Re: VACANCY RATE POLL - Is Cohousing Overbuilt? How many vacancies at your community?
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2008 10:50:09 -0700 (PDT)
Wow, what an idea... Cohousing overbuilt?

The actual geographic distribution of Cohousing, in 23 states, is quite
small. Consider: most people buying homes only consider moving to areas
close to where they live - now.

The percent of the US population with an existing Cohousing community
within, say, 50 miles must be huge. How many in Texas? A great big Zero...
what about Florida, another "0." How about NYC or Chicago or LA? There are
just almost no acceptable homes where a great many people actually live -
now. The map on the front page of the Cohousing Website and its linked
article lets you visualize just how many people there in the US have no
cohousing homes available to them for hundreds and hundreds miles - in all
directions... Yet we know from the Cohousing Website analytics that
thousands of people from these areas visit our site... some are very heavy,
repeat users of the Cohousing Website, many of whom pour over the Directory
and Classified Ads... presumably, some are also readers of Coho-L.

I view the major challenge for the vast majority who become interested in
cohousing, in the US, is their only choices are to (1) move somewhere else
or (2) help create it for themselves - and both choices are generally
undesirable for most Americans. Residents of Denmark, with their MUCH higher
per capita "market penetration" and smaller geography are much more
fortunate - they often have some real choice.

IF cohousing is overbuilt, it is an extremely local phenomena - restricted
to a very small number of areas in the country with high numbers of
cohousing homes on a per capita basis. I don't believe cohousing is
over-built anywhere - and that the difficulty selling Cohousing homes has
more to do with the way they are sold - it is so often just the sellers

If you step back from conventional thinking, doesn't it seem kind of odd
that the effort of creating (and "selling") new cohousing homes is a big
group project, while reselling is typically an individual effort - and
sometimes by people no longer happy with their situation?

Forming groups bring together lots of resourceful people who pull together
to do something very difficult. With my community, Songaia (15 homes, 38
people on 11 acres near Seattle), we even rejected the idea that we were
"selling houses," insisting they we "doing outreach" and "community
building." This appealed to some and turned off others. In the case of the
two Songaia resales, the first owner - who had already distanced herself
from the community - listed the home on MLS with a real estate agent after
deciding to sell. It took months to sell in a very UP MARKET - the agent was
clueless about cohousing and often misinformed potential buyers. The second
owner - who, despite his absence and decision to leave, seriously cared for
his relationship with the community. He offered his home gracefully and
members of the community pulled together to help arrange a sale within days
in a very DOWN MARKET.

Today, there may also be unrealistic expectations about current market
values on the part of sellers. When home resale prices are dropping all
around you, it can be very hard to accept that your home is less valuable
than months ago. We also need educated real estate professionals - selling
homes in a DOWN MARKET is hard and selling what you don't understand is even

I have a lot of ideas about how we will continue to expand Cohousing - I
embrace a future where we have helped create a huge demand and enable
forming groups to avoid the "fill the membership" issue. I'm currently
working on a new Powerpoint deck that draws slides from various decks used
at the 2008 National Cohousing Conference to share these ideas. So far, I've
shared about this topic with three established Cohousing communities -
face-to-face, in June and July. Their input hugely shaped my thinking. Its
was absolutely invaluable to me. The real key, I believe, is aligning our
message, our stories... while many of the "positive" stories we share are
compelling to those already attracted to this lifestyle, I suspect they are
often unattractive to the majority who sit "outside our little bubble."

Because I strongly feel that our most important cohousing work can still
only be done in person, I'm taking these ideas to the road. Typed words
alone are so flat, they just sit there - in this day of massive,
high-production media, they rarely reach our hearts. While a whole lot
better than silence, they rarely inspire what's most important - great
writers transcend this limitation. Unfortunately, I'm not among their ranks.

I believe that "interactive text," like Coho-L, is sometimes better. It is,
however, far too easy for us to let our wonderfully creative minds, with our
various juicy points of view and ideas, turn our complex interactions and
conversation into the real story. For example, very few will actually read
these words - they are buried deep in a "Vacancy Rate Poll" thread. I expect
that several of us "long-winded writers" are rarely read by others very
deeply. And what will happen with the ideas in this posting? Perhaps a few
will be picked out for "discussion" - and it will go spinning off in new
directions. That's really what defines interactive text these days. Its
great for some purposes, but not so great for others.

There's a whole lot more to come on growing the Movement from me, but first
I need to share it, in person, with some cohousing communities up and down
the West Coast. I look forward to sharing the laughter and, yes, more tears,
with some of you. I really need your heart-felt help as we work on crafting
a stronger Cohousing story. This story needs to be refined and then more
broadly shared, sung out in harmony, not discordant cacophony, by a great
many voices - and Coho/US will do what it can to help those who care get in
tune with some well crafted ideas and supporting materials we feel are of

Finally, when I do visit communities, I often get interesting feedback on my
Coho-L postings - its easy for us active contributors to forget that there
are a great many readers among us who never, or rarely, post. I particularly
look forward to hearing from and actually meeting some of you folks - and if
you want, do feel free to open your arms to give me a hug!


On Sun, Aug 10, 2008 at 10:08 AM, Thomas Lofft <tlofft [at]> wrote:

> I noted on a few sig lines, promotion of available units.
> One of the major weaknesses of the present US economy is the overbuilding
> of the residential market from 2003 through 2006.  This is prototypical of
> the residential development cycle: every time the glut gets sold off
> (1998-2001) and the market demand increases, builder/developers all figure
> thay can each develop a project to capture, say, 1% of the market.  No risk
> in only targeting 1% of the market, is there?
> Unless, perhaps, 200 builder/developers all start projects to capture 1% of
> the market.  Suddenly, the market is 100% overbuilt.  How did that happen?
>  Duh?
> If you're willing to share, I'd love to know how many communities still
> have unoccupied units for sale, how long they have been on the market, and
> whether any communities have seen what they would perceive to be an
> overbuilding of cohousing units in their particular demand area.
> Thanks for sharing.
> Liberty Village, MD
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Craig Ragland

Coho/US executive director
craig [at]

Please try email first, include your phone number (w/time zone) - or give me
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