Discounts for Early Members
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008 10:26:44 -0700 (PDT)
In response to an earlier messages relating to pricing:

We had latecomers complain "you got cheap prices" as if they were being cheated. Some old members feel guilty about this. I don't think they should.

First, it is customary in condominiums and housing developments for early purchasers to receive discounts on the expected final pricing of units Purchasers who buy after the first people move in may also pay even more if there are cost over runs or the market rises.

In cohousing, there is much more risk taken by early members and most have put in _years_ of work. Marketing in radio interviews, orientations for potential members, and speeches to neighborhood groups. Months spent looking for land. Hours of meetings to sort out unit design and financial feasibility. Late comers put in none of this effort.

In addition to taking more risk and putting in more work, early members often put in more pocket change here and there to pay for incidental expenses for which there are no funds for reimbursement. Spend more for babysitting and travel to all those meetings. Put double the food into pot lucks to entertain potential members. This adds up. It isn't cheap in cost or time.

New owners may complain, "You got such low prices and I had to pay market rate." Well, we actually paid market rate when we signed our contracts and were, just as they were when they sold their houses, beneficiaries of the general increase in the prices in real estate.

And in addition, we put in 7 years of work after move-in to develop the landscape, maintain the facilities, work out community routines and policies, and provide a lot of personal support and interchange to build relationships. New comers have not a clue.

On the anniversary of our first move-in we often do a meeting in which we reminisce about the good old days of:

-- Members dropping out and having to start all over to find new ones. The anxiety of potentially having to carry one large unit that was not sold at move-in.

-- The day it was touch and go to get all our contracts in by 6:00 with 5% deposits or we would lose our option on the land. Fortunately one member could stand by to offer loans to those who just didn't have the money that very minute and another executing temporary loan agreements. I was one of them with my bank not transferring funds in time. Others had not closed on houses yet.

-- Living in temporary housing of all sorts when our move-in date was unexpectedly extended 6 months and houses had been sold and apartment leases had lapsed. I was in an enclosed sleeping porch large enough for twin beds with my pet plant, a portable TV, a box of books, a computer, and a suitcase of clothes. Others were worse off -- living with relatives.

-- Living on a construction site with German shepherd guard dogs at night, mud during the day, and no mailboxes or central means of communication except email which the construction workers cut off from time to time and some members couldn't read anyway because they didn't have computers in 2000. Not quite as often, the workers set off the sprinkler system. The fire alarm went off almost every day, sometimes several times.

-- A telephone company that unhooked more phones than they hooked up every time they hit the property. Fortunately, one of our members was able to contact the President of the company and got a crew of three, including the local manager, to come out on a Sunday afternoon. She sat in the piazza with a clipboard, two guys in the basement hooking up wires, as we shouted s over the balconies the state of our phones. In spite of months of prior notice, the company had not wired the neighborhood for additional phone service so they didn't have enough wire to accommodate us. One member wandered the neighborhood to wake up the guys sleeping in their trucks so they would finish the job.

-- Toilets that didn't flush because they seemed to have to be broken in. We called it Plungerville.

-- Years of supporting members with cancer, new babies, dying babies, dying pets, sick children, lost jobs, and the general sturm and drang of life when we barely knew each other. I gathered emergency contacts because I was afraid a member would have a heart attack and we would have not a clue who to call.

-- Trying to work it out with members who really just didn't like cohousing and then having to get used to new members again.

-- Feeling guilty because we couldn't get a meal program together like other communities.

There is more but you get the idea. New people just see an idyllic community of people who got it all on the cheap and are living on easy street. And a few warts here and there, which they resoundingly criticize.

Sharon Villines in Washington DC
Where all roads lead to Casablanca

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