When I first moved to Vegas, it was mostly an accident. I bought a condo because I couldn’t pass up the deal, and during the process of renovating it I fell in love with the city and eventually came to the point where I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I shared my enthusiasm with friends and within a few years we had bought 11 of the condos in our 50 condo complex.
Most people traveled for most of the time, but often at least one or two other people were there, and occasionally a large group of us would all be there at once. In many ways it felt like the best of all worlds, with the convenience and social aspect of a college dorm, but with the independence of having your own space that you could customize to your needs.
At the time, I thought the biggest selling point of the condos was their price. Many of us bought them for $50-60k, which is basically nothing for a comfortable two bedroom apartment in a convenient (though not particularly luxurious) location.
My wife bought the apartment next to mine, so we had two units that we used as one bigger apartment. We knew it wouldn’t be forever, though, as having two kitchens and paying two HOA fees didn’t make much sense. During the pandemic we felt a bit confined without access to any outdoor space (and the city astoundingly shut down the parks), we decided to move.
We moved to a new neighborhood with much nicer houses. We had twice as much space as our combined condos, a pool, and a big backyard. I felt a little bit bad abandoning the neighborhood to which I spend so much work convincing people to move, but we were happy to have a nicer house with some outdoor space.
I didn’t bother trying to convince anyone else to move, because in my mind everyone else had bought a condo mostly because it was so cheap. But then, one by one, people started asking about the new neighborhood. And new people who were never interested in the old neighborhood were interested in the new one.
Now five of us have bought houses in the new neighborhood (though one is currently renting his house out). It turns out that “buy an amazing house for cheaper than you can in any other good city” is a lot more compelling than “buy the cheapest condo in any good city”. Besides the five houses (9 people total), I also have another couple that I believe will move eventually as well as a couple potential future move-ins.
This past month was a perfect storm where everyone was in the neighborhood along with a few guests coming in over the course of the month, and it was magical enough that I felt compelled to write about it.
The closer you live to your friends, the less planning is necessary to spend time together. We know that this is true on the scale of large distances (it’s easier to see someone in your same city than it is in another state), but it’s amazing how that ease continues to scale as the distances become shorter. When everyone can walk or ride a scooter to one person’s house in a matter of minutes, spontaneous meetups to swim, play pinball, watch the hockey game, or go out to dinner happen much more frequently.
It’s also easier to help each other. I borrowed my friend’s Tesla for a road trip to Utah and it was easy to drive one minute to pick up the keys and drop my car off for him. A friend wanted me to watch her plants so she carried them over. Another friend was renovating her place so she stayed at our house and brought my tools back and forth. When one of us is out of town, the others are available to stop by and pick up packages or make sure the door is locked. It’s not a big ask.
I write so much about friction and how I try to eliminate mandatory friction in my life, and only now am I realizing how much friction is eliminated by living in the same neighborhood with my friends. Spending quality time with my friends is one of my top priorities in life, and it’s great to also make that one of the easiest things in my life.
Sharing a neighborhood also deepens friendships more than I expected. One person who I’ve been friends with for years became a much better friend when she moved down the street, and I’m now good friends with her fianceé, who I didn’t really know very well before they moved.
Right now we don’t quite have critical mass, but I also have some ideas for the future involving hiring people to provide “neighborhood services”. We could buy 1-2 days per week of a cleaner’s time, for example, and they could do all of the houses at once. If we got enough people we could probably hire someone to work a couple hours a day and do errands for everyone.
Of course, all of this is to say that I think that you should consider moving into a neighborhood with your friends. I’m not sure if anyone else will really do it (since no one has bought properties with their friends and told me about it), but it’s worth thinking about.
I think the key points are to move into a neighborhood that is nice enough that everyone would love living there, but inexpensive enough that everyone can afford it. That’s obviously tough to manage in some cities, but in cities like Vegas it is very easy. I’m sure there are hundreds of cities around the US that would have doable neighborhoods. It’s a tough pill to swallow to move to a city that isn’t your first choice, but I think it would be well worth it to live with your friends. As much as I love Vegas I would consider living just about anywhere if enough of my friends moved into the neighborhood with me.
It would be best to have a couple friends committed to the idea with you so that you don’t have to first move alone like I did, but you may need to be a pioneer so that you can sell the city. I wouldn’t have discovered how amazing Vegas is if I didn’t move here accidentally, and I don’t think any of my friends would know if I hadn’t pushed them to spend more time here and move (though honestly I don’t think most of them really loved Vegas until they actually moved).
Because I convinced everyone to move here, I feel a (welcome) burden to make it as good of an experience as possible. I help everyone find houses and meet the realtors for them when they’re not in town. I lend my van when they move in, my car if theirs isn’t here yet, and I help them fix things in their houses. As our community has gotten bigger, others have also helped pitch in with this sort of stuff, which gives a real sense of community. If you try to get your friends to move nearby, do everything you can to make it easy.
The fun part is that as the community grows, everyone ends up helping each other and it becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. My friends have found all sorts of cool things in Vegas that I wouldn’t have found and have organized trips to go do them.
You can’t control who moves into your neighborhood and who doesn’t, but I wouldn’t try to convince anyone to move in who I wouldn’t randomly invite to have tea with me on any given morning. That’s my bar. In our previous neighborhood we had friends-of-friends move in, some of whom were great, and others I found myself bumping into more than I’d want to. As with any community you’re trying to build, quality over quantity.
I have a lot of friends and family in Austin, and it could be argued that by my own standards I should have moved there. But what I find interesting is that many of the people who are closest there don’t see each other that often, because they live in different parts of the city. I think if they lived in the same neighborhood they’d see each other all the time. My point is that you should think of living in the same neighborhood totally different than you think of living in the same city. The benefits are multiplied.
Anyway, it’s a big step and a lot of work to convince people, but it’s hard to understate how much it pays off. For me at least, it’s been worth the effort, and it’s fun to see how our neighborhood community grows and evolves.
Photo is my neighborhood…. zoomed way out.
My good friends in Kazakhstan are now running tours that are basically more deluxe versions of the second one they took me on (which I thought I wrote about, but I guess not. It was even more fun than the first). Anyway… you should seriously go on a tour with them. They’re amazing people and the two trips they organized for me and my friends stand out more than any others I’ve been on in the past 5 years or so. Check out their site at JVExperiences.com
BTW, I looked back at my first post about Vegas in the first paragraph… pretty wild how even 9 years ago I thought we’d take over a neighborhood and that I thought the values would go way up (sold my first condo for ~3x what I paid for it).