Money pours into youth apartments
2017-10-30, WU YIYAO

Prospective tenant Zhang Youyuan was asked some 20 questions at an interview by the operations team of a youth apartment community in Suzhou, in East China’s Jiangsu province.

They sought to know her age, views on friendship and networking, whether she likes cooking, gardening and partying at night, even how she would talk to people she does not like.

“It felt like a really serious, formal job interview,” she said.

Zhang was told she passed the test with flying colors, but was still put on the waiting list. The youth apartment community was fully booked in August. Should someone move out, she would get to rent a place this month.

In the interview, she scored big for her amiability and social networking skills, she was told. The interviewers told her she would make a nice “community buddy” in the neighborhood.

Zhang said she felt excited. She has been longing for an opportunity to live in a community of young tenants, imagining the ones she has seen in US television sitcoms such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory.

And when she found that youth apartment communities had mushroomed in China in recent months, she decided to move out from her parents’ home.

For Zhang, renting a home marks the first step toward being really independent and having some fun. And for the market, millions of young tenants like Zhang yearning to live in such a community signify the taking off of a new sector in China.

Since the beginning of 2016, more than 20 brands of youth apartment communities have emerged across China, financially backed by real estate developers, venture capital firms, hospitality groups and real estate agencies.

Mofang Apartment, founded in 2009, operates more than 30,000 apartment units across China. It has received more than $500 million in funding so far. Meanwhile, developer China Vanke plans to create 150,000 rental units by 2019, while Longfor Properties hopes to add 30,000 units in the next two years.

In Wuhan, postgraduate student She Youyuan launched a startup in 2017 targeting young residents, including Wuhan locals as well as students hailing from other places who wish to stay in rental apartments after graduation.

The startup received 10 million yuan ($1.53 million) in funding in just one month. It kicked off its first community with 80 rental apartments.

“Each of the units is not really spacious but designed in a compact style, well facilitated and space-efficient,” she said.

The benefit of living in a community lies in spending time in common areas such as the lobby and the reading room.

“Big or small, investors are pouring money into the market as youth apartment communities are so widely accepted and embraced by young residents,” said Wang Hongfan, a real estate agent with Shanghai Huayu Property Services.

Fixed rentals, renewable on an annual basis, and convenient services such as laundry and parcel delivery make young residents feel “well attended”, said Wang.

The young tenants like to mingle and use common spaces in their spare time, which are not offered in ordinary rental apartments.

“It is really interesting to see that the young are willing to pay 4,500 yuan per month for a 25-square-meter studio,” Wang said. “With that budget, they could have a two-bedroom apartment with a spacious living room. But they just don’t want to stay alone.”

The sense of community relies much on the operational capacity of the properties. Each such facility is expected to run a series of events to bring strangers together and make them acquainted.

“The monthly birthday party is essential, and other events such as oil-painting workshops, baking lessons and cycling club outings will add to our residents’ living experience,” said Mao Yu’er, operations team member at Yujia Property in Shanghai.

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