Re: How to condoize
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2007 04:45:45 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 28, 2007, at 11:15 AM, Rachel Wangen-Hoch wrote:

2.  Can we convert it to condos at the same time that we purchase it?

Condo laws vary from state to state. They are specialized real estate laws with which most people are unfamiliar.

The one thing I have learned, however, from living in a cohousing community that is condo is to be very careful about how you define common elements and limited common elements, and how you calculate your condo fees.

The goal of cohousing is diversity and variation; the structure of condo maintenance favors similarity.

Condo fees are generally distributed amongst the owners/households according to the percentage of land or square footage of the unit they own. This is "percentage ownership." All the costs, forever, are apportioned according to this percentage.

But it gets complicated when units also are assigned various amounts of land as "limited common elements" like porches, yards, basement storage, and parking spaces. These space are used exclusively by the unit but are owned and maintained by the whole community.

The porches, for example, in our community are part of the structural wall that supports the units above so it is in the community's best interest to maintain these. The parking lot is maintained as a whole, not one space at a time.

We wanted a community with a mix of 1,2,3, and 4 bedroom units. The historic district in which we are located, wanted a community that looked as little like cookie cutter buildings as possible. This resulted in many variations of sizes of things and odd configurations that look nice but who do they benefit? Who should pay for their maintenance?

Some units have gas fireplaces that are not metered separately from the cook stoves that we all use. Some people use the dryer vents in their apartments while others use the dryer vents in the commonhouse. If individual homeowners have to pay for their dryer vents to be cleaned, shouldn't those who use the dryer vents in the CH pay as well? Who is responsible for mowing all those back yards that can only be used by those homeowners? What if they are not properly mowed? Can one homeowner put in gravel instead of grass?

As our maintenance costs have gone up and we reach the stage of major repairs, these become more than nickel and dime questions. Perhaps not coincidentally, our idealism is fading at the same time. Who really wants to subsidize their next door neighbor's use of a fireplace? Or a dryer? Or the mowing of their yard?

A lawyer can help you answer the legal questions but they will probably not pay much attention to these questions.

I now look with new eyes at condo developments where everyone has the same porches, parking, and square footage.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing

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