Conforming to Markets
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 08:36:10 -0700 (PDT)
The post on fragrance free environments and how this affected marketing raises another issue -- how much do you try to second guess the market?

The answer is none. You can listen to what people who are actually interested in moving in say, but not necessarily what regular real estate people say. Cohousing is a specific market that most real estate marketers know nothing about. And they market in ways that do not work for cohousing anyway.

Cohousing is personal. And people who are attracted to it have to be willing to step in and make it what they want it to be. If you try to set policies before you even move in, you will attract some people and turn away others, no matter what the policy.

General things like saying you are child friendly, pet friendly, environmentally conscious, and open to diverse lifestyles and peoples, is probably enough. The specifics just have to be worked out later when you see what you have to work with. People will change A LOT before and after move-in.

One thing I would advise is to keep a mailing list of everyone whom you think is a good potential. They may come to a few meetings early on and be turned off by some of the early ideas that 6 months in are no longer an issue. Keep in touch so they will know when some early dogmatic ideas fade away (usually along with the people who advocated them) and they may feel comfortable with the group again.

One person at Takoma Village left when the community refused to take a "drug-free" pledge. The issue for the other members was the idea of pledges and one member wanting to require other members to follow her personal choice of how to deal with a problem. They also wanted to preserve the sanctity of their homes. Rules for common areas are not the same as rules for people's private spaces.

It's very hard when the group is forming to stay a bit loose and just begin discussing issues, not setting rules, because new people will take the attitude that they can only live with this rule or that. Over time, they relax. If you are firm about the movement toward actually getting built and establishing an open atmosphere for listening to each other's concerns (pro and con) and your willingness to work things out, it will be enough.

We spent so much time arguing over specific rules before move-in that just never came up again after move in.

Sharon
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Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
http://www.takomavillage.org

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