Re: So what does it cost?
From: Philip Proefrock (
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 10:22:55 -0700 (PDT)
Quoting cohousing-l-request [at]

> What are the classic "big costs" that a new cohousing group is likely to be
> unaware of, or to grossly miscalculate, when its members are still in the
> "dreaming about properties" stage?

Hi Fillard,

A couple other folks have already pointed out some other items, to which I will
add a couple more of my own.  I don't recall seeing your earlier message
so maybe it didn't get distributed, or maybe we all missed it.

The first thing that struck me about your proposal was the zoning.  Will you
have to jump through legal hoops to get this property rezoned from
single-family to multi-family use?  Do you know if the neighbors would be
amenable to a project like you are proposing?  Depending on the municipality
and its receptiveness to your plan (as well as the neighbors' attitudes), this
could be just an administrative formality or it could run into many meetings
and appearances and the involvement of lawyers and other professionals.  If
there's strong opposition to your plan, the whole question might well be moot.

Your figure of $20k for contingency is only around 1% of the project cost, and
that seems really, really tight to me.  I think that you should begin with a
much larger contingency, especially with so many unknowns, and allow that
to be reduced as things get more refined.  A 1% contingency conveys the
assumption (to me, at least) that everything is dead certain.  As an architect,
we typically have a larger contingency than this on projects we've done, and
we're supposed to be the professionals.

I agree with another comment that your fees for professionals is quite low. 
Your $60k figure is only around 3% of total project budget, and with that you
are hoping to cover not only your architect, but also the engineer(s),
surveyor, lawyers, and other professionals.

You haven't indicated much about the existing building, and what the renovation
will entail.  If it's a 100 year old farmhouse that you want to just spruce up
to livability, then that might be sufficient (or might not, depending on the
condition of the building).  If, on the other hand, you are looking to convert
an existing 100 year old farmhouse into your common house, then (as a gut
sense, with no more detail than that) I think you are probably way low.  As a
general rule of thumb, remodeling and renovation is more expensive than
building new, so you aren't necessarily going to get as much for your $60k in
existing building renovation as you may be hoping.

Do you have a sense of what $180/s.f. construction cost will get you in your
region?  Are there other "green" projects that are at your level of desired
"greenness" that you can benchmark against?  That might be the best way of
evaluating the accuracy or usefulness of that number for yourselves.

Philip Proefrock

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