How to Live Near Your Friends
Twenty-two of my friends live within walking distance of me.
Hi, I’m Priya, and I live in New York City. Twenty-two of my friends live within walking distance of me.
My husband and I created a geographical friend cluster over the course of 15 months.
People tell me that their friends talk about living near each other too. And yet, almost no one I’ve talked to has successfully clustered their friend group. So today I'm going to show you how to.
One note: clustering your friends is a HARD problem. Otherwise, you would have done it already! Thus, the advice I'll give requires hard work. There are no shortcuts here – but the end result is worth it.
Tip #1: Host Regularly
My husband and I have hosted a weekly dinner party for over a year. We host it even when we're tired or depressed or busy or feeling anti-social. We host it because of the magical friendship group juju that arises out of regularity. But a side effect is that our friends have become very familiar with our neighborhood.
Plus, they've become familiar with each other. A few years ago, a friend of mine tried to convince me to move to a rural area to build a friend commune. I didn't know most of the other people he was recruiting, so I said no. I felt like I would be moving to a commune of strangers. When disparate friends have a chance to get to know each other, they’ll get excited about living in a neighborhood with their friends (not with your friends).
Tip #2: Enable Short-Term Stays
Usually, when we pitch friends on moving nearby, they're curious but hesitant. They love the idea of living near friends, but they can't see themselves here.
They say things like, I could never live in Brooklyn. They say, Your neighborhood is too sleepy. Maybe they say, my apartment is rent-controlled or, my lease doesn't end for six months.
The trick, in each of these cases, is to offer them a one month sublet.
In that month, your friends will experience the benefits of living near friends. They'll fall in love with their new lifestyle and forget their prior grumblings. They'll ask you to let them stay longer, or to help them find housing nearby.
How can we offer our friends short-term sublets? In our case subletting to friends was easy because we lived in a 3-bedroom apartment. We co-signed the apartment with a friend, but the third bedroom was up-for-grabs. Later, a 4-bedroom apartment opened across the hall. We co-signed that unit with another friend and helped fill the last 3 bedrooms.
One month sublets work even if your friend is in a lease (assuming you live in a high-demand housing market). Encourage your friend to find a subletter of their own for the month.
If your friend has never had a subletter, they’ll have all sorts of rational fears: What if my subletter causes damage to the apartment? What if my subletter is insane? What if my landlord gets mad? What if subletting is against the terms of my lease? What if no one wants to sublet my place at all?
Subletting for one month is a manageable way to tests these concerns, with time-limited downside. What usually happens is their fears are abated. Ah, I can simply vet my subletter to ensure they’re responsible and kind. Ah, my landlord is okay with me subletting (or just doesn’t notice if I sublet). Ah, there is plenty of demand for my place. I live in the best city in the world and goddamn everyone wants to move here.
Once they've sublet their place for a month, they'll feel comfortable subletting it for longer. Thus, if they enjoyed living in the neighborhood, their existing lease will no longer be a blocker.
#3: Help your friends get leases
In high-demand housing markets, finding housing is stressful. Your friends might want to move nearby, but they're also busy with work, their social lives, or other Life Stuff.
They know they'd be happier in a different home, but getting from point A to point B is a lot of work. Often, I see friends re-sign leases even though they intended to find new housing. I also see friends who move to a random neighborhood because they find a good unit at a good price point. They might prefer a different neighborhood, but finding the right unit in their preferred neighborhood takes a lot of time.
So when my friends are looking for housing, I try to make moving near me an easy default choice. I have Craigslist and Zillow alerts for units available nearby. When I receive an alert, I forward it to friends who are seeking housing, and also post it to the group chat.
If a friend expresses interest in the unit, I schedule a tour myself. Then tell them "I'm seeing the unit tomorrow at 3 pm if you want to join." (Yes, I know that might seem crazy. But also remember: I live near 22 friends, and my life is awesome).
I work from home, so seeing a nearby unit doesn't interrupt my day. It’s about the same time commitment as going for coffee. But, for friends that live a long commute away, seeing a unit in my neighborhood might be a big time investment.
If my friend doesn't attend the tour, I take a video of the unit and ask the landlord lots of questions. Then I pass on the information to my friend.
I’m especially convincing when a unit opens up in my building. I can counsel my friends on whether they're getting a good deal, how to negotiate, and what to expect. This takes away my friends’ fears around unknown unknowns.
#4 Roommate Matchmaking
I live in New York City, and my friends are in their 20s and 30s. Many of my friends want to live with roommates (either to save money, or because they like living with others).
But it’s not unusual for a close friend not to have anyone to co-sign a lease with. Their friends prefer living alone, or already have leases, or have long work commutes.
If I have multiple friends looking for leases who I think would vibe, I introduce them. I started actively roommate matching a few months ago, and so far it's been successful in two cases.
(In my experience, roommates don’t have to know each other for long before choosing to live together. My husband and I once signed a lease with someone 10 days after we met him. He's still a close friend. In fact, he’s the person who convinced us not only to move to New York City, but to move to our exact apartment building. He lives down the hall).
#5: Make friends nearby
There are probably already people who live in your neighborhood who you would vibe with.
My friend Ziqi has 4-5 close friends who live in her Brooklyn skyscraper. She met them by passing out flyers advertising a WhatsApp group for her building. The WhatsApp group grew active, and spawned book clubs and yoga classes and other events. Through those events, Ziqi made close friends who already lived in her building.
Although I haven't been as intentional in my neighborhood yet, I've made a handful of local friends. When I co-hosted a neighborhood trash pickup, I put flyers under my neighbors’ doors. Several attended. I've also made friends at my local coffee shop, which I go to daily.
#6: The Flywheel Effect
These days, it's not just my personal friends who want to live near us. My neighborhood friends' friends visit them, get jelly of their lifestyles, and want to live here too. Even acquaintances and strangers we meet at parties ask if there are open rooms, or open units nearby. Once you reach a critical mass, your neighborhood will have a magnetic pull on everyone in your orbit. While we're at 23 people today (including me), I expect 100 people in our social scene living nearby in one year. (And one day, I expect 1000 people).
Living near friends has enhanced almost every aspect of my life. My social life feels abundant and frictionless. It's easy to stay in shape by joining friends for their workouts. And I can co-work any day of the week with ease. If you want to live near your friends, it's so worth it. DO IT.
Yours in neighborliness,
P.S. One of the 22 just wrote a response piece about what it’s like to live near friends. Would recommend!
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