Re: sales policy
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2013 23:13:36 -0700 (PDT)
Mabel and Carol,

Perhaps you could share something about the policies at Cornerstone and the
challenges they create. I'm particularly interested in examples like this
where "laws of unintended consequences" result from two policies that on
their own seem fine. Other communities I know have run into issues around
resales via foreclosure.

The most successful cohousing neighborhoods I have seen in this regard have
some combination of:

* Ongoing efforts to build a pool of future members by hosting tours, doing
education, inviting people to meals/meetings
* A clear (but most often voluntary) process for homebuyers to get familiar
with the community, and vice versa
* A team assisting/leading so it's not all on the departing member, who has
the least interest in the ongoing sense of community
* A 'buddy' system to provide context and connection for a new household,
plus planned/designed activities that get people to connect
household-to-household and person-to-person outside of full-group meetings
and meals.
* Solid decision logs that are revisited so you have a legislative history
and context, plus a straightforward system to re-open decisions and
actively incorporate/seek out a new member's views on issues.
* Transfer fees (the most controversial and hard to institute afterwards,
but highly valuable) so that the community can get paid upon resale,
allowing it to invest in outreach and even pay members to do some of the
work of training/recruiting -- providing the on-ramp.

Rights of First Refusal are powerful tools, which can create their own
effects on the relationship of buyer and seller and community even when
they are not used. They also invite additional scrutiny from some
government and banking institutions as to whether they are being used in
discriminatory fashion, as they were historically to keep now-protected
minority groups out of neighborhoods, and so even when written with the
most positive intent, they can lead to delays or challenges in financing,
inadvertently making it harder for some buyers to get in.

Our home community (Berkeley cohousing in California, near San Francisco)
has had no resales in the last decade, and we don't bother with a waiting
list, and our prices are capped below market, and our buyers are subject to
income limitations verified by the city's housing department, so we're not
a good example. However, five of the last six resales have been to people
active in a forming/umbrella group (many who started as renters in this
community), so we may have a model for another path, one that could perhaps
be called a "farm team" or "reverse takeover" model of cohousing

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach and Cohousing California/East Bay Cohousing
community organizer
  with my wife Betsy Morris in Vienna, Austria, visiting the incredible
Lebensraum cohousing neighborhood (over 20 acres with farm plots, a
volleyball court and soccer field, pool, PassivHaus energy-efficent design,
and extensive glassed-in halls reminding us of Windsong near Vancouver,
Canada), wrapping up a six-week trip including the International Communal
Studies Association gathering at Findhorn in Scotland (home to a
just-moving-in cohousing neighborhood) and the Global Ecovillage Network
gathering in the Swiss Alps, full of fresh ideas about the intersection of
spirit, ecology, and community.

P.S. I'l be passing through Cambridge the weekend after next, in case you'd
like me to stop by for a conversation about this topic.

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 4:44 AM, Mabel Liang <mabel [at]> wrote:
> I think that Carol is specifically unhappy with our wait list policy and
> its intersection with our right of first refusal.

> On Thu, July 18, 2013 5:50 pm, Carol Agate wrote:
> > Our sales policy isn't working well, and I'd like to avoid reinventing
> > wheel if I can plagiarize instead. Please send me a copy of your unit
> > sales policy if you love it and feel it's brought in good cohousers to
> > your community.

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