Re: Do you really need a developer?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 06:39:13 -0700 (MST)

In a word, yes.

Cohousing communities built from the ground up need the expertise that a developer has (or should have). If you don't use the services of someone who has the necessary knowledge and experience, you will have to get them yourselves. This education and experience is expensive and time consuming. The amount of time and expense this education takes to acquire will be added to the cost and timeline of your development.

If you want this education and are willing to add it to the cost of your homes, go for it. But it will be much faster and much less expensive to hire an expert.

Some architects also do development; some never leave their drawing boards. It is the skills, temperament, knowledge, expertise, and contacts you need, not the title. Do you know who to call to get the correct information about sewer pipe requirements on your property? Once you have it, could you understand it?

Do you know what lawyer can produce condo docs that contain the essential elements for a project your size and complexity and not charge you $400 a hour for wasted interview time? Do you know which companies have been sited for producing substandard concrete in 10% of their projects in the last 5 years? Which builders are hiring illegal immigrants? Do you know how to find out?

Do you know how to get a construction loan? What expenses can be included in the loan and which one's can't? Do you know how to write a contract specifying the size of nails that must be used in flooring? Do you know who does? Do you know what to do when a sub-contractor completes a job that does not meet any of the standards specified in the contract? Do you have the patience to follow up with 45 phone calls, 25 letters, 700 hours of inspection? Do you know how to find someone else who will?

Do you know how to estimate accumulating costs so you know up front how expensive your project will be if you go these faucets vs. those? Do you know resale values?

Developers charge 10% of the cost of the project and this cost is added to the construction loan so it is included in your mortgage. You will have saved far more than this when you are finished.

A good place to find a developer, by the way, is a bank. Banks know which developers have brought in projects on time and produce happy buyers. They only loan money to developers who produce. And that is what you want -- someone who can actually get your project built, in your town.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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