Re: Is there any conflict of interest in community outreach?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2017 10:55:49 -0700 (PDT)
There are several latent presumptions embedded in this query:
  •  That one bit of information (true or false) can scare off the buyer.
  •  That the buyer’s impression and decision is formed by one encounter with 
one tour guide.  And,
  •  That the community has an obligation to conceal potentially problematic 
information, lest it be held accountable for putting the kibosh on a profitable 

When I state them this way, it should be pretty clear that these are all false 

First, we should hope that buyers approaching the purchase are reasonably 
sophisticated and thoughtful about what they’re doing, and not easily scared 
off by the odd comment.  If they are easily scared off, then maybe they’re not 
really good cohousing candidates.
      Second, the candidate buyers should have many opportunities to encounter 
community members and events, not just one tour by one person; ideally, these 
many opportunities have been occurring over time, before a specific unit comes 
onto the market.
      Third, the community has no moral or legal obligation to sanitize its 
self-presentation, and to present a distorted or incomplete picture, just to 
help a seller extract maximum cash from a gullible buyer.  Quite the contrary, 
it’s exactly the opposite:  The community has an obligation to provide a 
realistic picture of itself, to ensure the best possible match between the 
communal personality and the buyer personality.  In fact, willful concealment 
of a “problem”, like a pending special assessment for a new septic system, is, 
under some circumstances, an act of fraud.

My experience to date so far is (1) most sellers do a pretty good job of 
balancing an appropriate desire a fair market price against a sincere 
commitment to do well by their community — meaning, sell to somebody who will 
likely fit in and be happy.  And (2) the real estate buy/sell activity, for 
cohousing, can be much more rewarding (and less threatening) for all parties — 
sellers, buyers, and community — than it is for “regular” housing.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

PS:  Having said all that nice stuff, I must also relay that, after we bought 
into Cornerstone ten years ago, I was appalled when I was later told that the 
seller had warned all the neighbors to “stay clear of the Dowdses”, because 
they might queer the deal ...

> On Jul 10, 2017, at 5:34 PM, Deborah Gibbs <gibbsdeborah [at]> 
> wrote:
> At Pacifica Cohousing (Carrboro, NC), or outreach committee maintains a
> list of people who have expressed an interest in living here.  When a home
> goes on the market, we circulate that news to our outreach list.  We also
> give tours of the community, for people with all kinds of interest in
> cohousing, and sometimes, for a potential buyer, at the request of the
> realtor.  We don’t show houses, or advocate for specific buyers.
> This sounds like a win-win-win – the community increases the likelihood of
> a new neighbor who understands and embraces cohousing, the potential buyer
> gets the perspective of someone who’s not trying to sell the house, and the
> seller gets more informed and potentially enthusiastic prospects.
> But one of our members has raised concerns about whether we run the risk of
> interfering with real estate transactions. What if the buyer was about to
> make an offer, then backed off when the tour guide said it wasn’t all
> sweetness and light?  What if the tour guide mentions the persistent roof
> leak in that unit?
> Have others dealt with this challenge, and where did you draw lines?
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