Re: "arm's length"
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2009 14:42:07 -0800 (PST)
Hi All,

Single Bank

Songaia worked closely with a single bank for all of us who needed
mortgages, so that bank was able to deal with us en masse. We
therefore had a single appraiser for all of our personal mortgages.
While we did have a few cash buyers (all older families), I don't
really know whether that was helpful in setting prices - all three of
them were re-models, while the other ten units were brand new
buildings. Many, if not most, of us with mortgages have since moved to
other banks, or private sources, as we've re-financed over the years.

Valuing Common Spaces

One challenging issue most of us face is getting our "unit" appraisals
to include an appropriate share of the value of common facilities and
land. Mortgage professionals seem to have a hard time with our common
spaces (buildings and land). It is often far more valuable (and
expensive) on a per-unit basis than what's available for almost all
conventional condominiums. There are other odd-ball situations out
there, e.g., waterfront, unusual locations, etc. - and there is
serious money for some who do specialize. There's a lot of interest in
cohousing among real estate professionals here in Puget Sound - how
many have translated that interest into income is unclear.

On Getting Appraisals

Over the last year three mortgage professionals have called me - in my
"official" capacity - seeking guidance/support as they make unit

Frankly, there's not much I can share based on objective, hard
facts... someday, we'll have the data to prove higher values. The
interest and conversation about supporting the required research and
analysis does seem to be increasing. Even without numbers, it does
seem to help them feel more comfortable. This is, of course, is only
relevant for those who explicitly acknowledge "cohousing-ness."

I am (somewhat) available for other groups to use me as a resource. I
am terribly busy on other Coho/US work. I try to leverage my time -
supporting one-to-many projects, rather than seeking out ways to help
on a one-to-one basis. Hiring professionals to focus on your problems
on one-to-one basis is often wise.

In community,

Craig Ragland
Executive Director
Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US)
craig [at]

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On Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 8:14 AM, Catya Belfer-Shevett
<catya [at]> wrote:
> Yes, that second problem is quite a challenge.  Fortunately, we have a
> couple of cash buyers who were able to close first.
>        - cat
> On 1/30/2009 10:46 AM, Janet Kelly wrote:
>> Hi Catya,
>> The second problem was with appraisers, who were completely flumoxed (sp. ?)
>> by the cohousing concept. Also, at least in Wisconsin appraisers get paid a
>> fixed rate by the lending bank for each appraisal, so they balk at spending
>> extra time on anything that looks unusual to them.   Here again, the first
>> unit sold is the hardest.  My suggestion is to talk with them in detail and
>> offer info about how your units were priced, document costs of construction,
>> point them to other cohousing in your state.  In our case appraisers also
>> looked at sales of local condos in projects that had some common space
>> (although it was nothing like cohousing).  Once you have convinced one
>> appraiser, you can use his or her name in talking to the next set of
>> appraisers.
>> I hope this helps some.  Please feel free to call me if you would like to
>> talk.
>> Janet Kelly
>> Arboretum Cohousing -- Madison Wisconsin
>> 608-255-7277
>> janetkelly28 [at]

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