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Start-up CEO: Buying a house is 'completely crazy,' so co-living will be the answer for many

Key Points
  • "Buying a house right now, it's like completely crazy if you think about it," says co-living start-up CEO Yoan Kamalski.
  • Kamalski's company, Hmlet, is hoping to cash in on that trend in the real estate market.
  • Hmlet operates co-living spaces in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Sydney, which let members rent rooms under flexible leases.
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I don't know if I'll ever buy my own house: CEO of a co-living firm

"Buying a house right now, it's like completely crazy if you think about it."

That's the assessment from Yoan Kamalski, the founder of Singapore-based co-living start-up Hmlet. Instead of purchasing property, he told CNBC on Tuesday, many people in places like Australia and Hong Kong would rather rent "all their lives."

Hmlet operates co-living spaces in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Sydney, which let members rent rooms under flexible leases.

Co-living is one of the industry's top trends, according to a 2018 survey from commercial real estate firm CBRE Group.

That's not going unnoticed by investors. On Tuesday, Hmlet announced it raised $40 million in its second round of funding, which was led by multinational firm Burda Principal Investments.

Hmlet's expansion

Although there are other co-living firms in the industry, Hmlet says it's differentiated by an ability to adapt the concept of living to its customers' requests, Kamalski said.

"None of the operators before that [have] been really understanding the customers," he said.

The firm expanded into Hong Kong, one of the world's most expensive real estate markets, in July 2018. Given the unaffordability of housing, it's a market well-positioned for relatively cheaper co-living rentals, according to a 2019 report from accounting firm PWC.

View of the Hong Kong skyline from Hong Kong Island.
Ingo Schulz | imageBROKER | Getty Images

The Hong Kong co-living market is poised to attract, in particular, fresh university graduates embarking on their first job, the report said.

Meanwhile, co-living in Singapore may have a smaller customer market because of the availability of affordable public housing options. Yet Hmlet already has 29 co-living properties available for rent in the city-state, according to its website. Five more are launching soon.