From: Norm Gauss (
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 18:53:28 -0700 (PDT)
If risk is a major concern in raising money for a cohousing project, then it
makes sense to minimize risk if you can.  A major concern of any residential
development is the marketability of its homes.  If there are comparable
developments in your local area, then you have a good idea of what will
sell.  If your project is the first in your area, then you are more likely
to fly blind and your risk is indeed high.

Once you have arrived at a reliable projected selling price, this should
remain as a constant restraint to your urges to incorporate esthetic
features into your project that are nice but not critical, as long as you
have a feeling for the cost.  This is where advice from a consultant or
developer would be helpful.  In our project without a consultant or
developer, the architect designed 5 floor plans for 31 residential units,
but he could not give us cost estimates and could not tell us how much extra
features cost.  So we gave ourselves the luxury of micromanaging the
architectural process by introducing variations on the original plans.  Some
of our members introduced their ideas of what they would like, and these
became officially new floor plans.  No thought was given to how marketable
these new plans might be.  And after the architect drew up these new floor
plans (at extra cost), some members who submitted the new ideas left us, and
we inherited plans that no current member had designed.

We even launched into flights of fancy contemplating a large photovoltaic
solar power system, a system of cooling tubes buried under our common house,
a gray water collection and recycling system, a two-tiered reflecting pool,
and an unlined swimming pond in an area where water is in short supply.
Without a controlling entity telling us the impact of such ideas on the long
term financial health of our project, we were lead to spend serious time
thinking about these proposals.  In the end, we dropped the idea of a
swimming pool, only to have the idea re-introduced later when creative
financing found the funds.

Designing portions of our project ourselves was very satisfying and brought
us together.  But without anybody controlling the direction of our ideas
based on financial or engineering constraints, we were flying blind.  We
succeeded in the end by partnering with a developer who helped us price our
units, obtained a construction loan and oversaw the construction operation.

Norm Gauss
Oak Creek Commons
Paso Robles, CA

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