welcome.)

In terms of location, I’d prefer a small, peaceful community that’s close to nature but nonetheless within a few hours of a major city. Right now I’m in the Côte d’Azur and one of those beautiful hillside villages would be ideal for me. Paris is only a few hours away, after all.

(This is, of course, in addition to all the basics that people have already mentioned, such as good internet and desk space.)

I see a lot of ideas for temporary house shares or house swaps in this thread, but I wonder if anybody is looking for a more permanent residence?

(To be clear, I don’t really see this as a business opportunity. I wouldn’t want to live in a house that operates as a for-profit business, especially if it’s funded by VC capital. The organizing body should probably operate as a cooperative business, with everything owned by the members and all profits going back into the house. As an example, the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley has operated successfully under this model for many years.)

(More on topic, for the time being, I’ve had great luck with Airbnb flatshares for shorter stays and country-specific subletting websites for longer ones. But it never feels like home.)

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#53

The main issues to address are

  • Housing where landlords are already aware that people are nomads or otherwise work from home, don’t physically leave and go to a job and otherwise can pay rent and earn without even leaving the house

  • Internet already set up, no one who is a nomad should have to sign up for something or 2 year contracts etc on their own. Again going back to landlords who have to know that internet is really important and things like the router easily accessible if it’s an old POS that we have to physically go and reboot a lot. No internet = no money should be understood and it being completely unacceptable for the landlord/mgmt to be away a week or similar before internet issues can be fixed.

I dealt with this a LOT in Toronto which was by far the hardest supposedly first world city I’ve ever tried to rent in. Even other Canadians had trouble with slumlords often insisting on a year’s rent+ upfront and taking advantage of foreigners and new immigrants who otherwise didn’t have a choice. I met other Canadian founders who told me horrible stories, one in particular was married to a doctor and the local landlords still insisted that she showed 4 years worth of tax returns to prove that she was actually a doctor. I dealt with substandard bullshit and ended up moving 4 times unplanned in 2 years wasting about 6-8 months in total and blew through a lot of time I was paying for via my own funding unnecessarily

Nomad housing should have these problems pre-solved so that people can essentially show up, dump their stuff, go straight to work and enjoying their new surroundings, meeting new people etc.

#54

Hey guys! Dropping in late on the conversation. Currently in Paris but living in San Francisco, originally Lebanese … You get the jist :smile: I sifted through the 50+ comments and wanted to add the community aspect. If anybody’s part of Thousand Network or the TED network, it’s so good to land in a city and know there are people passionate about the same things as you.

It’s partly what attracted me to thecaravanserai.co. Pieter, you mentioned Bruno in your intial comment. I met him a while ago and decided to help out. Anyone who wants to help find amazing locations, I think the caravan’s being pretty generous with a $12k reward :smile: Obsvly, help is more than welcome!

From a philosophical perspective, “housing” or “home” became synonymous with people at one point and Bruno’s project melds people and “physical” home so… Now it feels that carvanserai ‘is’ home :smile:

#56

Your project sounds awesome. I hope you will do it.

What do you think about add your space on nomadhouse.io?

#58

@levelsio how about house swaps, would that be a possibility? I know not many have a permanent flat or so, but for example, I’m in cape Town, currently renting a one-bedroom flat and would love to spend some time in Europe but can’t afford any accommodation. Happy to swap my flat for the time I’m away with another nomad. That way, we both understand how to respect each other’s flat to make it a more sustainable option for future. Thoughts?

#59

Hi, I’m new.

Renting for 9 months but living only during the first and the last 3 months would effectively give you 1.5x local price (you pay for 9 months, use 6). I plan to try this “sandwich” renting in about a month or so in Novi Sad. Even if I can’t sublet the middle 3 months (“hole” or “meat”?) it still looks like a good deal.

#62

I’ve thought of something like but it’s just really, really hard to scale. I’m not sure what the solution is yet to be honest. Also, agents usually don’t work with listings that are very cheap because they work on commission only and there’s such high turnover in that industry. The old, traditional real estate/rental industry is at odds with the needs of digital nomads and we are a microcosm of the market at the moment.

#63

I’d love to see something like this as well. But I wonder how it would work out logistically. Even if a bunch of people got up the funds to purchase a place, or even build a house, ideally you’d want a lot of diversity meaning people with different passports - and how do you make it so that everyone can actually live there?

#64

Hey all! I’m working on a project that might help with some of these questions. If anyone would be willing to answer some questions, that would be great. the survey takes about 2.5 minutes: https://mandy58.typeform.com/to/byJ2xc

thanks!!

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#65

This thread is great! There’s certainly a large scope of folks with differing needs, from just taking an AirBnB for shorter stays, to spending longer and looking for better value rentals. I myself fall a bit further along the scale still. I like to spend long enough somewhere to get into its ecosystem, and I like to go back again to see both the changes and some familiar faces! Not so much nomadic, but having many homes…

So whilst I agree there’s no major problems if you spend less time and just use AirBnB, I know the problems of going somewhere for a few months or more and finding good flatmates, as opposed being entirely independent. Camps and coworkations can solve part of this (except they’re ad-hoc and ephemeral), so might permanent places like Coconat (from the sound of things).

As I feel like I’m getting older (relative to having been nomadic my whole life :wink: ), I’m liking the idea of ownership, having a ‘base’. (Partly discussed in another topic.) This seems increasingly valuable, but simultaneously I don’t want to end up tethered. I actually bought myself an apartment, but the tether is too great. This may seem unresolvable…

But now I’m playing around with a model which fits somewhere between the typically free but culturally ‘alternative’ nomadbases, and onerously high-commitment housing cooperatives. I’ll post here once I’ve fleshed it out a bit more, but suffice to say I’ll be buying a place to try the model next year. (I’ve previously experimented with a large leased house in Delhi for four years.)

I would love to hear from anyone else interested in the idea of ‘fractional’† cooperative ownership and establishing a network of ‘affordable’ locations one could move amongst, either full-time, or as part of further nomadism… To give some idea of ownership-costs, for use of one month per year I’m looking at targeting €4,000 (lifetime acquisition), plus running costs of €250 (annual); so about €525/month if amortised over 15 years. This means full-time could be under €50k.

I should add that whilst ownership within a cooperative is my goal, participation without ownership commitment would also be possible (i.e. ad-hoc renting). Some have mentioned in this thread that in such a shared-house scenario diversity would be important — the model will definitely address that!

†I don’t like the word ‘fractional’ for its connotations but I can’t think of a better way to concisely describe it at present.

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#67

@wanderingdev #8 is a bit confusing/misleading.

My housing budget traveling solo is not one half our housing budget traveling as a couple.

Solo: $750-1000
Together: $1000-1500

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