Re: Professional Development vs. Self-Development
From: Dirk Herr-Hoyman (
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2007 20:24:11 -0700 (PDT)
Arboretum Cohousing in Madison WI is right in the midst of it's development
phase.  We are self-developing and have hired a development consultant.
The development consultant does have significant experience in the industry,
having developed several housing projects as well as another cohousing
community.  We did go thru a selection process, soliciting proposals
and interviewing the candidates.  Responsibilities include preparing
a construction budget, consulting on the specification, city approvals,
lining up financing, and generally consulting on all matters pertaining
the development process.

In our case, it's a matter of hiring expertise that we don't have within
the group.  And even if we did have that expertise, it's significant
time commitment which is not appropriate to be done with volunteer time.
While there is expertise in doing construction work and project management,
and even being a professor in housing, noone has experience doing
a project of this size.

Not having that expertise means that you build it up during
the project, which means it will take longer.  Time is money, once
you start the clock on a construction loan.  Building up the expertise
is also a risk factor, perhaps a mistake is made that costs you a lot,
you are also paying for experience to keep you out of bad choices.
Of course, once you do 1 project, you may well know enough to do the
next one without bringing in this expertise, but that rarely happens.

We also are hiring a number of other expertise's, which include legal and bookkeeping. Originally these were done in-house, but the time to do a really good job
was not available so we went externally.  Same thinking applies,
you do need to pay to get the work done and if you want it done well will
have to pay the going rate.

So to me, it's not even close. Of course you are going to hire the expertise
to help you do development, even if you do self-development.  Even if
it's within the group, you still need to hire it in order to get the time
it takes to do the job right.


On Jul 25, 2007, at 8:39 PM, Joani Blank wrote:


I'm posting this for a forming group that is considering
self-development of their community, hiring an experience
construction project manager instead of working with a developer.
They have a site optioned, and have started the permitting
process.  Some people in the group feel that a developer will cost
too much and will result in significantly higher unit prices.  Others
feel that they really need an experienced developer to tie up
construction financing, continue managing the permitting work,
actively managing project costs, etc.

The "common wisdom" in our movement, has been (it seems to me) that
every group that has tried to go it alone like this, has wished, in
retrospect that they'd chosen to work with a developer instead. I've
also heard that self-developed groups have found that whatever it
cost the project to work with a developer, in almost all cases the
developer saved the project more money than he, she or they cost.

When this group asked me for names of self-developed groups so they
could confirm (or reject) this common wisdom, I was at a loss to name
more than a couple such groups. It also occurred to me that it would
be a good idea to generalize this question in a broader forum.

So let me pose the question broadly:  In your experience, what are
the advantages and disadvantages of co-developing with an experienced
developer (who would of, course, be hiring a construction or project
manager), in contrast to self-development, where the group finds and
hires the construction or project manager themselves.

Joani Blank
Swan's Market Cohousing
Oakland, CA

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Dirk Herr-Hoyman
Member of Arboretum Cohousing
Madison, WI

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