It typically costs more than $2,400 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Boston. Imagine trying to pay that on a starting teacher’s salary. Yet, at the same time, a growing population of senior citizens in areas around Boston and other cities nationwide is finding it increasingly difficult to stay in and maintain their large homes.
Now nesterly, a startup founded by students at MIT Sloan and the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, is trying to solve both problems simultaneously.
Launching later this summer, nesterly will pair two well-known models — home-sharing and gig economy platforms — to tap into a hidden source of affordable housing stock: seniors’ and empty nesters’ spare bedrooms. The company provides a community-driven digital marketplace for homeowners to rent their spare rooms to young people at affordable rates in exchange for help with mutually determined tasks — tasks such as walking the dog or occasionally cooking dinner — which may help the elderly stay in their homes longer.
“Nesterly targets both the affordability crisis and the aging population with a single integrated solution,” said cofounder Virginia Maloney, MBA ’17. Using publicly available housing data, nesterly has estimated that more than 50 million bedrooms sit empty every night in the United States.
Since its founding in October 2016, nesterly has won several awards, including one from MIT’s IDEAS Global Challenge and the Grand Prize for Community Resiliency from NYC BigApps, a New York City-based innovation competition. The startup has also been accepted into Boston’s 2017 MassChallenge accelerator. In addition to Maloney, nesterly’s founders are Grey McCune, MBA ’17; Dennis Harvey, MCP ’17; Rachel Goor, MCP ’17, and Noelle Marcus, MCP ’17.
Here’s what we’ve learned about nesterly:
Nesterly isn’t Airbnb. And it isn’t TaskRabbit. It’s sort of both. While there are many services that offer home-sharing opportunities (e.g., Airbnb, HomeAway), and companies that provide assistance with basic tasks (e.g., TaskRabbit), nesterly combines components of both.
The digital interface pairs seniors who have spare bedrooms with young people who will help with household tasks in exchange for reduced rent.
Nesterly focuses on medium- to long-term housing, with the average stay being three months. Unlike Airbnb, the startup incorporates “tasks for housing,” where students can perform tasks for reduced rental rates.
For example, a student and a senior might connect on nesterly and use the site to design a rental agreement whereby the student pays below-market rate for a room and makes up the difference by walking the dog. Nesterly manages rent payments, tracks tasks, manages insurance, and provides conflict mediation. The business profits by charging a transaction fee to both hosts and guests when they sign a lease.
Founders tapped MIT’s network for expertise and support Nesterly has formed a broad network of advisers, mentors, and partners through MIT — including working with the MIT AgeLab to survey 15,000 people nationwide to confirm that hosts would find the company’s offerings appealing.
The startup was a semi-finalist in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and has received more than $20,000 in funding from the MIT community thanks to the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, MIT Global Ideas Challenge, and others.
Nesterly sees itself as a community builder In addition to providing affordable housing while helping hosts monetize extra space, nesterly’s founders expect the company’s home-sharing model to increase community stability and foster relationships across generational divides.
“What truly makes nesterly unique is the promise of building a new model for the 21st century family and creating a network of lifelong intergenerational friendships through shared living arrangements,” Maloney said.