Unrealistic choices by forming groups
From: Rob Sandelin (Floriferousclassic.msn.com)
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 00:26:10 -0500
The whole "I'm frustrated" thread sounds to me to be a case of unrealistic 
choices by a group of people who sound like they don't have much experience as 
real estate developers.  That's actually pretty common at first, and then, if 
the group survives to actually option a site, the choices get realistic pretty 
quick.

This seems to be a very repeated cohousing phenomena, people get attracted to 
the cohousing lifestyle ideal but really do not have the ability to hold a 
mortgage at commercial rates so they tell themselves they will find a way. And 
usually folks with unrealistic home ownership expectations end up moving on 
when the real numbers come in. This causes no little anguish sometimes.

Of course, a few groups have succeeded in bringing aboard a number of folks 
that could barely afford it by making cuts in spending, etc. However, I have 
yet to see a group actually up front predict the final cost of the project, 
and I have heard of none that came in under projections. Most go over by 
20-40%. And this oftens removes those on the edges of financiability.

 Sometimes I think it would be good to just say up front, the housing costs X, 
and you must be able to qualify for financing for x before becoming a member, 
with X being the median price of new construction in your area.

Then those that can't qualify are given the opportunity to form a non-member 
financing task force and find solutions for themselves. When they find the 
solution, they become members. This way the whole group does not go down in 
flames because a minority can't afford it.

Of course, there will be those who say this is unfair to those who can't 
afford it, and they are right, It is unfair. Home ownership excludes lots of 
people all over America and beyond, always has, always will. The social 
element of cohousing really attracts people and they often stay in the game 
long after they know they have a busted flush.

 Maybe someday the feds will get a clue and see what a great thing cohousing 
is and create a special cohousing financing program. Until that time, you are 
on your own, in difficult, shark infested real estate development waters. If 
being a real estate developer was cheap and easy, everybody would be doing it. 
It aint, and its a pretty tough road even with lots of money.

At any rate, until the group controls a site, you are just having intellectual 
discussions, which about 40% of the time go nowhere. So if you are 
particularily annoyed, drop out of the group for say a year or so, keep in 
touch, and when they actually get to the point of buying a site, rejoin. If  
this group fails, you could always contact the people you find interesting and 
start another group - with some good lessons about how to go about things. 
Odds are, the group will be very different in a year, and probably much wiser 
about the costs of things.

Once a group options a site It will get real very quickly after that. And the 
real costs will blow more than a few people off the journey. 

Lots of groups start off saying they are going to do some kind of income 
diversity, but they never actually succeed in figuring out how to do this. 
Some have, many have made noises about it, then dropped that ball when it 
became too heavy to carry. It can be done, has been done, and will be done 
again. But maybe not in Austin?

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood

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