Only in NYC: A luxury commune

  • Photo courtesy of Pure House

    Pure House isn't what most people think of when they hear the word "commune."

    The nine-apartment, 50-bedroom facility in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, has more residents working on startup ideas than wearing tie-dye and more coders than beaded curtains.

    It offers fully furnished units, a clubhouse, stocked kitchen and cleaning service, not to mention luxury health and wellness experiences like community meditation, massages, pop-up brunches, group fitness classes and one-on-one nutrition or professional development coaching.

    Its stated purpose is to reinvent the way members live by providing "thoughtfully designed spaces" and "intentionally curated goods and services."

    Naturally, high-end communal living comes with a price tag to match: Residents pay around $4,000 per month.

    Pure House, founded in 2012, is home to approximately 50 creatives, scientists and entrepreneurs from all over the world -- all personally vetted and carefully selected by founder Ryan Fix.

    Fix, 40, had a career in real estate and finance before stumbling on the co-living concept that started out of his apartment. Fix became frustrated seeing creatives in New York City giving up on their ideas due to capital- and housing-related concerns.

    "I really love supporting artists and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas," he said, "and after years and years of doing that, while becoming frustrated with my career, I decided to leave and focus on helping creatives develop their ideas in a supportive community."

    From Fix's apartment in Brooklyn, the Pure House community eventually expanded to include the unit next door. It grew "organically" from there, Fix said, from two apartments to 25 apartments within walking distance of each other. When that size was too large for him manage, he scaled it back to its current size.

    Fix has a unique take on his professional relationship with the relatively transient Pure House tenants, many of whom are younger adults between 20 and 50 years old who aren't originally from the U.S. He prefers to be considered a "friend helping facilitate an experience" rather than a landlord or property manager.

    Instead of requiring tenants to sign a traditional 12-month lease, he asks residents to sign month-by-month agreements and says they can stay as long as they want. Typically, they stay between three and six months, Fix said, but some have been there over a year. No credit checks are required, and residents pay no utility bills, just a security deposit equivalent to one month's rent upfront.

    Fix doesn't believe month-to-month agreements diminish anyone's sense of housing security because of the close relationships community members build with him and each other.

    "I'm being lumped in with this co-living trend," Fix said, "but it's much closer to what some have called 'Burning Man' (the yearly desert festival). It's a participatory, communal experience based on a financial model that allows for this thing we're creating to thrive and for individuals to thrive."

    Applying to live at Pure House is not unlike applying for a very exclusive college. The online questionnaire includes prompts like "Tell us your story" and "What are your passions?" Then, if a prospective resident stands out among the numerous applicants Fix gets every day and space is available, he asks for an interview.

    Of course, another question asks about each applicant's monthly housing budget. Given that not every creative professional can afford the rent that comes with having a maid and all-you-can-drink tea, even in a neighborhood with a median monthly rent of about $3,600, cost inevitably rules out some hopefuls.

    Pure House living happens in close quarters, and Fix is looking for people who will do well with a bunch of diverse roommates. But it's about more than that. He said he's looking for cues that people are excited about the future and have the drive to achieve their socially conscious goals.

    Valuing people who have the will to succeed within society, Fix said, is one way he feels Pure House is a deliberate shift from what many people consider the traditional commune model made famous in the 1960s. Ideal Pure House residents are actively involved in their city and frequently form connections with the local business community.

    "I see that traditional commune and the entire vibe of that (previous) generation as more about checking out, isolation and kind of raging against the machine, attacking the status quo," Fix said. "A lot of people who were attracted to those communes wanted to be outside the city. What I see happening today, and what I suppose is an interesting approach, is this idea of accepting what is while realizing that everything is possible ... Corporations are what they are, but how can we work with them and transform them?"

    Pure House may be dramatically shifting its own business model in the near future, inspired by tech sector housing and hospitality giants out of Silicon Valley.

    Because Fix believes what members value most about Pure House is the community -- not the physical spaces and amenities -- he and his team of resident coders are working on a platform that would take permanent buildings out of the picture altogether.

    "We would get rid of our properties, but we would invite people with their own properties to get involved with the Pure House network," he said. "We would be giving people access to a network that allows them to attract aligned individuals to stay in their homes. So, I guess the best way to frame it -- and I'm skeptical to use this association -- is a piece of tech that looks a little like Airbnb. But it would be an invitation-only application process to be able to be a member of the network and to stay in any of the properties."

    These properties would still be communally organized, he continued, and set up around a similar set of values: Living purposefully, cultivating collaborative relationships and fostering integrity. Alpha testing on the new Pure House tech platform is slated to begin within the next month.

    Click ahead to see more of Pure House.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.