RE: The dark days before a site: finding a site
From: Rob Sandelin (floriferousmsn.com)
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2000 13:13:12 -0700 (MST)
I have noticed several times that there is a learning curve involved in
acquiring a site. One of the common denominators of groups that fail seems
to be that they go off on site searches  without really having the money and
organization in place to control a site. They of course  don't succeed in
finding a site and eventually disband.

Here are some things I have seen groups learn they usually need:

A legal organization. Many states have a very handy legal  structure called
an LLC. In my state to form an LLC takes a couple sheets of paper and $180.

A real estate attorney ready to help them write the contract on a quick
notice. You want somebody with legal savvy on your side to write a good
contract. This is not a good place to "learn" about how to write a contract,
losing your down money is an expensive lesson.

A down payment or hold money in an account that can be accessed. I have seen
groups believe that land is free, and all they need to do is to talk with an
friendly  owner who will let them tie up the land for months for no money.
This is why some groups partner with developers.

A good checklist of local property development parameters. There are lots of
ways to get suckered in the real estate market. Some properties look great
on the surface but have development issues that would make them really
expensive or even impossible to develop. If you are in a hot market and the
local development firms have passed up a choice site, look at it with a lot
of scrutiny before committing to it. Or better yet, HIRE a local developer
to evaluate a property for you. This is another place where lessons can be
very expensive.

A good checklist of group agreed upon criteria and negotiables. It does not
do you any good to find a site and have most your core group bail, unless
your core group is pretty big to begin with. If more than 1/3 of the group
won't live there, you might want to reconsider. But also its OK for a
minority to leave the group over a site. Don't let one families not liking a
site stop the rest of the group. One thing I saw once was a membership
downgrade. People who were not sure  about the site could downgrade from
active to passive members. They still were part of the group, but moved into
a lower category of  involvement. This allowed people who had early
reservations about a site to change their mind later. This was easier than
losing them altogether.

You might check out the Spring 00 issue of Communities Magazine for a
articles on real estate  development issues. NICA has copies of this issue
for sale for $5 each Postage paid. Send a check and a request to NICA,
Cohousing Issue  22110 East Lost Lake Rd. Snohomish, WA  98296 or email
NICA [at] ic.org

Rob Sandelin
Community Works!
Group process training for social change and housing groups
Http://www.ic.org/nica/cw1.htm


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