Charleston startup lands ‘significant’ investment to help with renter affordability | Real Estate

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CoLife matches renters with homeowners who want to rent a room for less than the cost of the apartment

A Charleston startup trying to build a modern version of the old pension model recently received “a significant investment” from a West Coast venture capital firm, as well as further funding from Lowcountry investors.

CoLife founder and CEO Derek Snook declined to disclose how much money was invested in his company to help with Charleston’s high rental costs, but he said the amount was in the six figures. Most was provided by San Francisco-based Platform Venture Studio, co-founded by former Sequoia Capital partner Tim Connors.

Sequoia made early investments in many large companies, the most notable being Google, Youtube, Apple, Whatsapp, Paypal, Instagram, Linkedin, Oracle, and Zoom.

Snook also said another six-figure sum came from investors in the Charleston area, as well as others across the country. “About 12 percent came from local investors,” he said.

The money will be used to support the company’s growth and add a full-time software developer and marketing rep.

Derek Snook in the living room (copy)

Derek Snook talks about CoLife, a company he founded that connects people looking for a room for rent in someone’s house with the homeowner, saving renters the cost of a one bedroom unit plus utilities and the cost of buying furniture . Renters must stay at least one month. CoLife recently received an investment to support the company’s growth. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

CoLife started in late 2019 with about $60,000 and eventually enrolled about 400 homeowners interested in renting a room in their owner-occupied home. The effort resulted in about 100 matches between a renter and a homeowner.

Snook said that when the money ran out, signups fell and he had to turn to raising more funds to keep the company going.

He believes the new capital injection will result in about 2,500 homeowners signing up to participate in up to 500 games that bring a tenant into a home.

“We’re a big solution to Charleston’s housing crisis,” he said, citing skyrocketing home prices and escalating rents.

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Noting that thousands of homes in the Charleston area have furnished rooms that aren’t being used, he said the program helps people rent a room for less money than a traditional apartment, with the added benefits of not living alone to have to and to make new friends.

The online platform matches potential renters looking for furnished rooms with homeowners willing to rent a space and make some extra cash.

Homeowners register with the online business and undergo a background check where they offer a room in their home for a set price including utilities.

Prospective tenants register and fill out what they are looking for in a co-living space.

When there is a match, CoLife puts the client in touch with a homeowner and they chat online or over the phone before meeting in person to get a feel for the other.

The $75 background check fee will be refunded if no match is found. CoLife’s service fee is $99-$199 depending on the length of stay, which must be a minimum of one month. It will also be refunded if the arrangement does not work within 30 days.

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Homeowners registered with CoLife generally charge between $600 and $1,000 in rent per month. Additional costs are included, there is no deposit and the room is already furnished.

The arrangement has one disadvantage. Tenants must weigh the loss of privacy from not living against the amount of money they could save.

“In addition to being a lot cheaper, more furnished, and more flexible, you also automatically get a friend,” Snook said. “We’re reinventing the modern boarding house… and we only work with homeowners who live in the residence.”

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House for sale sign

Home sales across South Carolina stumbled in April for the fifth straight month on anemic inventory, rising interest rates and rising prices. Files/Warren L. Wise/Staff

SC home sales decline for 5th straight month

Home sales across South Carolina are still strong, but they fell in April for the fifth straight month in nearly all submarkets as borrowing costs soared and prices continued to rise.

Based on the numbers

4: Number of venues the owners of three Dog & Duck restaurants will have after they open a new location in Moncks Corner later this year.

2: Number of stores a jewelry and clothing store will have on Sullivan’s Island if plans for a sister location in Mount Pleasant go ahead.

2: Number of new candy stores heading into the Charleston area.

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Cainhoy overhead (copy)

On the Cainhoy Peninsula north of Daniel Island, thousands of single-family homes like this one in Point Hope on Clements Ferry Road are expected in the coming years. File/Personal

On the Cainhoy Peninsula north of Daniel Island, thousands of single-family homes like this one in Point Hope on Clements Ferry Road are expected in the coming years.

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